Living with an addict is never easy. Family members are affected in many ways when one member becomes addicted to substances such as alcohol or drugs. Those who have no previous experience with addiction may find it impossible to understand why their loved one is abusing these chemical substances. They cannot comprehend why their family member would not just stop drinking or stop taking drugs when the effects on the whole family are so severe and so obvious. The way that each member of the family reacts to the illness can be dramatically different, with some becoming co-dependent and others completely zoning out. Some people find it difficult to understand how others can become co-dependent on an addict, and struggle to deal with it. Those who are not affected in this way often ponder the question of where does co-dependency start and why it occurs. To answer these questions, it is important to first look at what it actually is.
What Is Co-Dependency?
The natural reaction of many family members is to try to fix their addicted loved one. They believe that they can get through to this person and make them see that what they are doing is harming themselves and others. Unfortunately, the concerned family members fail to realise that the chemical substances their loved one has been abusing have altered the structure of his/her brain and is making them incapable of listening to reason or making good decisions.
However, the family member will continue trying and may even get to the point where he or she changes their own behaviour in response to how their addicted loved one is acting. He or she They will become obsessed with the addict and will then be classed as co-dependent. The affected family member now has their own dependency; only it is not to a chemical substance, it is to the addict.
When Does Co-Dependency Start?
It is difficult for others in the family unit to see someone they love struggling with addiction and so they will do all that is possible to help that person. Nevertheless, what often happens is that concerned family members act in a way that is not helping their addicted loved one at all.
When they begin to take on responsibilities of the addicted person or start covering up for them, they can be developing a co-dependency without even realising. Their own lives take a back seat when everything they do revolves around the addict.
It is usually only when they stop to take a look at their own situation or realise that they are not helping their addicted loved one that they really see how much their own lives have been affected.
There are many different forms that co-dependency can take, including:
- Rationalising Family members often begin rationalising their addicted loved ones behaviour instead of acknowledging that he or she has an addiction that requires help. Some people will try to explain away the behaviour of their addicted family member and may tell others that there is a valid reason why the affected person is acting in this way.
- Covering-up Covering up for the addict is one of the more common forms of co-dependency. It is said that addiction can make liars of everyone, and this is evident in the behaviour of co-dependent family members. They may try to fix the situation by telling the addicts employer that he or she is sick and unable to work, or they will make excuses to extended family members and friends about why the addict has reneged on promises. They may be doing this because of a belief that they are helping the addict or to hide their own shame and embarrassment about the situation.
- Blaming Family members often blame themselves when another member of the family develops an addiction to drugs or alcohol. They will wonder what they could have done to prevent the addiction from developing in the first place and will convince themselves that it was something that they did that caused their loved one to abuse drugs or alcohol. Some might think they did not show the addict enough attention or love. Others will try to find some flaw in their own character that contributed to the addiction.
- Withdrawing Some family members may isolate themselves from friends or extended family members in a bid to hide the addiction. They will stop attending social gatherings with the addict or even on their own because they believe this is the best way to prevent others from discovering their secret.
- Controlling As the addiction progresses and the co-dependent family member realises that he or she is not getting through to the addict, their own behaviour may become more controlling. They will start to harangue the addict or control him or her to stop them using. Their behaviour may become obsessive but it will still rarely prevent the addict from continuing with his or her addictive behaviour.
- Zoning Out When the co-dependent exhausts all avenues to help their addicted loved one, he or she may just give up and zone out. They have tried being kind and being angry, but when unsuccessful, they may just withdraw into themselves.
Enabling and Co-Dependency
Co-dependency and enabling are closely linked in that many co-dependent people enable their addicted loved ones behaviour. They often adapt their own behaviour or lives in a way that makes it easier for the addict to continue with addictive behaviour. They do not force their addicted loved one to take responsibility for their own actions and as such, he or she will be free to continue their own downward path of destruction.
Spouses and parents will often take on the responsibilities of the addicted individual. Spouses will take over all the responsibilities in the home and in the care of children. Parents of addicts may take on the financial responsibilities of the addict because they believe they are helping. In fact, they are doing the complete opposite. By doing these things, they are allowing their addicted loved one to carry on unchecked.
How to Help a Loved One with Addiction
It is easy to fall into a life of co-dependency without realising. If you have a loved one with an addiction to alcohol or drugs, it is important to think about your own behaviour lately and how you have been handling the situation.
No one will judge you for trying to do all you can to help your loved one get better, but you need to realise that you may be fighting a losing battle. Most addicts will require professional help if they are to put their addiction behind them.
And what you do need to remember is that your loved one will not get better unless he or she actually wants to. Nothing you can do will make this person give up alcohol or drugs unless he/she really wants to put their substance abuse behind them for good. Finding the strength to do that can be tough. Nonetheless, there are some things that you can do to encourage him or her into treatment, and a family intervention is one option.
If your loved one already realises that help is needed and actually wants to get better, you are in a great position. However, if this individual is struggling to accept that he or she has an addiction, you may be left with no option but to conduct an intervention.
The good thing about interventions is the fact that they are very successful when it comes to getting addicted loved ones into treatment. An intervention involves a group of people close to the addict, coming together to discuss the ways in which his or her addiction has had a negative impact on their life. Family members often see an intervention as their last hope to get help for their addicted loved one.
We Can Help You Beat Addiction
If you would like more information on how to stage an intervention, call us here at UK Rehab today. We are here to help not only those struggling with addiction but also their family members. We can put you in touch with a suitable rehab provider where your loved one can get the help required to overcome their addiction. If you would like help with an intervention, we can put you in touch with a professional interventionist.
Our service is completely free and confidential. Call today for more information on what we do and how we can help your whole family to overcome addiction once and for all.