Codependency and Therapy

Substance abuse does not only affect the addicted person. It’s like throwing a pebble on a calm lake – the ripples will be far-reaching. The first layer of those affected would be loved ones, particularly ones living with the addicted person. This includes his or her spouse, as well as children.

Sometimes, the behaviors and reactions developed by those living with an addicted person can be so that it revolves around the problem and results in a dysfunctional way of life for the family involved. Without the help of family counseling in Utah, the codependency will perpetuate, to the detriment of the family. Problems are not properly threshed out and family members respond to the problem by developing risky attitudes of their own.

What is Codependency?

Here are some quotes from experts that give a picture of what codependency is like:

“We begin tolerating abnormal, unhealthy, and inappropriate behaviors. Then we go one step further, we convince ourselves these behaviors are normal.” –Melody Beattie

“A set of maladaptive, compulsive behaviors learned by family members to survive in a family experiencing great emotional pain.” The Johnson Institute

When a Parent or Sibling is Addicted

The living conditions of a family with an alcoholic or drug addict is changed drastically. As such, codependency is called a “family disease”. It can be passed on even to the next generations. The way each family member acts and deals with the situation is also changed drastically. They can be characterized as:

– Compulsive: Their brand of “caring” for their addicted loved one becomes compulsive, rather than a function of choice. He can’t help but encourage the individual to continue with his addictive behavior even when he knows that his actions are to the detriment of his loved ones.
– Maladaptive: This condition prevents the codependent person to grow and develop the behaviors that meets not just their emotional needs but also the emotional needs of others.
– Causing pain and stress. These coping and survival mechanisms are developed as a way to escape and relieve pain. However, they themselves are a source or pain and stress! Those who have codependent relationships can be perfectionists to being people who seemingly live without standards, driven towards gaining prestige and status symbols, gaining high authority and a compulsion to acquire control or material possessions. This can manifest itself in eating disorders, sleeping disorders and even a propensity to also abuse substances themselves.
– Stunting relationships. Because a person with codependency issues have a pattern of behavior that seeks to put the needs of the addicted loved one before his or her own, that person will have problems forming relationships that are healthy and balanced.

Further, those with codependency issues may be in denial, in compliance, seeking control or seeking avoidance. They can also have issues of low self-esteem. Codependent individuals seek validation from others to the point that their measure of worth is based on what other people think. They also do not see themselves as worthwhile individuals and have difficulty accepting love, affection and praise. They have difficulty making decisions and perform important tasks. They would rather lie than look bad.

Denial patterns. A codependent may find it hard to admit his feelings and see that there is something wrong in the family situation. He may also be attracted to a person and yet not see that person fails to reciprocate the feelings. He also tends to project his own weakness and negative qualities on others. He may also act in passive-aggressive ways – masking what he feels with the use of social isolation, anger and humor.

Controlling patterns. This type of codependent will try to compensate by taking on the role of the “strong” caretaker. He may use gifts, charm and even sexual favors to curry approval or influence. He also seeks to establish control, is pushy and temperamental when others don’t “toe the line”. He feels validated if he is needed by others; however, he also seeks to exploit others by demanding that his needs be met. He may resent the recovery of the addicted family member since that means that the member will not need his role as caretaker anymore.

Compliance patterns. This type of codependent is malleable and remains “faithful and true” till the end, even though this means tolerating and supporting addictive behavior. A compliant codependent will put others first to the point of sacrificing his own needs and interests. He shies away from expressing his feelings and opinions, if these are contrary to other people’s feelings and opinions.

Avoidance patterns. This type of codependent pushes other people away when he feels that they have come too close for comfort. He may be very critical and “allergic” to any form of intimacy, be it physical, sexual or emotional. He avoids displays of affection or any other emotion and avoids feelings of vulnerability by holding back his own feelings.

Breaking free from the Codependency Bond

Codependency is draining in family relationships. One step towards breaking free of codependency would be to seek Utah counseling, as well as looking for support groups who also face the same issues and concerns. The family can also do well to seek the help of an experienced Utah substance abuse counselor.

Family counseling in Utah can help you become more aware of the situation and the presence of codependency. To try to combat this, a Utah therapist will help equip you to be more assertive, more aware of your needs and how you and your family can effectively and lovingly deal with an addicted family member.

An experienced counselor will be aware to set good boundaries in order to also protect against being in a codependent relationship with his clients. For instances like this, it is also a good idea to seek a counselor who is also an experienced Provo substance abuse counselor.


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