Codependent relationships with an addict or alcoholic

Codependent relationships are actually not relationships at all. Learn more about how living in codependency with an alcoholic or addict inhibits your ability to connect intimately, and evaluate potential signs of codependent behavior here.

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Codependency simulates relationship without intimacy

The paradox of codependency is that while it expresses itself in the form of a relationship with another person, it is the complete opposite of a relationship. Codependency is actually the inability to relate genuinely to another human being. Indeed, both codependents and addicts are often described as “intimacy cripples.”

I once heard a codependent laughingly describe his failed method for finding true love—“Find the most superficially desirable person who will have you, make up a personality for that person, then stick to it no matter what!” As long as we cannot accept ourselves and others for who we are, there is no true intimacy, as the saying goes, “Addicts don’t have relationships; they take hostages!” To put it simply, a codependent relationship is one which simulates intimacy, with none of its rewards but all of its dramatic intensity.

Another one of the great Chasidic masters, the Rabbi of Kotzk, once said, “If I am me because I am me, and you are you because you are you, then I am me, and you are you. However, if I am me because you are you, and you are you because I am me, then I am not me, and you are not you!” What this means is that if I have an autonomous identity, then I can be involved in a real relationship with another person. However, if I look to the relationship to gain my identity, then neither of us is connecting to the other.

Codepdendents do not relate to self

In other words, the basis for the inability to relate to others is the inability to relate to self. The codependent, as we have already mentioned, has a profound lack of self-concept, which manifests as emotional dependence on others. This desperate search for personal identity makes it impossible to experience a genuinely intimate relationship.

Signs of codependent behavior

Codependents, just like addicts, are actually “emotionally unavailable” to enter into a relationship. The only difference is that whereas the antisocial aspect of addiction may be more apparent, the fact that the codependent is equally unavailable for intimate relationships can be harder to detect. The addict’s unsavory shenanigans clearly mark him or her as someone who — to borrow a phrase from kindergarten report cards — “does not play well with others,” even as the codependent may seem like a devoted or caring spouse, parent, friend, sibling, and so forth. But this ability to fool others is of no benefit to the codependent. It only serves to provide the needed cover for the codependent to persist wasting his or her life away in an unhealthy situation while appearing all the while to be the normal one.

About the author
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.
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