10 Indicators of a Codependent Relationship With an Addict: How to Address Them

Codependent relationships are inherently dysfunctional and harmful to both parties. The situation is especially complicated when the loved one of the codependent person has a substance use disorder. In their desire to please and avoid rejection, the codependent person may enable the addiction rather than helping their loved one overcome it. In this situation, both the addiction and the codependency must be addressed in treatment.

When your partner develops a substance use disorder, your efforts to help them will be sincere and honorable. However, if you have psychological issues that remain unacknowledged and untreated, they can interfere with your attempts to offer assistance.

Codependency will add another layer of complication to the relationship. It will keep you trapped in misery while undermining your efforts to help your loved one in their hour of need.

If you cannot feel happy, healthy, and whole without the approval of your spouse or partner, this means you’re in a codependent relationship.

When you’re codependent, you’ll rely on your loved one to validate your sense of self-worth. You’ll be convinced that you need them to protect you and look out for your mental, physical, and emotional needs. You’ll be plagued by feelings of helplessness and powerlessness, terrified of what the future might hold should your partner abandon you.

Codependent relationships are stressful for both parties. Hidden motivations and secret fears, of which the codependent person remains largely unaware, can lead to behaviors that are overly controlling and subtly self-centered, despite the codependent partner’s proclamations of devotion and the apparently selfless nature of their actions.

Oftentimes codependency is a learned response. It frequently has its origins in dysfunctional homes, where codependent behavior warps the relationship between parents or between parents and their children.

Regardless of its roots, codependency is unhealthy in any instance and can be incredibly destructive when substance use issues are also involved. If you become codependent on someone addicted to drugs or alcohol, there’s a good chance you’ll enable their substance abuse rather than helping them stop it. Their problems may actually heighten your fears and insecurities, and in your desperation not to lose them, you’ll inadvertently support their addiction even when your intentions were to do the opposite.

Codependency Revealed

How can you recognize your codependent patterns of behavior? Here are 10 signs of codependency that will reveal the truth:

1. You Feel It Is Your Responsibility to Solve Your Partner’s Problems.

Your partner is the one with the addiction. Yet, you’ve been putting enormous pressure on yourself to come up with solutions, as if it is your duty to restore their sobriety. This need comes from your fear of losing your loved one, and from your damaged self-esteem, which makes you feel responsible for everything that goes wrong in your life.

Unfortunately, the behaviors you exhibit in your attempts to be helpful may only reinforce the addiction. A person with a substance use disorder must accept responsibility for their plight, and if neither of you approaches the addiction with this understanding, their chances of recovery will be hindered.

2. Your Partner’s Addiction-Related Behavior Makes You Feel Unappreciated and Unloved.

When your loved one has a substance use disorder, they may react to your attempts to help with hostility or defensiveness. These are common behaviors associated with addiction, and family members should not take this type of rejection personally.

But your lack of self-esteem makes it impossible to see things from this perspective. Even if you understand your partner is in denial, you’ll still be emotionally devastated by their harsh words and refusal to accept your advice or assistance.

3. You Find Yourself Constantly Trying to Please Your Partner.

The classic sign of codependency is overly solicitous behavior. You’re constantly seeking your loved one’s approval or affirmation, since you rely on that to feel comfortable and good about yourself.

This type of behavior is unhealthy in any circumstance. But when your partner is dealing with a substance abuse problem, the last thing they need is someone flattering them, catering to them, or refusing to confront them. What they need is honesty, which you’ll struggle to provide if you let your codependency stay in control.

4. You’ve Become Completely Absorbed by Your Partner’s Struggles.

Your love explains your compassion and concern. But your need to stay in control and fear of being abandoned are other reasons why you’re so anxious to “save” your loved one from drugs or alcohol. Because this fear runs so deep, you may become obsessed with trying to cure them, to the point of neglecting many of your own needs.

5. You Don’t Hold Your Partner Accountable for Their Actions.

People with substance abuse problems are often verbally abusive and dishonest with their loved ones. They may forsake their responsibilities, leaving others (specifically you) to clean up their messes.

When this happens, you should let them know right away that their behavior is unacceptable. If you’re codependent you’ll likely refuse to do this, thereby subjecting yourself to unfair treatment while enabling their substance abuse in yet another way.

6. You Offer Your Partner Constant Advice on How to Improve Their Lives.

Naturally, people with substance abuse require assistance and advice from their family members and friends. But in your case, your efforts to be helpful may be overdone and overbearing, to the point where you’re treating your partner like a child who can’t do anything on their own.

When your attempts to help reach this point, it means you are trying too hard to control the situation. This is a consequence of your codependency and an ineffective approach that is likely to trigger your loved one’s self-defensive instincts.

7. You Sometimes Rely on Guilt and Shame to Get Your Partner to Acquiesce.

Men and women with codependency issues often resort to manipulative behavior to get their way. They play on their partner’s emotions, using guilt, shame, or embarrassment to control their actions.

Ultimately, this approach will not produce sustainable results. If they enter rehab just to please or satisfy you, and not because they are truly ready to change, their efforts to get clean and sober will not be successful.

Hope is Just a Phone Call Away


8. You See Yourself as a Perpetual Victim.

Despite your frequent attempts to take control of your partner’s behavior and the progress of your relationship, you often feel powerless and vulnerable. You feel beleaguered and overwhelmed by fear, convinced that you’re helpless to change your fate for the better without the support of your partner.

When you’re trapped in a codependent relationship, you’ll never feel empowered. This is especially true if your partner has substance abuse issues, which makes your future even more uncertain and unpredictable.

9. You Cover Up for Your Partner’s Problems With Substance Abuse.

When a person is abusing drugs or alcohol, they may not be ready to accept their need for treatment until they’ve suffered severe negative consequences. But if you lie for them, or blame other people or difficult life situations for their troubles, you’ll make it easier for them to avoid those consequences and remain trapped in denial.

This is a prime example of enabling behavior. If it continues and neither of you gets help, you for your codependency and they for their addiction, the results could be catastrophic for both of you.

10. You’ve Had Other Relationships With People Struggling With Substance Abuse Issues.

Has substance abuse been a factor in other relationships you’ve had? Either with partners or caregivers? If so, that can be an indicator of codependency. You might be attracted to someone with substance abuse issues because of your desire to be needed. If their substance use disorder forces them to rely on you for comfort and support, they may be less inclined to abandon or reject you (or so says your subconscious mind).

Relationships tainted by neediness, either yours or that of another, are built on a foundation of sand. They are not sustainable, and if you want to repair them each of you will need to repair yourselves first.

The Role of Family Programs in Mutual Recovery

A codependent relationship complicated by substance abuse will pull both participants into a downward spiral. As the codependent person, you won’t be able to offer the constructive empathy and hopeful encouragement your partner needs, and your absorption in your partner’s problems will prevent you from addressing your own serious issues as well.

You may need long-term therapy to overcome your codependent tendencies and patterns. But one excellent way to launch your recovery is to participate in a family therapy program at a licensed drug and alcohol rehabilitation center.

The intensive four-day Family Program at Alta Mira can help you start your healing process, in a calm setting working with a compassionate mental and behavioral health specialist. If your partner chooses a comprehensive, 90-day substance abuse rehab program, you’ll be eligible to enroll in multiple four-day sessions, allowing you to recover comprehensively and simultaneously with your loved one. In addition, family therapy sessions will be included in your partner’s recovery program, giving the two of you the chance to work on some of your issues together, in solidarity and with a firm commitment to change.

Ultimately, to break your cycle of codependency you must face it head on, with openness and honesty and without denial or compromise. This can be challenging, but it is necessary if you want to heal yourself and your relationship.

Alta Mira offers comprehensive treatment for people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction as well as co-occurring mental health disorders and process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our renowned Bay Area programs and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward lasting recovery.