Thursday April 24th 2014

How to get out of a codependent relationship

When to end a codependent relationship

You find yourself constantly sick to your stomach, walking on eggshells, worrying about the future, crying at red lights, binge eating, and screaming at your kids for absolutely no reason. You are scattered, forgetful, depressed, and contemplating moving out of the country where no one can find you.

The culprit?

A toxic relationship.

In fact, codependent controlling behaviors and addiction go hand in hand.  But now your boyfriend (or girlfriend), spouse, friend, parent, or adult child has an addiction, and their actions have pushed you over the edge. It is time to end the craziness.

Codependent relationships with addicts

When you are in a relationship with an addict it is difficult to avoid being mentally and physically affected. The constant ups and downs of addiction can cause you to behave in overly passive or excessively caretaking ways. Eventually, you might find that you’re placing a lower priority on your own needs, while being preoccupied with the needs of your addicted loved one. This is called codependency, and this unhealthy way of love not only harms your relationships, but your quality of life.

The good news is that you have the power to make a change. Overcoming codependent relationships is possible. And as changes occur, you offer the best possible environment to encourage positive change in the addict. Most importantly, you will no longer be in a codependent relationship. You may still choose to love a person with addiction, but your behaviors toward that love will be healthy.

Four steps toward positive change in codependency

Step #1 – Take ownership.

Addiction is often called a family disease.  This is because, typically, the entire household takes on unhealthy behaviors. In fact, how parents enable and why is similar to how spouses and partners enable.  you’ve failed to set healthy boundaries, then now is the time to take a close look and decide which of your own actions are enabling the addiction. If you don’t stop your enabling behavior, then you are only making it easier for the addict to continue in their disease.

Setting healthy boundaries is called tough love. It’s making a stand against addiction and finally saying no to the madness. But there is a reason why it’s called “tough,” and it can be just as hard on the family as it is on the addict. The addict is used to getting what he or she wants. They’ve probably learned to threaten, cry, or throw tantrums until you cave in. When you set clear boundaries, they will eventually learn that tantrums no longer work.

Step #2 – Let go.

You can detach from the problems of addiction. Yes, you are in a relationship with an addict, but in order to love him or her, you do not need to stay down in their storm. You can rise above the dark clouds and serve as an example of health and happiness. Not only is it possible, but it is the best thing you can do for yourself and the addict.

Detachment is really about doing what you can to distance yourself from the troubles of addiction. This means walking away from arguments and chaos, and looking for ways to enjoy your time. Start making healthy choices for yourself. At first it might feel like you’re faking it. You might be attempting to enjoy a movie, but you can’t get your mind off of the addict. Eventually, as you keep trying, you will begin to enjoy yourself again.

Step #3 – Change your focus.

When you are in a codependent relationship, your major focus revolves around the addict. You are no longer focusing on yourself. But the only real control you have is over your own actions and behaviors. It’s time to take the microscope off of your addicted loved one and turn in back on you. What do you want? What do you need? Have you stopped taking care of yourself? Make a plan for positive change — your own change — and then start to follow through on that plan.

Step #4 – Reach out for help.

This is the most important step of all. In your situation you need all the help and support that you can get. One of the best forms of support available, for those of us involved with an addict, is a family recovery group such as Al-Anon.

In these groups, the loved ones of addicts share their experience and hope in order to gain strength and solve their common problems. What better group of people to turn to for comfort and support than those who are living with the same struggles.

After codependency, what’s next?

As you move in this new direction, you will find yourself growing more and more confident. You may find that you are not so emotionally attached to the addict anymore. You learn to allow him or her to live their own life and face their own consequences. It can help to remember that with each mistake they make, they are one step closer to realizing their need for help.

In the meantime, you are making healthy choices for yourself. You are setting a good example. You are focusing on a positive future (with or without the addict). You are getting strong, and you are no longer part of a codependent relationship.

Photo credit: h.koppdelaney

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8 Responses to “How to get out of a codependent relationship
Darlene Lancer, MFT
8:56 pm May 3rd, 2012

This post makes great suggestions about codependency and addictive relationships. It’s not easy to leave, even when there’s no drug or alcohol use. To read in more depth about recovery and changing your patterns, see “Codependency for Dummies.”

Darlene Lancer, MFT

Mickey Depaula
4:03 am December 27th, 2012

All of this is easier said than done, but still very helpful. In my experience, the mental health profession was more harmful than helpful. It can really be near impossible to find honest help. The shrinks want to medicate the problem and the preachers want to save your soul. Neither one is the answer.

M
5:48 am January 6th, 2013

I would love to hear some examples of what detachment looks like and counsequences to crossed boundaries. That’s where I am stuck. I get the theory, not the practice.

Lisa Espich
1:15 pm January 11th, 2013

Dear M,

Detachment is a confusing concept, and tough to follow through on as well. When I first began to practice setting boundaries and detaching with love, I found myself putting a wall up between the addict and myself. But I’ve learned that it doesn’t have to be that way. For me, detaching with love means being there for the addict when they are not using — offering support toward healthy choices and listening with kindness. This also means not berating and laying on guilt trips about their mistakes, which can further cause the addict to crave using drugs or alcohol in order to cover up their bad feelings. Setting healthy boundaries is about being clear on what you will and won’t put up with. The problem comes when you state a boundary to the addict, but then fail to follow through on the consequences you’ve set. In my book, “Soaring Above Co-Addiction” I discuss specific examples of how I detached with love and learned to set healthy boundaries. If you’d like to read the first chapter for free you can visit my website at http://www.soaringabovecoaddiction.com Warm wishes

Fuzzy
10:08 am February 3rd, 2013

I’m in the process of ending a long term relationship with a “functioning” cannabis addict.
There is also abusive behaviour, particularly when alcohol is thrown into the mix.

I’m familiar with the term co-dependent, but I hadn’t realized what a strong link there was with addicts until reading this post.

I’ve attempted many things over the many years in this repetitive cycle…only to come to the point where I’ve exhausted myself as well as any other options to “fix us”.

I do wonder now though, if when he sees that I actually leave..will that be the push he needs to turn things around and pursue the future I always thought we’d have together?
Or will his next relationship reap the rewards?

Sounds selfish, but I’m finding it hard to deal with investing so much and getting nothing in return.

thankyou
6:11 am February 14th, 2013

i too am struggling with co dependancy. i didnt realize, until i read the information on this website. thankyou. it makes things make sence, and things seem alot clearer to me now. here is my situation… my husband is a drug addict. marijuana, cocaine, meth, crack, pain pills… pretty much anything. i lived with him for years, and i had my suspicions, but he would always lie to me and sneak around behind my back. i caught him and found his drug paraphielina many times. i now realize i was only helping to enable him. i used to cry all the time, and i felt helpless and worthless. he was mentally and emotionally abusive, even though i believe it to be unintentional. our daughter was born in april 2012. he promised he was clean. then in november, he got into trouble. the cops found pot, pipes, a scale, meth pipes, xctasy, mushrooms, and they took all his guns too. i left him that same night for the sake of our daughter. it was the hardest decision i have ever made. i have been staying at my mothers house. it took awhile, but now i feel stronger and happier. i dont cry anymore, and i dont feel so depressed either. looking back i cannot believe everything i put up with, but now that i have a different perspective, i know i could never go back to that lifestyle. i was the text book girl of codependancy, and i didnt even know it. to everyone else out there, i know it hurts seeing a loved one struggle with addiction, but there is hope.

Adrian St
12:09 am February 23rd, 2013

I to have just left a relationship with a wonderful man who loves alcohol and most of all Pot.
I caught him late October when I forgot my wallet and had to return home five minutes later.
What I found was a man I barely knew groggy from the first joint of the day.
Betrayed and furious would be an understatement! Left that day. Hurt that he would do the one thing that I hated the most.
Went back 5 days later with the promise that he would never ever do it again, and the reason he did was because he was getting to fat drinking too much.
Foolishly I believed him and yes he was good. But the lifestyle was always lurking in the.
Friends that needed him to supply etc etc.
So I relented and said if he wanted to smoke I would do my best to accommodate that and see how I would go.
Big mistake. He went from nothing to 5 times a day. I went from a carrying nice tolerant man into a nervous wreck. And he didn’t care. Finally I left. He turned into the typical sooner day in day out.
Things like” stop analyzing me while i’m stone” and,I NEED to watch this movie stoned.
Went back of course, told him he could smoke only if he stopped drinking as well.
Was I on Planet Stupid?
Both got worse.
And the lies. Lies top of lies. Stoners always love to tell you what you want to hear.
IfI knew he was a cronic Stoner in the beginning,I would have stayed well away.
But now the anxiety has gone, with the drama.
As my parents pointed out, what a sordid lifestyle for someone that’s never been there.
That simple remark made me head for the hills.
Cannabis is bad, pure and simple. And no Stoner can convince me otherwise. It kills relationships.

Jen
6:03 pm October 7th, 2013

I found out a few months ago that my husband has been lying to me our entire marriage (almost 26 years)!
I (foolishly thought) that I had no reason not to trust him but come to find out everyone else knew and never bothered to tell me!
He’s an addict and it doesn’t matter what it is as long as it’s something.
I feel so betrayed, hurt, mad, frustrated, sad, lonely…you name it!
This talks about leaving but I can’t….I’ve been a homemaker for our entire marriage, I have no work experience. I’ve been trying to find a job, but not even McDonald’s will hire me.
There’s no place for me to go.
Now what?

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About Lisa Espich

Lisa Espich is the author of the multi award-winning book, Soaring Above Co-Addiction: Helping your loved one get clean, while creating the life of your dreams. For additional articles, resources, and a free preview chapter of Soaring Above Co-Addiction visit her website. Her book is available at bookstores everywhere and at Twin Feather Publishing.