How We Can Understand the Relationship Between Codependents and Addicts

Mar 05, 2020

In the last several decades of addiction treatment, one of the most powerful discoveries has been the role of the codependent in addictions. Basically, researchers learned that an addict needs a codependent to enable staying addicted. But beyond that, codependent people continually find themselves in relationships with addicts. In my experience with codependents, I’ve often heard, “Out of all the people in the world, I will be drawn to the addict before anyone else.”

One reason for this attraction is that there is a match. The addict does not take responsibility for his life, and the codependent feels responsible to take care of people who are not taking responsibility for themselves. So the addict and the codependent will be drawn to people who fill their needs. And it works … for awhile … until …

When the codependent finally asks the question, “What is it about me that always draws me into this kind of relationship?” Then she learns what codependency is and begins to work on it. Once she gets further down that path and changes those patterns, her whole world begins to look different. It is no longer filled with addicts, but with loving and responsible people. Volia! She changed, and the world changed.

Even when a situation is someone else’s fault, we sometimes play a part in it. At the very least, we may be failing to confront an individual and set boundaries. When that happens, we enable the problem to continue, and we must ask ourselves, “What is my part in this?”

When I was trained in addictions treatment, I was taught that the codependent plays a role in the addiction of the person they are connected to; and when I began to interact with clients, I was amazed at how true that was. Change the codependent, and the addict often changes as well. I was pretty impressed with the wisdom of the addiction specialists when I was a grad student.

When we understand our part in a negative situation and do what we need to do, we can change the situation, or at least change ourselves. Whatever negative issues we are facing, change begins when we ask ourselves, “What inside of me needs to change for this to get better?”


Need a safe place to relate to others about this topic? Join one of Dr. Henry Cloud's Boundaries Peer Groups. 

Boundaries with Codependency
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