Codependency recovery: How to stop being codependent

How to stop being codependent starts with facing denial and enabling behaviors. More on codependency recovery and where to find it here.

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Being codependent in marriage: the price we pay

My life was consumed by my husband, Dean. My every thought seemed to revolve around him.

What is he doing?

Where is he at?

Who is he with?

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Is he using again?

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The hours at work were torture, because I had to focus on my work, but my mind was constantly distracted with worry. The pit of my stomach had a permanent knot. My smile was fake, and I had become a seasoned actress.

My friends and co-workers had no idea that I was living a double life. There was the me that everyone saw – the me who was confident, successful, and had life all figured out. They didn’t know the real me – the me who was chronically scared, suffered from low self-esteem, and was a complete basket case. I had learned to keep my real life secret. God forbid anyone would discover the truth – that Dean was addicted to crack cocaine and prescription pain pills!  And I was deep into codependency addiction.

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Help for codependency enablers

I didn’t realize at the time, that it was the secrets that were keeping me stuck. I had created my own prison of lies, and as time went by, it became harder and harder to be honest (not only with my friends, co-workers, and family – but with myself). I needed help, but I didn’t know how to break my viscous cycle and reach out for that help.  It wasn’t until I asked myself, “Am I a codependent person?” that things started to look up.

Al-Anon for codependency

After hearing many times that Al-Anon was the place for families to turn, I finally gave it a try. But it wasn’t what I had expected. I wanted it to be a place where I could vent all of the terrible things my husband had done. I wanted a room full of people to validate that I was the perfect wife, and that he was the cause of all of my problems. But instead, the focus was on my own challenges – my own choices – and not on his.

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After leaving that meeting, I didn’t expect to return. They obviously didn’t understand my situation. I was doing everything within my power to help Dean get clean. I was responsible, dedicated, hard-working, a good mother to our son – I didn’t have any problems! But I was also in denial. I was denying my own part in the addiction. I was an enabler, and as the following week went by I caught myself doing some of the enabling things they spoke about at that meeting.

I decided to go back once more. This time I opened up to the ideas. After all, nothing else was helping. I still had a wall built up, but it was starting to chip away. I listened to the stories of other people who were now finding happiness in their lives (even in the midst of an active addict). I found that hopeful. If there was a way that I could feel good again – I wanted to find it. So I kept going back.

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Al-Anon taught me how to fix a codependent relationship.  Eventually, my focus shifted. I started setting my own goals, and making choices for myself. It was when I learned to let go and focus on my own life that positive changes started to happen, not only for me, but for my husband as well. The results were life-changing.

How can I stop being codependent?

How do you stop being codependent? The first step is acceptance – acceptance of the fact that you have challenges of your own – that you need help too. Most of us who love an addict are playing a part in the addiction. In our attempts at helping, we tend to take on an enabling role. By getting educated (through family recovery groups such as Al-Anon) we can learn to stop the negative patterns, learn to set healthy boundaries, and learn to enjoy life again.

About the author
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.


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  1. uggggghhhhhh. so here I go. My husband and I got together three years ago. I was a heavy drinker and I abused pain medicine. My husband was a drunk and that was ok in the beginning. Shortly after we started dating I got pregnant and so he started staying with me to see where it went. He came to me drunk one night crying about his ex and his children saying how he so badly needed help getting sober so he could give his kids a better life. That was the night It became serious between us. About a week later I got a call from the jail saying that he got arrested for domestic violence. he had his story and she had hers and both were horrible but I accepted it and put money on his books with all these promises that he was going to get clean and get the boys away from their crackhead mom and make a life for them. I sympathized with him and knew if it were my kids I would get clean too and so I believed him at his word. he got out of jail a few moths later and everything was great for a bit but I soon found out he was also writing to her while he was in so I was hurt but tried to accept his excuses. I worked hard to make it clear that while he was on pretrial he was to follow it to a t which meant no drinking drugs and no contact with her… he followed the no contact part but there was many nights where he was out drinking with his buddies being hurtful. i would try n find him n get him home safe so he didn’t end up in jail. he would talk me in to having a drink with him in the beginning of my pregnancy and in my mind i didn’t see any other way to get him home. efery time he came home there would be the inevitable false promises to shut me up… o ill get help. i will work the steps.. ill get a sponsor. ill go to meetings. he even went to an iop program once but a week in he was off drinking with a girl from the class. he knows he had a problem. he knows its affecting his family but he does nothing to help himself. a year in to it just a few days before i gave birth to our son we got a call saying that his childrens bio mom is in jail and that marc needed to take custody of his children. i took them in gave up my section 8 voucher because of his record and figured we would do what has to be done. his kids deserve a home and a stable life so there the battle began. i gave birth a few days later and went home to make room for not one child but three children in my already cramped home…(i have 3 children of my own from a previous marriage) So that makes six children in a three bedroom home. of course we make it work and he had so many relapses that ive now lost count…the lies and shaming and hurt that I’m feeling are all a part that i have to deal with but he does not seem affected. it s always the same promises with the same end result. i don’t know what to do anymore i have to many of my own children to deal with him but if i put him out his children suffer. i love his boys as if they were my own blood and none of us can live this way anymore. to me it seems there are only two choices to make either leave or for him to get help and follow thru but he wont hear it. he says he wont do it with me bugging him but he also wont leave….god help us

  2. I have been involved with a man that I’ve know for 30 some years he has had a problem with drugs for a very long time as far as I know he stop one of them but he continues to use prescription pills and says all the time that he not addicted to them but they go so fast in the house. And I’ve been very upset with my self when he’s ask me for money to get them or he’ll tell me that it’s for something else that he needs like for a job or something but it’s not true. We have been together for eight months and he hasn’t help me out with any of the Financial things that he has help put me in debt with I have gotten very mad at him .he says,that he doesn’t do anything wrong to me I told him about helping me out after everything that I’ve done for him buying clothes and giving him money .I feel bad I told him that I can’t go thru this again with him it’s not the first time. He said that he will move out. But he been saying that for months or telling me that he get a job and if he does he doesn’t keep it long and keeps what money he gets for he’s self I have three girls that I have to think about .that are my not he’s one of them doesn’t like they way he gets mad at me it scares her. The last time that I time to be with him I end up in debt for over four thousand dollars
    My question is did I do the right thing by says I’m done .he has no one in his family don’t want to deal with his ways ether. What should I do?

  3. I’m in a situation where I have allowed my husband to snort cocaine. The rule is that he can only do it on weekends. Never while at work or when my son is around. He has followed these rules but even though I set this limit I am still bothered by his drug habit. Two years ago he had a really bad addiction to smoking crack-cocaine. After he got out of jail he made some changes and moved in with me. There were a few times I had found out that he was still smoking. I even kicked him out once. Eventually he came back and I believe it’s been at least a year since I last caught him. To my knowledge he has only been snorting coke when I allow him to. Today I found his crack pipe. I really don’t know what to do but I can’t say that I’m surprised. I thought by allowing him to do coke he wouldn’t need to do the other. He goes to work everyday. He pays most of the bills. He’s very responsible. We rarely argue. Im seriously at a loss of what to do. I don’t think he will stop and if he does stop eventually he will just sneak it again. Hes shown that he can do without it so I don’t know what kind of help he needs? Just looking for some advice.

  4. My boyfriend that I have been with and known for eight years is addicted to crack, he smokes, and drinks a lot. I am also starting to believe that he is also doing some type of black heroin. He failed a drug test at his job where he makes very good money, and saddly to say, never can keep it. He lost his job. Then lost his vehicle because he failed to pay his title loan back, ows 44,000thousand to child support, and I didn’t like him driving my vehicle while suspended. I have done so much for him, and he constantly asks me to buy him the things he needs like food and cigarettes and such. At times I tell him no, then he gets upset, the sad thing is that I don’t know what to do. I even restored his driver’s licence and told him that if he doesn’t keep up with the payments I will be angry. I also said I will not help you anymore, and I told him a while back ago that I wouldn’t get your vehicle out of impoundment because of some hooker stole his vehicle, that we are would be done as I did get his vehicle for him. The problem I have is that he cares about me, and he has done things for me and 16 year old son. He took us down the shore for a week, he took us fishing, he taught my son how to fish, he put confidence in him, and he is so patient with my son and so good with him. He bought me my vehicle that I love, and he takes care of his relatives, and loves them. He has a huge heart like me, and it’s sad. We don’t live together, and he drains me mentally and emotionally. I have cried an abyss with or over him by the way he gets so angry so easily especially when he doesn’t have or get his way and I feel like at times he walks on me, he continues to lie to me about his using, and I do love him so much.his sister told me a while back that he does love me and wants the family life. I need help so bad. I to, struggle in work feeling so empty inside and lost,hurt, and confused as hell. I look at everyone else and say to myself I want to be happy to and feel good I want everything to be normal and OK. I want him to be OK so we all can be OK and be one. S.o.s

  5. I have been with my husband for 12 years..and the majority of that time he has been addicted to one thing or another. But for the past year he has started using needles..mostly for meth but apparently he will try to shoot anything he can. We have made several trips to the he went to the er..they said he has endocarditis..I was told its very serious. I know i am completely codependent..I dont know how to stop..I just want him to WANT to get help..I cant do this anymore.

  6. husband has been using meth for 12 yrs…I have been a co dependant person for a long time..I am seeking every support I can find to help me..I cant do this no more

  7. My Husband is an addict. He has been to rehab for 6 weeks and thrived in there. Since coming home he has lapsed three times that I know about. We have a four year old and I am 20 weeks pregnant with our second. I do not trust him as he has left the house in the middle of the night again saying he is going to his friends for tobacco. A friend who drinks and smokes weed and said he wouldn’t see again. I am at my wits end. Feel I may breakdown but put on a false act at work where everyone thinks life is dandy and that all are excited about the new baby. What do I do? Ive prayed for help and guidance. I want someone to help me.

    1. Hi Angie. I’d suggest you seek help from a couples therapist. During sessions, you will have a chance to learn which ones of your behaviors may be enabling him to relapse or continue use. You will also work on your relationship, because he does have a great deal of work to do to regain your trust. Also, he will have a chance to address some of the underlying reasons that lead him back to using again. There is usually something, a trigger, that is left unresolved, and that causes a person back into the vicious cycle. I believe that if you guys work on it, you can do a great job in mending relations and being the parents of yet another child.

  8. My husband is an addict with pain meds, alcohol, and most recently heroin. I thought I was doing a good job by laying down the law. I guess not :/. The problem I’m having is following theough on threats. I don’t theeaten to divorce anymore but I currently am sleeping in a different room until he decides he wants help. Idk if that’s bad as well.
    My major problem I’m having is that his adult daughter is also an addict and she is his drug dealer so naturally I want to blame her, but I know it’s his choosing. Also I believe that he should cut ties with her because she’s his dealer and even if he starts recovery like he did once before the same relationship with her will ruin it. He’s upset that I want him to limit interaction for a while. I’m not sure what boundaries go along with this one. A stepmom saying a dad can’t see his daughter sounds bad but yet buying drugs from your kid sounds bad too. We have a counseling session coming up. Just not sure where to go from here

  9. Codependency is an addiction only you can break, yes you can get guidance and go to classes. But honestly you are the only one who can break your cycle. Remember codependency and dependency are two different things. Codependency means you strive to help your spouse in any means necessary to make them happy this includes allowing them to do drugs with (limitations set) but this doesn’t mean you can’t be dependent many cases dependence to your spouse causes one to compromise and to make the arguing stop and create a false happiness you allow them to do what they want because you are afraid to leave. I’m speaking from you experience I am fully dependant to my fiancé, I have a severe phobia of leaving my home alone or talking to people I do not know. And the fear of losing him. I have on many occasions let him snort cocaine. Because I fear he will go back to hiding it. I do complain to him of it and state all the horrible things that will come of it, and remind him of what he has become and only he can truly choose to stop. My actions and words though not completely right. I have realized I cannot control him, I cannot make him stop or decide. I can make him lie and say pretty promises that he will end up breaking. I have broken my codependent leash on him. This doesn’t mean I don’t worry. This simply means he knows how I feel he feels bad for how I feel and I can’t change what he’s doing. I can set flyers out for him to call and I can talk to him about it, but every time he brings up something good, I mention the bad. He says that even high gives him energy I tell him that energy will eventually lead to a heart attack. I am lucky. Many women in my shoes would be kicked out by there addict spouse for there Comments towards their choices. Most would leave. Because of my dependency I cant bring myself to leave. I will stand by him til the end, but this also shows my codependency still lies deep withen. I want to help him stay with him because I also see me as his only hope.

  10. I met my husband 8 years ago. He finally admitted to me he was drinking alcohol and taking roxicodone . After our 6 year old daughter call 911 because she thought he was dead. When they rushed him to the hospital all I could think of was why does he continue to have episodes where I feel helpless and he is trying to kill himself or what. The hospital released him in my care and I took him to good samaritain hospital where they said he was not eligible to go in, but i think when they evaluated him he lied to them or something. So the next morning i called rehab facilities in our area that were for 30 to 60 days. He said he was going to go but then when I left to run my daughter to the dentist and i called him when i was done he said im just moving out and im not going to rehab. For about a week he would not take my calls . I was wondering if he was okay or if I should go look for him like i have always done in the past but i was so frustrated because so many things that took place before. This time he even took money and left me with our two kids.He finally responded to a text message about 10 days later. I met him at a park to see the girls n me but he said he was not wanting to hurt us anymore and he told me to move on with my life, so im not sure what i can do. He told me later on that day he would go to rehab but when he gets out he could do the same things. He even would take his ring off and get mad at me as if it was my fault???? Any advice!!!”

  11. I to am in a codpendency relationship with someone who is on drugs. I neef to find a way to break this cycle.Because he is stealing things from our apartment and selling them to get drugs it maked me feel stupid, low to the earth,i ferl like i as m noy enough for him ay this point in his life .He has a goo trade under his belt but just can’t stay in a shop long.i need someone to help me figure out what to do next.

  12. Hello Misty. Yes, any kind of psychological or emotional difficulty can trigger drug abuse as a way to “Get out of” the current situation. Addiction is often a coping mechanism for stress or a way of coping with abuse (either past or present).

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