Codependency – as it relates to addiction – is a relationship between two people where a form of subservience and control is implemented, using drugs or alcohol as leverage – this control can work in a few primary ways. One form of enabling and codependency exists when two people are both addicted and using drugs and/or alcohol, and the two enable each other. This creates a situation where the addiction won’t be addressed and the substance abuse is allowed to continue.
In many cases, this form of a codependent relationship involving drugs and alcohol can see one person seek treatment for addiction, while the other does not receive any form of treatment. This discordant relationship often leads to trouble in two ways:
- Person A begins to recover from their addiction, while Person B continues to use. Person A begins to find success in sobriety, while Person B’s addiction gets worse. This leads to a breakdown of the relationship between the two, and eventually leads to the ultimatum that Person B needs to seek treatment too, or the relationship needs to end.
- Likewise, Person A can begin to recover from their addiction, while Person B continues to use. Person A does not find success in sobriety, and is urged to continue to use by Person B. Person A’s recovery is threatened by Person B, and eventually the treatment and recovery process is abandoned.
This second scenario is what we will be focusing on in detail.
The Codependency Addiction Relationship
Recovering from addiction entails a person recognizing their addiction and recognizing that the addiction is negatively affecting their life, and then seeking treatment for addiction with the hope of creating a better life.
In a codependent addiction relationship between two people, it has been decided that the relationship between the two is the most important priority – even above a healthy and happy life. The two will do everything they can to protect this relationship – even if the relationship is volatile and a toxic relationship – including not receiving addiction treatment or stopping treatment.
It is important to note that the relationship between these two people is not always a romantic situation between spouses or boyfriends/girlfriends, but this relationship can be between two friends who get high or drink together, or even between a mother/father and son/daughter and other familial relationships.
Treating Codependency in Addiction Treatment and Rehab Programs
Intervention into the codependent relationship is needed to break the codependency and allow one or both of the individuals to heal and recover. This does not always mean a third party needs to intervene and expose the toxicity of the relationship, often times it is one of the two using drugs and alcohol that intervenes.
An example of this would be Person A recognizing the dangers of the addiction and telling Person B that the addiction needs to be addressed through treatment. Person A has just intervened in the relationship and recognized both the codependency and the two-way enabling that is occurring.
The important thing to note is that an intervention must happen to address the addiction and the dangers of the relationship.
When a Codependent Enabler Threatens Addiction Recovery and Treatment
When a codependent enabler (the person not seeking treatment) feels threatened by the successful recovery of the other (the person seeking treatment), and fears losing control of the relationship, the enabler will often seek to end treatment of their partner. This is commonly seen in rehab environments, and the codependent enabler can attempt to derail the recovery of the other in several ways:
- Attempting to sabotage recovery efforts. (Offering drugs or alcohol to the person in recovery)
- Trying to convince the person in recovery that the treatment is not effective. (Attempting to end treatment or claiming that the treatment program and professionals are not giving enough care and attention, etc.)
- Making plans to sabotage recovery after treatment. (Planning to continue the codependent relationship and using leverage to take advantage of the toxic relationship)
In these types of situations, the addiction treatment threatens the codependent enabler, and therefore threatens the success of the addiction treatment. There aren’t a lot of win-win outcomes to this situation, sadly; and often the only positive outcome one can hope for is the successful recovery of half of the codependents – the focus must be on saving one of the two.
When Person A is in treatment for their addiction, and Person B becomes a persistent negative influence to Person A, it is essential to break the connection between the two. This may seem harsh, but in serious addictions (especially heroin, opioid or alcohol addictions) where the risk of death is very possible, it can be a life-saving move.
Severing a Relationship between an Addictin Recovery and the Enabler
In any codependent relationship that involves drugs and alcohol, it is important to recognize that the health and life of the person seeking recovery is the highest priority. In order for this person to achieve a successful rehab experience and truly recover from their addiction, it may be necessary to completely dissolve the relationship.
No one is saying that the relationship cannot be saved, nor does it mean that the two can never talk to each other again or seek a healthy relationship in the future. It does mean that during the process of addiction recovery, RECOVERY should be the focus, and not saving or salvaging the relationship.
How to Stop a Codependent Enabler from Sabotaging Your Addiction Recovery
Drug rehabs, addiction treatment programs, and other programs and facilities to treat addiction often implement processes to deter both self-sabotage and sabotage from an outside individual – including wives, husbands, girlfriends, parents, friends and others.
If the rehab staff and counselors fear that an individual could be a detriment to your sobriety and recovery, they will often keep that individual from contacting, visiting or communicating with you. This is not done to harm or offend anyone but is done to protect the safety of the one in recovery.
If you are no longer using a recovery program or receiving treatment in a facility that safeguards you from negative influences and toxic relationships, then protecting yourself is up to you. You will need to take precautionary measures in order to protect yourself and your recovery. Keep the focus on you and your personal recovery, and make yourself and your health and happiness the priority.
You can try to explain to your friends, family, spouse, or other possibly-negative influences that you are the priority, but don’t let them detract the focus from you and your wellbeing. If they don’t understand that your health is a priority if they try and say that you are being selfish, or throw any other detriment your way just remember to keep your goals in sight.
Perhaps later – when you have built a solid foundation in recovery, and are not as prone to relapse and negative influences – you can pursue a relationship with that person again. Until that foundation is built, and the risk of relapse has subsided, letting a person who is toxic to your recovery into your daily life is just not smart.