“Codependency” is used to describe the condition where a person becomes the “caretaker” of an addicted or troubled individual. The individual can be addicted to alcohol, drugs, or gambling. Or, he or she can be troubled by a physical or emotional illness. Codependents can be this individual’s spouse, lover, child, parent, sibling, coworker, or friend.

Below are typical roles that codependents play:

  • Enabler allows the person to continue his or her self-destructive or troubled behavior, or denies that the person has a problem
  • Rescuer makes excuses for the person’s behavior, or saves the person from unpleasant situations, i.e. putting an alcoholic to bed after he/she passes out
  • Caretaker takes care of all household and financial chores which hold the family together
  • Joiner rationalizes that the person’s behavior is normal by simply allowing it to take place or by taking part in the same behavior as the addicted or troubled individual
  • Hero becomes the “super person” to preserve the family image
  • Complainer blames the person and makes him or her the scapegoat for all problems
  • Adjuster withdraws from the family and acts like he/she doesn’t care

Most codependents do not realize they have a codependency problem. They focus more energy on another’s actions and needs than on their own. They think they are actually helping the troubled person, but they are not.

Questions to Ask

Do you do 3 or more of the following?

  • Think more about another person’s behavior and problems than about your own life
  • Feel anxious about the addicted or troubled persons behavior and constantly check on him/her to try to catch him/her in the bad behavior
  • Worry that if you stop trying to control the other person, that he or she will fall apart
  • Blame yourself for this person’s problems
  • Cover up or “rescue” this person when they are caught in a lie or other embarrassing situation related to his/her addiction or other problem
  • Deny that this person has a “real” problem with drugs, alcohol, etc., and become angry and/or defensive when others suggest there is an addiction or other substance abuse problem

Yes: See Councelor


Provide Self-Care

{Note: You may not be truly codependent, but you should become aware of how your behavior may be enabling an addicted or troubled individual.}

Self-Care Tips

Most codependents are not in touch with their codependency and may need help to see it. The following self-help tips are general suggestions. For many people, these are not easy to do without the help of a counselor.

  • Read books on codependency. You can find these in the library and bookstores. You may find you identify with what you read and gain understanding.
  • Focus on these three C’s:

    • You did not cause the other person’s problem.
    • You can’t control the other person.
    • You can’t cure the problem.

  • Don’t lie, make excuses, or cover up for the abuser’s drinking, drug, or other problem. Admit to yourself that this way of living is not normal and that the abuser or troubled person has a real problem and needs professional help.
  • Refuse to come to the person’s aid. Every time you bail the abuser out of trouble, you reinforce their helplessness and your hopelessness.
  • If you or your children are being physically, verbally, or sexually abused, do not allow it to continue. There are shelters for victims of domestic violence. (See “Places to Get Information & Help” under “Domestic Violence” on page 375.)
  • Know that there are many support groups which help codependents. Examples are self-help groups for family and friends of substance abusers such as Al-Anon, Alateen, and Children of Alcoholics Foundation (COAF). (See “Places to Get Information & Help” under “Alcohol/Drug Abuse” -on pages 374 and 375.) Other self-help and support groups are offered through community health education programs.
  • Continue with your normal family routines. For example, include the drinker when he/she is sober.
  • Focus on your own feelings, desires, and needs. Negative thoughts may be brewing just below the surface. It’s important to vent them in healthy ways. Begin to do what is good for your own well-being.
  • Allow children to express their feelings openly. Show them how by expressing your own feelings.
  • Set limits on what you will and won’t do. Be firm and stick to these limits. It’s natural to want to take care of those you love, but in this case, it doesn’t help.
  • Engage in new experiences and interests. Find diversion from your loved one’s problem.
  • Take responsibility for yourself and others in the family to live a better life whether your loved one recovers or not.

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Written by American Institute for Preventive Medicine

Explore Wellness in 2021