This was a column written by Marie Bergloff and published in the Kanabec County Times on January 16, 2014. Click here to view the original column.
Addiction comes in many forms. We have public awareness on the addict’s behavior, with lesser emphasis on an additional component of addiction; enabling or codependency.
Codependency is defined as a psychological condition or a relationship in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected with a pathological condition (typically narcissism or drug addicts). Many of us may have no knowledge of how we could be contributing to an addict’s addiction(s). The reality is…we do it, often without knowing.
From my experience both professionally and personally, there have been many situations that I have seen these actions carried out. As a licensed alcohol and drug counselor in our community, I have watched spouses, parents and children “take care of” their family members and friends.
For example, a parent who gives the client money to pay the bills (that never get paid) or parents who pay rent or bills themselves so their adult children won’t become homeless or hungry.
An inmate’s spouse shows as a witness to plead for his defense that “he wouldn’t have beaten her except his friends made him use drugs, and he won’t do it if he comes home this time.”
Or a child who has “raised” her parent because the parent wasn’t able to care for themselves much less the child. The child also had to care for their siblings.
Personally, prior to understanding codependency/enabling, I took care of my boyfriend and made sure he wasn’t fired from his job by calling in sick for him or calling his co-worker to take the shift so it would be covered, saying he was sick or the car was broken or some other creative excuse.
Another example that I’ve seen is the wife driving her spouse around fearing that he will get a DUI if she doesn’t because the family can’t afford to have him without a license and unable to work.
I have even seen a parent purchase opiates for their child because they don’t want to see their adult child suffer through the withdrawals the child may experience without it.
In my opinion, the generation I grew up in, society and tradition deemed that we are to “stand by our man” and that parents don’t abandon their children, but the why’s and how’s of how it is done is the issue.
Females are nurturers by genetics, and we tend to be blind-sided by our own motives for the choices we make. My previous example of care-taking my boyfriend was for fear of abandonment. Thankfully, a wise person led me to Alanon and I regained my independence and self confidence. I no longer worry about being in a relationship versus an individual. I am happy with myself and who I am as a person.
What we may fail to remember is that humans don’t do anything without gaining something. The gain could be as simple as “it makes me feel good.” Human beings also don’t change behaviors unless the pain becomes more than the pleasure. The consequence has to be worse than the high we are getting.
Another aspect of addiction and codependency is that enabling is a form of control. As long as they use, we, as codependents, feel needed and in control of their surroundings. If they do get sober/clean, codependents lose that feeling of being needed and the perceived control. This is also an unconscious act.
A codependent may not realize this is the motive until they take an internal look at their own thoughts and behaviors that accompany the actions. This is a subtle, sneaky aspect of dysfunctional behaviors. It creeps into the family roles suddenly.
There is a solution. We can take care of ourselves, have healthy boundaries, detach from the emotional drain, have faith that they will survive until they recover, and accept that the outcome is out of our hands.
There are many resources available to help addicts and their friends and family. There are 12-step meetings called Alanon that can teach what is needed and give the support necessary. Another possibility is individual therapy with a licensed family therapist or psychologist. Finally, if the addict is in treatment, attendance at family programming may be available.
For more information on addiction, codependency and treatment email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marie Bergloff is a counselor at Serenity Haven in Mora, Minnesota and a member of the Substance Abuse Coalition of Kanabec County (SACK). SACK is administered by Kanabec County Public Health. For more information about the coalition visit www.sackcoalition.org.