You might wonder why the topic of co-dependency comes up whenever you talk about addiction. Addiction is an illness that has psychological, physical, and even emotional effects, but co-dependency has to do with how two people relate to one another. So, what’s the relationship?  Why are addiction and co-dependency frequently discussed together?

Addiction is an illness that has to do with compulsive behavior, such that someone loses the ability to stop and engages in that behavior to the exclusion of other life activities.  in a certain way which someone. In other words, a person loses their power of that activity – whether that is drinking, using drugs, gambling, sex, or shopping. Powerlessness is at the heart of addiction, and it is also at the center of co-dependent relationships as well. When powerlessness exists within one or both people in a relationship, then the dynamic of co-dependency will likely set in.

Codependent relationships often include a dysfunctional relying upon the other person in the relationship. One or more of those in the relationship feel powerless to the events that are going on their life. The belief in being powerless in life leads to a dysfunctional relying on the other person for things that one can and should do on their own, such as being financially stable. This underlying belief in being powerless seems to attract an enabler who in turn believes that no one else can perform a task as well as they can. Enablers tend to take control of a situation thinking that they are being helpful without seeing that it would be more healthy to allow the other person to do that task on his or her own.

To enable means to assist, facilitate, or make possible. However, the pattern of enabling in families with an addict can be indirectly harmful and unhealthy. Instead of helping the one who has the addiction, a spouse or sibling might do things for the addict that he could be and should be doing for himself. To help someone is to assist in a task that he or she cannot do alone, such as calling the pharmacy when your spouse has lost his voice from strep throat. Enabling is completing a task that he can do on his own, such as paying the bills for an addict who hasn’t worked because of his addiction.  Although enabling is common among families with addictions, it is a dysfunctional pattern that can occur in any family or relationship.

Learning about addiction and the patterns that contribute to it – such as powerlessness, co-dependency, enabling, a tendency to behave compulsively, blaming others, and feeling shame – facilitate making different choices in life. For instance, if you recognize that you tend to feel powerless in certain situations, you can try to stay empowered in that situation in the future. Although this might not happen on the first time, continuing to consciously make that change can bring great feelings of inner power and strength. Drug addiction treatment isn’t simply about detoxing from the drug; it’s also a process of detoxing from the thoughts and behaviors that contribute to continued use of the drug.

Furthermore, knowing about powerlessness, enabling, and co-dependency can facilitate freeing yourself from them and creating relationships that are healthy, including the one with yourself. Although these might be patterns that you possibly grew up with, they don’t have to be patterns that continue to be in your romantic relationships – or any of your relationships for that matter. In fact, learning how to regain your sense of power is an essential task in recovery. Regaining power means not only in your struggle to stay sober (power over the drink, drug, or behavior) but also in your relationships.

Although the feeling of powerlessness might be familiar to you right now, in the future it could be a fleeting feeling because you’ve found your inner strength, power, and ability to say no. And when this happens your relationships to the world and with others will change.
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