What is co-dependent?

We have heard that addiction is a “family disease”. But what is a codependent? And what does it mean to be co-dependent? We present introductory ideas of what is means to be addicted to an addict here, and why it is important to seek recovery for co-dependency.

minute read

What does it mean to be co-dependent?

There’s an old joke. Anyone can be an addict, but to be a codependent, you’ve gotta know somebody!

Most of us have probably heard at some time that addiction is a “family disease.” The addict is the most obvious symptom bearer—what psycholo-gists call the “identified patient” — but anyone caught in the addict’s chaotic existence is just as sick. This is not meant to spread blame. It’s just a fact. And just as the addict is not at fault for being an addict, so, too, people who find themselves enmeshed in the addict’s drama are not bad or weak either. Like the addict, they suffer from a malady of the mind, heart, and spirit. And just as the addict can recover, they, too, can recover.

People join ANON groups for self help

Thus, contrary to popular misconception, those who join “Anon” groups, such as Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, and the like, are not there to learn how to cope better with the addict’s problems. They are actually there to learn how to stop dealing with the addict’s problems and start living their own lives — whether the addict chooses to recover or not. In other words, the addict is not the codependent’s problem; the codependent is the codependent’s problem. This explains what both statistics and experience have shown — that those who have been brought up in homes with addiction or who have been married to addicts and do not seek their own recovery almost invariably find themselves returning to relationships with still other addicts despite their most prodigious efforts to avoid it.

Co dependents are addicts, too

When we say that the codependent suffers from the disease of addiction just as much as the addict, we are not stating the obvious — that friends and family suffer from the consequences of the addict’s behavior. We are talking about something that often goes unrecognized and hence untreated—that friends and family of the addict are addicts themselves. They may not be addicted to alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, and so forth — although codependents can be addicts as well.

The codependent is addicted to the addict.

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.
I am ready to call
i Who Answers?