Codependency is a term that refers to people who are in a close relationship with someone who is addicted to something (usually drugs and/or alcohol, but can be other forms of addiction). The codependent person is typically overly involved with the other person and that person’s problematic behavior, and sometimes even to the other’s detriment. While the codependent person often takes on the role of caretaker and is invested in the welfare of the addicted person, emotions can get in the way, and then enabling results. Enabling is when the codependent person unintentionally helps an addict to continue in their addiction by repeatedly putting out little fires for the addict (lying to cover up for them, paying their debts, taking care of their basic needs to excess). While this helps the addict to get by in the short-run, it ultimately allows the cycle of addiction to perpetuate.
Although the codependent person suffers as a result of the addict’s choices and behavior, it can be very difficult to break the pattern. Being accustomed to adopting a certain role in one’s relationship, as well as one’s caring for the troubled addicted person can impede the attempts to get off the merry-go-round. Individual and couples therapy can help to put a stop to the cycle of addiction and codependency; the aim is to replace negative coping styles with effective and productive ones.
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