Most of us are familiar with the character traits of an addict, often through personal experience. Another, less understood person in the addictive struggle is the codependent partner, also called the caretaker. Codependency and addiction frequently go hand-in-hand, but not always. In addition, both partners may be substance abusers, though one will have more pronounced addiction issues; both partners may also show signs of codependency. The dynamic is a never-ending battle of shifting responsibility and trying to control the addict’s behavior.
The term codependent was first coined in the 1950s to describe the partner of an addict or alcoholic. The codependent partner takes care of the addict’s responsibilities and needs, often at the expense of their own needs. The caretaker believes they are helping the addict, ostensibly to get sober, but often merely perpetuates the addictive behavior. By giving financial and emotional support to the addict, lying or covering up for them, the caretaker enables the addict.
Often, the cycle is broken only when circumstances become dire, as a result of the addict’s legal troubles, being fired, or being forced into treatment. Individual therapy for each partner, together with couple’s counseling, can shed a great deal of light on the codependent-addict dynamic. The “four A’s” are typically recommended as steps needed to break the toxic pattern:
- Abstinence: Both partners must make a commitment to sobriety – not just the addict. Without mutual sobriety, the unhealthy cycle has no hope of ending.
- Awareness: This often comes in a “moment of clarity” that spurs the desire to change. With awareness comes the ability to identify destructive behaviors and end them.
- Acceptance: In accepting the problem and each partner’s respective role in creating chaos, the basis for change is formed. Acceptance also means understanding the work needed as a result.
- Action: The partners take specific steps to change their behaviors. Here, therapy can be crucial to each partner’s growth.
If both partners are committed to changing, the relationship may be salvaged, and emerge stronger. However, without a shared goal of abstinence, awareness, acceptance, and action, the relationship will not be sustainable. In some cases, partners find that ending the relationship is the only way for them to move forward. With patience, hard work, and faith, they can find the path toward a healing.
The Lakehouse Treatment Center understands the worlds of active addiction and active recovery. Years of comprehensive experience have helped us build a unique program focused on changing lives and rebuilding families. From detox to sober living, The Lakehouse program focuses on learning how to live and have fun again- a treatment experience like no other. Call us anytime: 877.762.3707