Family Resource


Codependent coupleCodependency is a common response to the challenges associated with loving someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol. Unfortunately, even though the behaviors associated with codependency can seem positive on the surface, they will eventually have the negative effect of continuing to enable your loved one’s addiction.

Understanding Codependency

The term codependent refers to an excessive psychological or emotional reliance on another person to meet one’s own needs. Someone who suffers from a codependent personality will likely agree with the following statements:

  • I enjoy acting as a caretaker.
  • I seek out people who are in crisis so I can “rescue” them.
  • Pleasing people makes me happy.
  • Setting firm boundaries in a relationship is hard for me.
  • My moods are controlled by the thoughts and feelings of everyone around me.
  • I find it difficult to accurately describe my feelings to others.
  • I always want to be in control.
  • I have a hard time trusting other people.
  • I’d rather be in a broken or abusive relationship than be alone.

Codependency is often thought to be caused by low self-esteem, although it is a common response to the trauma associated with loving someone who suffers from addiction. Addicts are notorious for their unpredictable behavior, which can make those closest to them fight harder to maintain a sense of order and control over their environment.

The term codependency was first applied to the spouses of addicts, but codependent relationships can take many forms. Parents, children, and friends of substance abusers can all find themselves trapped in a cycle of codependency.

Enabling Addiction

Codependency is essentially a “helping” relationship taken to the extreme. Wanting to be kind to others is admirable. However, your actions do more harm than good if you’re unable to set clear boundaries.

For example:

  • You justify a loved one drinking or using drugs by saying the addict has had a stressful day or needs to relax.
  • You make excuses when the addict can’t come to social functions because he or she is under the influence.
  • You apologize to others on behalf of the person who is addicted to drugs or alcohol.
  • You loan money when financial problems are caused by drugs or alcohol.

All of these behaviors prevent your loved one from experiencing the full consequences of his or her addiction. When someone is always around to pick up the pieces, a substance abuser is able to stay in denial about the extent of his or her problem. When he or she is allowed to be irresponsible, self-destructive, and cruel to others without fear of reprisal, there is no incentive to seek treatment.

How to Stop the Cycle

Codependency creates a vicious cycle that harms both partners. Move towards a healthier relationship by keeping in mind the following tips:

  • Educate yourself.  Reading about codependency and attending support groups for the friends and family of addicts can help gather insight into the reasons behind your behavior and how your actions are harming your relationship.
  • Treat co-occurring disorders. People who suffer from codependency often have accompanying mental health problems such as depression or anxiety. Treating these issues is essential to stopping codependent behavior. Medication and therapy may be necessary.
  • Establish boundaries. Setting clear boundaries for yourself will help you overcome the urge to enable addiction-related behaviors from your loved one. For example, you may decide that you’ll no longer answer text messages sent while you’re at work, that you will decline to spend time around your loved one when it’s obvious that he or she has been using, or that you’ll no apologize to others when your loved one acts inappropriately.
  • Spend time alone. When you’re in a codependent relationship, your sense of self starts to become intertwined with the other person’s mood, thoughts, and feelings. Breaking the cycle require you to establish an independent identity. This may mean taking up a new solo hobby or pursing a special interest that you’ve previously ignored due to the time demands associated with caring for your addicted friend or family member. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as it’s something you enjoy doing by yourself.

At first, these actions might feel like they are selfish and unfair to your loved one. However, you won’t be in any position to support your friend or family member through addiction recovery unless you actively make time to address your own mental health needs. In the long term, breaking the cycle of codependency is the kindest and most compassionate way to get your loved one the help he or she needs.

By Dana Hinders

What To ExpectWhen you’ve made the decision to seek addiction treatment, it’s hard to imagine what your life will be like without drugs or alcohol. Although no two people are exactly alike, this article outlines some of the issues you can expect to deal with during your first year in recovery.

Withdrawal

The term withdrawal refers to the physical symptoms you experience after drugs or alcohol leave your system.

Withdrawal symptoms depend upon the substance being abused and your length of use, but often include stomach upset, sweating, headache, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and mood swings. A medical detox helps you avoid dangerous side effects and keeps you as comfortable as possible.

Acute withdrawal symptoms start to taper off as your brain chemistry adjusts to a normal level. However, post-acute withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere from six months to two years. Common post-acute withdrawal symptoms include difficulty with memory and concentration, decreased physical coordination, and trouble managing emotions.

Counseling

Once detox has been completed, counseling is vital part of setting the foundation for long term sobriety. Counseling typically involves a mixture of individual, group, and family sessions. Your counselor may also recommend experiential therapies such as art, music, or equine therapy.

If you suffer from a co-occurring mental health disorder such as depression or PTSD, your treatment plan will need to address both issues simultaneously. Often, people with mental health disorders turn to substance abuse to self-medicate the symptoms of their condition. If their mental health needs aren’t addressed, it becomes extremely difficult to maintain sobriety.

Celebrating 30 Days of Sobriety

Having 30 days of sobriety under your belt is considered a huge milestone. At this time, your withdrawal symptoms have become more manageable and your counseling sessions have provided you with the tools you need to begin a life free from the burdens of substance abuse.

Near the 30-day mark, you’ll likely be transitioning from an inpatient treatment facility to outpatient care. Your counselor will provide you with a detailed aftercare plan to make the adjustment process easier.

Creating a Strong Support System

After leaving an inpatient treatment facility, you’ll want to keep up the recovery momentum by creating a strong support system for yourself. Your facility’s aftercare resources are a good place to start, but you can also turn to support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous to connect you with people who understand the challenges you’re facing.

People in the early stages of recovery often find that turning to their faith provides comfort. The new friends you meet in worship services and church activities can play a vital role in your recovery by providing encouragement and accountability, even if they have no personal experience with substance abuse.

Building Routines

During the first year of recovery, much of your time will be spent creating a routine for yourself. You’ll need to figure out how to balance work, family, social, and treatment obligations. Using a traditional day planner or a scheduling app on your phone may make it easier to keep track of appointments.

As you’re building a routine for yourself, remember to be realistic about what you can accomplish. Not giving yourself enough time to relax can create stress, which places you at risk of relapse.

Repairing Relationships

When you’re struggling with addiction, it’s easy to inadvertently hurt the ones you love. Restoring trust with friends and family will take time, so be patient with this part of the process.

A sincere apology is always a good place to start, but most people in recovery find that their loved ones respond well to seeing how hard they are working to stay sober. Keep your loved ones informed of your recovery milestones while making an effort to communicate honestly and openly.

Discovering Sober Hobbies

One of the most exciting parts of embracing a sober lifestyle is developing new hobbies. During your first year in recovery, give yourself permission to explore areas of interest—even if they put you outside of your comfort zone.

As you’re thinking about what activities appeal to you, consider aiming for a mix of solo and group hobbies. Solo hobbies such as reading, creative writing, gardening, or painting provide a way to distract yourself when cravings hit. Group activities such as joining a bowling league, volunteering at a local nonprofit, or trying out for a community theater production let you expand your social circle.

Avoiding the Dangers of Overconfidence

As you get closer to the one-year mark, it’s natural to become more confident in your sobriety. Feeling comfortable living clean and sober is an excellent sign, but overconfidence can be a risk factor for relapse.

It’s important to remember that addiction is a chronic illness. Just as someone with diabetes needs to continually monitor their blood sugar, eat right, and exercise, you’ll need to stay on top of your treatment plan to manage your sobriety.

By Dana Hinders

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Post rehab dos and donts

When your loved one comes home from rehab, it’s natural to be nervous about what comes next. This guide will give you a basic framework for navigating some of the common challenges faced during the post-rehab adjustment period.

Do Take Time to Educate Yourself

If you’ve never struggled with drug or alcohol abuse yourself, it can be hard to understand what someone in recovery is going through. However, there are many excellent resources available to help you learn more about the roots of addiction and how to best support your loved one during the recovery process. Start by seeing what resources your loved one’s counselor recommends or by attending a friends and family support group such as Al-Anon.

Resources from St. Joseph Institute for Addiction that you might find helpful include:
What Is Withdrawal?
Principles of Effective Addiction Treatment
Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders: A Double Whammy for Treatment Goals

Do Ask Open-Ended Questions

When it comes to talking about recovery, everyone is different in regards to what they feel comfortable sharing. Some people want to share every detail, while others are slower to open up. You can express your support without prying with a simple, “How are you feeling?” or “What did you do today?”

To avoid making your loved one feel as though they’re being put on the spot, remember that a conversation is a two-way street. Make an effort to share details about the activities of your own day as well as your future plans. Your goal should be to foster a meaningful dialogue so it doesn’t feel as though you’re simply lecturing or criticizing.

Do Engage in Acts of Service

Verbally expressing your support is a good start, but sometimes actions speak louder than words. Show your support for your loved one’s recovery by offering transportation to appointments, the supplies or resources necessary to begin a new sober hobby, or assistance picking out clothes for a job interview. An invitation for a home cooked meal or a drug and alcohol free social engagement are also great options to consider.

If you’re not sure how to best be of service, don’t be afraid to ask. “What can I do to help you?” is always a good way to open the lines of communication. Your loved one may have ideas that you never would have considered on your own.

Don’t Rehash the Past

Your loved one is well aware of the mistakes he or she has made while struggling with addiction. Focusing on past mistakes will only keep you from moving forward in your relationship, especially if your loved one starts to feel like you’re blaming him or her for what has happened. Nobody can change the past, so it’s best to keep your focus on the future.

If you need to process your feelings about past events, vent to a trusted friend or write down your thoughts in a journal. This will help you keep a level head when dealing with your loved one in recovery.

Don’t Neglect Yourself

Loving a recovering addict can be stressful. It’s easy to spend so much time worrying about how to help your friend or family member that you forget to make time to take care of yourself. But, if you’re exhausted and overwhelmed, you won’t be able to effectively support your loved one during the recovery process.

Set a regular sleep schedule, eat nutritious meals, exercise regularly, and make time for stress-relieving activities that you enjoy. You’ll feel better about yourself and be setting a good example for your loved one of how to live a sober lifestyle.

Don’t Think of Rehab as a Cure

Addiction is a chronic illness. Your loved one may be sober now, but he or she is not cured in the sense that addiction will never be an issue again. Just as a diabetic needs to take insulin and manage blood sugar with diet and exercise, a recovering addict needs to remain vigilant to stay on top of relapse triggers. Rehab sets the foundation for a successful recovery. It’s not a quick fix.

Always remember that recovery is a journey that must be taken one step at a time. Your loved one may experience obstacles and setbacks along the way, but this does not mean that sobriety is impossible. It simply means that it may take some time to find a treatment plan that works best for his or her individual needs.

By Dana Hinders

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