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Codependency and Substance Abuse

Written on March 1, 2024
Codependency and Substance Abuse

The detrimental effects of codependency and substance abuse can lead to further devastation in the lives of both parties. Codependency can lead to enabling behaviors that perpetuate the loved one’s addiction. It can also lead to feelings of worthlessness, defeat, and uncertainty in the life of the individual struggling with codependency.

Effectively loving and helping an individual struggling with substance abuse is crucial. This ensures proper care and support for the codependent individual and loved ones.

Defining Codependency

Codependency is a dysfunctional relationship dynamic. Individuals depend on someone for emotional validation, identity, or purpose. Then, the other individual enables the dependency. Low self-esteem, people-pleasing, and a need for approval are common characteristics of codependency.

The individual often places the needs of others above their own, only leading to negative impacts on their own mental and emotional health. For example, there is often a struggle with assertiveness and enabling behaviors. Thus, this is where the link between codependency and substance abuse can be seen. 

Codependency and Addiction

Drug addiction is something that is ravaging communities all across the United States, leading to deterioration in family units, relationships, and employment. Often, the individual struggling with substance abuse has someone who is enabling them through codependent behaviors. Codependency and substance abuse often coexist within these dysfunctional relationships, making it difficult for either party to make a change in their lives.

In these relationships, it is often seen that one individual’s behaviors of rescuing and minimizing help to perpetuate the other’s addictive behaviors or substance use. The individual struggling with codependency may develop an identity from the feeling of being needed by the individual struggling with substance abuse.  

Enabling Versus Codependency

As previously stated, codependency is a dysfunctional relationship where one person relies on another for validation and the other individual perpetuates this dependency. Enabling, however, is a pattern of behaviors that is characterized by an individual hiding or covering up for another individual and their behaviors. 

Additionally, enabling perpetuates negative behaviors, and codependency is a more complex relationship between both people. However, codependency and substance abuse can lead to enabling behaviors that can lead to further abuse and addiction to substances.

The Relationship Between Substance Abuse and Codependency

Codependency and substance abuse can go hand in hand. This is due to the relationship between the 2. When a codependent depends on an individual who struggles with substance abuse for validation and self-worth, this codependent neglects their needs.

The codependent aims to make sure the individual struggling with addiction is happy. They do this despite their struggles and mental health deterioration. The addicted loved one may act out when the codependent attempts to set boundaries. This can lead to further self-esteem issues as a result of the addicted person’s reactions to the boundaries being set.

There are ways to set healthy boundaries and maintain individuality without being codependent on the relationship, and sometimes extra help is needed to learn these skills.

Signs of Codependency

Those who struggle with codependency and substance abuse within a loved one should be aware of potential signs. The signs of codependency can include struggles with maintaining boundaries, prioritizing the needs of others over their own, low self-esteem, and people-pleasing. They can enable addictions by making excuses or giving money to the addicted loved one.

The struggle with assertiveness only makes the codependent relationship more dysfunctional, leading to the worsening of the codependency. Feelings of guilt or shame when asserting themselves can indicate potential codependency. Substance abuse and addiction can only make the guilt and shame worse as a loved one continues to self-destruct. 

Enabling Codependent Behaviors

When it comes to enabling codependency and substance abuse, there are ways to manage this. Codependent behaviors can only continue to perpetuate substance abuse and addiction.

Learning how to be assertive and hold boundaries can help codependent individuals. They can safely and effectively grow self-esteem and self-worth. Practicing tough love or healthy detachment (knowing when to stop overextending and release the situation) can help. Additionally, therapy can be a huge catalyst in growth and happiness.


Therapies like Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy can help individuals struggling with codependency to change thought and behavioral patterns that may be detrimental.

These therapies aim to implement healthier coping and life skills into daily life to prevent further impacts. Mental health professionals are present and offer guidance during these sessions. As a result, it ensures the safety and successful integration of the skills they teach.

Family Therapy

Family therapy aims to help repair damage to the structure of the family unit. When it comes to codependency and substance abuse, the breakdown of the family unit is inevitable. This can lead to devastation in the lives of everyone involved.

Family therapy helps to rebuild the foundation of the family. Additionally, loved ones can find a common ground where all parties can find healing and begin to grow. 

Take Back Control

Codependency can be detrimental to those struggling with substance abuse. As such, this can result in the perpetuation of behaviors and addiction. It can be extremely difficult to stand by and watch as a loved one self-destructs without wanting to help. However, helping can sometimes be harmful.

Those struggling with addiction need professional help. Without it, they often continue to wreak havoc and cause harm to themselves and those around them. If you or a loved one are struggling with codependency in an unhealthy relationship, there is help available. At Flatirons Recovery, we strive to provide a place of healing that helps people along their journey.

Call us today and begin your journey.