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Codependency - Don't let it tear your family apart

Addiction is the addict’s disease; codependency is the family’s disorder.

In the last article we discussed enabling an addict and briefly touched on the overlapping likelihood of an addict’s family needing codependency recovery.

In this article we will be exploring codependency and detachment with love.

Co-dependency addiction treatment South Africa

Addiction is a chronic and progressive disease, one where the only route to a successful recovery is through complete abstinence and holistic rehabilitation.

Addiction codependency is a disorder, in which the loved ones of an addict take on an exceptionally submissive or passive, controlling or care-taking role in their relationship with that addict.

Just as addiction demands abstinence in order to recover, codependency recovery also requires total abstinence in the form of detachment.

Tough Love vs Detachment with love

It’s important to understand the difference between ‘tough love’ and detachment as the one is far more positively effective than the other.

Tough love is a negative approach, it entails setting a limit on how much ‘bad behaviour’ you will take from a loved and when that limit is reached you cut them off.

Detachment is a positive approach used in co-dependency recovery; it requires you (the co-dependent) to make a conscious decision to separate your addicted loved one from their addictive behaviors, and then respond appropriately to your loved one rather than to their behaviors.

This cognitive separation aims to help you to recognise your lack of control over your loved one’s addictive behaviors — an understanding that if you cannot control the addicted behaviour, you should have to leave it to the addict.

Yes, there are times when you might worry that your addicted loved one will use or drink at the most inopportune time. But what co-dependency recovery aims to teach is that these types of worries are detrimental to both you and your addicted loved one.

I can’t just let them use or drink?

At first detachment may seem unattainable and you may be left asking yourself who will look after your addicted loved one if you don’t?

What if their behaviors have a direct impact on you? (Physical abuse, spending your money on drugs or alcohol, losing their job, stealing from you)

You may be part of the problem

It could take some time to fully grasp the part you play in your own problem of co-dependency.

However, once you do recognise your role in your loved one’s addiction, the idea of detachment will become easier.

A recovering codependent requires the same amount of support, guidance and help as a recovering addict.

And just like a recovering addict, a recovering co-dependent can seek help through their own 12-Step programmes such as Al-Anon, a psychologist, or both.

Denial the ego's defense mechanism

What we regularly see is the denial of a codependent is often far greater than that of an addict.

Naturally, it appears to the codependent as if the problem only lies with the addict because they are the one addicted to a substance with their life falling apart and not the other way round.

Denial is a defense mechanism used by the ego to avoid facing painful realities.

Often it is not only the addict in denial but also their family.

In many ways, co-dependency recovery can be more challenging than actual addiction recovery.

In addiction recovery, the goal is clear, sobriety - the alcoholic is not unsure of whether they are drinking or not.

In co-dependency recovery, the goal is unclear and immeasurable – where does the line between genuine concern and obsessive worry begin?

Treating the addict and their family

Treating addiction is not confined to just the addict, it must incorporate the family.

All too often, the co-dependents are the ones in the most emotional pain.

It is important to educate yourselves through books and blogs on addiction, and by talking to professionals who understand addiction and have dealt with situations like yours before.

Step Away Addiction Rehabilitation Centre South Africa

Every Monday night from 19:00 to 21:00 Step Away holds a CODA meeting at Christ Church Hall, no.44 Longwy Avenue, Lorraine.

Here families of addicts and alcoholics alike meet to talk about their experiences with addiction.

It provides a space where families affected by addiction can come together to talk about their experiences, as well encourage one another through mutual support.

For more information, please contact:

Lynne - 082 4154965

Karen - 074 603 4759

Or contact us at Step Away - 076 415 9131

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