How to Stop Being Codependent While Loving an Addict

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Loving an addict isn’t easy. Not only do you have to deal with your loved one’s drug and alcohol use, but you also end up taking the brunt of their bad behaviors. Addiction is a painful and far-reaching disease that affects everyone who gets involved with the addicted individual. Friends and family members often change their own behaviors in an attempt to help their addicted loved ones stay safe. However, these behaviors aren’t always healthy for either party involved. One of the most common behavioral conditions that occur in people who love addicts is codependency.

If you love an addict and have ever been told you are codependent, you probably are. Codependency is extremely common in relationships affected by addiction, but it only allows the addicted individual to continue using substances without consequence. The best way to begin convincing your loved one to get help is to stop being codependent in the first place.

What is Codependency?

Codependency is an emotional and behavioral health condition that is sometimes referred to as “relationship addiction.” It is characterized by behaviors within a relationship where one individual maintains a relationship with another individual who is emotionally or physically destructive. Codependency can occur in any kind of unhealthy relationship, but it is often spoken about in relation to drug and alcohol addiction.

People who struggle with codependency have the best intentions. More than anything, they want to help their addicted loved ones overcome their challenges. The issue is that the codependent person’s actions to save, rescue, or support the addict often lead to disappointment. This disappointment makes the individual even more eager to protect or please the addicted loved one. The codependent person feels satisfied when they help their addicted loved one because they feel as though they are needed or loved.

Over time, people who are codependent realize that their expectations aren’t being met, regardless of how much they have sacrificed for the addict. This makes the individual feel resentful and even helpless. Not only does codependency allow unhealthy relationships to continue, but it also allows the addict to continue using drugs and the other individual to self-destruct.

Signs of Codependency While Loving an Addict

The easiest way to understand codependency is to look at specific examples of it. Codependency looks like:

  • Making excuses or lying for a loved one’s bad behavior
  • Neglecting one’s own needs to care for the needs of someone else who should be able to provide for themselves
  • Taking responsibility for a loved one’s bad behavior
  • Investing a lot of time and energy into taking care of someone with a drug or alcohol problem who should be taking care of themselves and is refusing treatment

There are also behavioral and emotional symptoms that indicate codependency. These include:

  • People-pleasing
  • Low self-esteem
  • Lack of boundaries
  • Inability to communicate one’s needs
  • Denial
  • Shame
  • Anxiety
  • Fear of judgment
  • Feelings of abandonment

If you relate to these behaviors and emotions, you may be struggling with codependency.

How to Stop Being Codependent

Codependency is harmful to you and your addicted loved one. The first step towards pressuring your loved one to get help is to stop tending to a toxic, harmful relationship. Once you can put an end to these behaviors, you can fully support your addicted loved one.

Identify Enabling Behaviors

Enabling and codependency usually go hand in hand. If you are the caretaker in a relationship affected by addiction, you are probably acting out on behaviors that feel as though they are keeping your loved one safe, when in reality these behaviors are only allowing your loved one to continue using drugs and alcohol.

Examples of enabling behaviors include:

  • Driving your loved one to the liquor store
  • Bailing them out of jail
  • Loaning money to your loved one
  • Lying or making excuses to cover up your loved one’s behavior
  • Providing for your loved one in situations where they should be providing for themselves

Try to pinpoint the enabling behaviors you are acting out on and make a list of them.

Set Firm Boundaries and Create Distance

Now that you’ve identified enabling behaviors that help foster a toxic relationship, it’s time to put an end to those behaviors by setting boundaries. Let your addicted loved one know exactly what behaviors are and are not tolerated. For example, if you are always paying your loved one’s rent because he or she is spending all of their cash on drugs, let them know you will no longer be paying rent until they get help for their addiction.

Other boundaries you may outline are:

  • I will not bail you out of jail or help you with legal feels
  • I will not allow you to enter my home while under the influence
  • If you continue hanging out with bad influences, I will no longer spend time with you

Setting boundaries and sticking to them will stop you from shielding your loved one from the effects of your addiction. For people who are codependent, setting boundaries is difficult. You may feel like you are being mean or “cold-hearted.” You may feel as though if something does happen to your loved one, it will be your fault. However, this is not true. Boundaries exist in all healthy relationships. Boundaries may even push your addicted loved one to get help faster.

Practice Tough Love

Sometimes, truly caring about someone means practicing tough love. Rather than walking on eggshells, try to stand firm in your beliefs, stick to your boundaries, and don’t let your addicted loved ones justify their bad behaviors. If your loved one comes to you with a topic they want reassurance about, don’t back them up. Tell them the truth. Explain to them just how serious their problem is and what consequences are likely to come. No matter how hard it may be or hurtful it may seem, you must tell your loved one the truth.

Practice Self-Care

When you are enabling someone else’s addiction and struggling with codependency, there is little time left over to care for yourself. People who struggle with codependency often lack self-care, self-love, and self-respect. Make sure to spend some time each day taking care of yourself. Nourish your body with healthy foods, get quality sleep, and do something each day that you enjoy. Sometimes, you have to put yourself over other people, especially when you love an addict. Plus, you can’t help someone else if you can’t even help yourself.

Go to an Al-Anon or Codependents Anonymous (CoDA)

Al-Anon meetings bring together like-minded individuals who love people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol. These meetings often cover topics such as enabling, codependency, and boundaries. CoDA, on the other hand, is a 12-Step program for people who struggle with codependency. Both of these groups can provide you with strategies to use in specific situations that can help you stop being codependent while loving an addict.

Find Help for an Addicted Loved One Today

Our dedicated staff at New Jersey Addiction Intervention can help you come up with ways to convince your loved one to go to rehab. Whether it be through the legal system or an intervention, getting your loved one the help they need can give you the space you need to heal, yourself. We’ll also help connect you with a therapist or local support group meetings that can help address your codependency issues.

Don’t wait any longer. Call today to see how we can help.

Medically Reviewed: October 11, 2021

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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