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What is codependency?

Codependency is a term that was used to define someone who had a relationship with an alcoholic or addict. In this fashion, many types of addiction or dependency have programs or support groups for the codependent. For example, there is Al Anon, AlaTeen, AlaTot, Nar Anon, CoSa (for significant others of sex addicts) and so on. This acknowledges that addiction affects the family system.

Sometimes codependency is used to define a set of thoughts and behaviors which may be considered enabling of the person in active addiction. Generally the codependent partner of the addict is anxious about “rocking the boat” and chooses more of the same rather than honesty and change. This pattern of inability or unwillingness to look at the situation honestly, and then communicate about sources of dissatisfaction or danger, is allowing both people to continue the same dysfunctional path. This denial and dishonesty in relationships can occur when neither partner is addicted, but is most common when there is either a chemical or behavioral dysfunction of some magnitude. In the behavioral examples, perhaps a spouse denies the magnitude of the gambling addiction until the retirement funds have disappeared or the rent cannot be paid. Perhaps in a sexual addiction, the spouse denies the reality of pornography until the kids stumble onto the “pictures on the computer”, in the attic, or whatever. Perhaps in chemical dependence, the spouse purchases alcohol or calls in sick for the spouse until there is a job loss or an arrest. Suddenly the truth itself comes out, in spite of both parties efforts to avoid the truth and change.

The partner or codependent didn’t cause the addiction. They cannot fix it either. Blame doesn’t work, whether of self or other. Treatment does work, for the codependent and for the addicted individual. Watch some of the WYNK flash videos for education and support, and take action for yourself. Go to a program in your community now, as that is your first step to health.

by: Lois Cochrane Schlutter, Ph.D. L.P.

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