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As the loved one of somebody suffering from addiction, you will naturally want to help them with their problem, but you have to be careful to ensure you don’t become co-dependent. The issue of co-dependence is often discussed in regard to relationships, but the same problems can occur between a loved one and somebody suffering from alcohol addiction. If you are concerned about whether you may be in any way “enabling” your loved one’s addiction, finding out about co-dependence can help you determine whether you need some help with the issue.

The most basic way to define co-dependence is a mutually needy relationship between two people. In terms of alcohol addiction, the addict will need help to overcome his or her problems, and the “helper” will simultaneously need the dependence of the addict. The helper becomes addicted to being needed, and develops an obsession with the other person’s problems, living vicariously through them. This can lead to behaviour which enables the person’s addiction, because the helper requires the addiction to persist in order to continue to be needed.

This is obviously an unhealthy relationship, but recognising co-dependence can be very difficult. If you are concerned that you may be involved in a co-dependent relationship, think about these few characteristics of co-dependence and see if they apply to you. Most people who are co-dependent are obsessive caretakers who have a low sense of self-worth. They feel like they are responsible for the other person’s problems, well-being and emotions, and feel guilt, anxiety or pity when other people have problems. They’ll try to fix the problem even if they are physically unable to do anything about it, and neglect their own problems because of the focus on other people’s issues. Feelings of boredom and worthlessness can take over if a co-dependent doesn’t have anybody to look after.

The root of the co-dependence is usually a troubled childhood, tainted by a parent’s substance abuse, physical or sexual abuse and abandonment. The person will become extremely self-critical, and feel like they aren’t worthy of love. This leads the person to subconsciously seek out a troubled person to “fix” who will need them. In turn, the issues of the co-dependent person mean that they subconsciously don’t want the troubled person to get better. This can make it less likely that they will convince the addict to go to alcohol rehab.

Recovering from co-dependence is actually a complex process. Like addiction, the behaviour is built on foundations of poor coping mechanisms, denial and other deep-seated issues which may require a professional to be fully exhumed. 12-step groups have done a lot for the definition and treatment of co-dependence, and are viable options for anybody struggling with the issue. The recovery process requires you to detach yourself from other people’s problems, learn healthier coping mechanisms and shift the focus onto your own life.

Severing these co-dependent ties and altering your coping mechanisms to healthier ones will help you start enjoying your own life, and also allow your loved one to get better. They can get all of the help they need in alcohol rehab, and the burden will be lifted from your shoulders. If you need any additional help with dealing with the family aspect of addiction, we provide telephone counselling and can help with a wide variety of issues. We also offer free advice on the different alcohol rehab centres. We can advise you on the options available to you and which is most suitable for your needs.

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