Wednesday April 23rd 2014

Codependence and addiction

Codependents want to control an addict’s addiction

One way of describing addiction is as an obsession with control. Regardless of one’s drug of choice, all addictions stem from a deeply felt need to exercise an almost God-like power over reality. As such, active addicts expend inordinate amounts of energy trying to gain control over their addictions. In this regard, the codependent is no different — except that the codependent is fixated on controlling someone else’s addiction, and the more hopeless the situation, the greater the codependent’s compulsion to try to impose order.

Those unacquainted with the dynamics of codependency may find this baffling. If the codependent wants control, then why look for it amid chaos? But anyone who seriously poses this question might as well ask why the gambling addict is more likely to bet the house on the long shot than on the favorite. It is the heartbreaking futility of it all, the almost hopeless chance of beating the odds that seem to be so inexplicably enticing.

Co-dependent thinking

In other words, codependency, like addiction, is the obsession with controlling the uncontrollable — or, quite literally, to die trying. There is also a certain morbid sense of nobility in the codependent’s dedication to living out every horrid detail of their script to its tragic end. The codependent will expend extraordinary efforts to avoid “letting go” — something that he or she sees as an unforgivable betrayal.

Addicts and codependents are similar

Indeed, much like the addict, the codependent is often a romantic and an idealist. Both addicts and codependents are prone to act recklessly in pursuing their wistful dreams of perfection, and both seem to have an uncanny knack for quickly forgetting or justifying the dire consequences of their indiscretion. In this way, addicts and codependents are often drawn into living out each other’s unrealistic fantasies. Thus goes the old joke: “How do you know when an addict and a codependent are on a second date? There’s a U-Haul in the driveway.”

To read more, check out Rabbi Taub’s God of Our Understanding.

Photo credit: 3.bp

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About Rabbi Shais Taub

Rabbi Shais Taub is one of today's most respected young scholars of Jewish spirituality and practice. National Public Radio called him "an expert in Jewish mysticism and the Twelve Steps." He is the author of God of Our Understanding: Jewish Spirituality and Recovery from Addiction.