Many of us dive head-first into relationships, losing contact with friends, family, and yearning to spend every moment with our new partner. Because we often start relationships wearing rose-colored goggles we may be missing something critical about how this new relationship can consume our quality of life. Too often, we become dependent on a partner, even one who is bad for us or downright abusive. If a partner is encouraging some detrimental behaviors, from experimenting with drugs and alcohol to taking time off work, to isolating ourselves, it might be an unhealthily codependent relationship. At our Orange County rehab and detox center, many patients who went through recovery were in this kind of toxic codependent relationship and may not have even realized it. Because of how important healthy relationships are to long-term health and recovery, we focus a lot on how to build and form mutually beneficial relationships, and how to repair relationships that are unhealthy, unproductive, or that could inhibit our drug and alcohol recovery and detox. First, we have to identify what codependency is and how it affects us.
Because a codependent relationship allows someone to diffuse serious issues, like drug use, financial instability, and isolation, to their partners, it provides an all-too-easy excuse to become hooked on a certain lifestyle and abdicate control of our lives to someone else. This kind of complacency can lead to a slow erosion of our values and gradual progression into more risky, sedentary, and unhealthy behaviors. Many people relapse post-detox because they end returning to the same enabling environment that encouraged addiction to begin with. While a lot of text refers to women in codependent relationships, the truth is any kind of relationship can be an unhealthy codependency if one person gives up their own self-interests to have their decisions controlled by another. There is obviously some appeal to giving up responsibility and control of your life, especially if you’re not confident or unhappy, but this is always unhealthy and will revert any progress towards bettering yourself.
Life is full of challenges to make friends, find love, and to blossom into our true selves. Unfortunately, a lot of people use these challenges of life to manipulate or control our emotions. Have you done something you knew you’d regret just to impress your partner? Do you frequently feel you have to be validated by your partner, or that you have to always check with them before you do anything? Do you often put your own needs, comfort, and safety behind their needs and wants? Are you unhappy in your relationship, and if so, are you or your partner blaming you for that lack of fulfillment or excitement? The Pharmacists Recovery Network has a full list of such negative self-reflections at their site.
These are all signs of a controlling or unhealthy codependent relationship. In rehab and recovery, we focus a lot on a concept called the Locus of Control. Locus of control simply means whether we feel in control of our own lives or actions, or if we feel outside forces control us. For example, if you are late running late and hit traffic, do you blame the traffic or do you decide you’ll check the traffic before you leave next time and perhaps leave a little earlier? The difference between these mindsets is taking ownership of your own life and choices.
While life does throw challenges at us, and sometimes we do just have bad luck, having an internal locus of control empowers us to seek solutions and seek self-improving behavior to avoid or overcome these challenges in the future. Codependent relationships often erode this sense of self-ownership, which is why they can be prone to enforcing addiction. Rather than saying “I can do better,” codependent relationships often have us saying “I deserve this.” If you feel like you’re frequently looking down on yourself, blaming yourself for problems in your life and the lives of others, and struggling with drugs or alcohol, we encourage you to talk to us about a way forward. Reach us as soon as you can at (714) 782-3973.
If you or a loved one needs help getting sober, Experience Recovery can help. Our admissions line is open 24/7.