In one of my previous blogs I wrote about the effects of parents’ alcoholism on their children. But it is not just children who suffer. Parents, spouses, siblings of the drug user also suffer equally. As a result of living in a problematic environment, struggling to cope with addiction, they unconsciously develop a certain behavioral pattern referred to as Co-dependency.
Co-dependency is a pathological condition which is characterized by extreme preoccupation and emotional dependence on a person which eventually affects the co-dependent in all other relationships. It is a faulty pattern of living, coping and problem solving governed by a set of rules created and maintained by the family. Such rules interfere with healthy growth and make constructive change very difficult, if not impossible. In their effort to control the chemical dependent the family members lose control over their own behavior. Ultimately life becomes unmanageable.
Co-dependency is characterized by the following traits:
- Loss of daily structure
- Neglect of personal care
- Physical problems
- Getting involved in unproductive activities
- The ‘whatever I do is right’ attitude
- Blaming others
- Inability to plan and prioritize.
The co-dependent finds it difficult to identify and express his feelings accurately. Difficulty in maintaining close relationships, taking decisions, and anxiety in making changes are common. They have an exaggerated need for others’ approval and a fear of abandonment keeps them away from conflict. Taking responsibility for others’ behavior, unrealistic expectations from others, a sense of shame and low self esteem are other characteristics.
The co-dependent often acts an enabler helping the addict to continue with his addiction. But he must realize that addiction has affected the family physically and psychologically and some of their behavior patterns have, over the course of time, become inappropriate. A change in their attitude and behavior will help in supporting the addict in his recovery.