“Where there is an addict, there is usually a coaddict adding to the problem” is a truism that people struggling to help an addict need to realize before that addict will ever become better. Many people that are in a relationship with an addict have no idea that they have their own separate problem of codependency that is actually helping perpetuate the addict’s issues instead of helping them. Therefore, identifying codependency in families with addiction problems may be as crucial as getting the addict to admit he has a problem.
I will equate coaddict with codependent and use the terms interchangeably in this article because I believe that anyone that is codependent is addicted to people and hence, a coaddict.
Codependency occurs when a person thinks or believes they cannot have a life apart from being in a relationship with someone else. A person who is codependent becomes so consumed with meeting another person’s needs and solving their problems that they lose their own identity (loss of self) and ignore their own needs and problems.
Codependency is also the result and cause of adolescents choosing so poorly in their friendships and lovers. Many settle for less because they believe it is better to have someone than no one and that they don’t deserve anyone in the first place.
As a youth pastor I have observed the following scenario so many times. A girl falls in love with a guy who is a smooth talker. Since the girl comes from a home where her father is either distant by divorce or choice, she is easily wooed and enticed by flowering words that she is unaccustomed to (but feel really, really good inside). Eventually, the relationship is pushed for sex and it is made clear that you either “love me” or leave me. Fearful of losing “another man” like she did with dad, the young girl “puts out” and ends up caving in to her boyfriend’s every desire in hopes that it will be enough to forever keep him.
This actual scenario is not only real, but is a foreshadowing of two people that will eventually struggle in their marriage as a result of one becoming a sex addict (if not already) and the other an unhealthy coaddict that will unknowingly support her husband’s habit through her inability to communicate her deepest fears, pains, anger and or shame with her husband.
“Dressing” or Treating Codependency:
The one common thread that both addicts and coaddicts (codependents) have in common is that they both have unaddressed and what I would call “nondressed” wounds. Most people living in the 21st Century come from family of origins where there was some degree of woundedness and brokenness that occurred while growing up and as a result, they will in turn take a dysfunctional approach to getting their needs met in all current and future relationships until their real issues are resolved.
A lack of intimacy growing up will always breed a lack of intimacy while grown up. The addict is afraid of sharing his deepest hurts to resolve his pain and overcoming the addiction, while the coaddict is afraid the addict will become angry when she expresses her legitimate needs, desires, and feelings to him so she will in turn focus all her energy and time in trying to make him happy when all the time it only perpetuates his problem (addiction). The codependent feels as if she is actually helping soothe the addict and his problem.
Codependents must realize that there is a difference between serving someone to actually help them and serving someone in hopes of secretly getting your needs met down the road. Codependence and serving can look a lot alike and unless one truly knows the motivation behind the act, we will never know the difference. The main difference though is that codependents are self-serving in nature (serve to get served, even if its in a warped way), while people who are healthy in loving themselves and administering self-care serve with the intention of expecting nothing back in return.
The only way a person can experience a breakthrough in being a coaddict is that they must first realize they are one. Secondly, they must receive help and support to find the courage to become brutally honest in assessing their true needs as a human being and become enabled to having those needs met. This can only occur in an environment of safety, honesty, love and acceptance.
Celebrate Recovery is a great resource or starting point in finding support for general addictions. Faithfulandtrueministries.com is another great resource specializing in sexual addictions that is founded by Mark and Debbie Laaser.
“Addiction & Recovery” (speakers Jennifer Cisney, M.A., and Debbie Laaser, B.S.). Beyond Codependency. Lesson 501. DVD. www.lightuniversity.com. 2009