Codependency Defined

Am I a Codependent?

Man and woman handcuffed to each other
So often this is the question loved ones of addicts and alcoholics have to ask themselves.  Before we go too far lets first define what codependency is.  Merriam-Webster defines codependency in the following way: a psychological condition or a relationship in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected with a pathological condition (as an addiction to alcohol or heroin); broadly: dependence on the needs of or control by another. At this point you may be thinking about the person in your life who has been struggling with addiction.  You may also be rationalizing that addiction is not a pathological condition as mentioned in the above definition.  You may even be trying to find a way to not use the word “addiction” altogether.  Because if that label doesn’t fit them, then how could you be labeled a codependent?  If any of this is true, please suspend your judgement for now.  Allow us to finish our examination together and see if anything else I say makes sense.  If it does, welcome to the club.  If not, ask yourself why you were reading this article to begin with and please read it again, this time with a more open mind.

By definition, codependency is a psychological condition.  Like depression, anxiety or any other psychological disorder, it’s roots are both environmental and genetic.  Many of us have endured traumatic events that have shaped the way we relate to others.  Some of us have biological factors that make us more susceptible.  While there are many factors that can contribute to a person developing codependency we are here to decide if this label applies to you and the relationship(s) that you have.  Here are some signs that you indeed may be a codependent.  Please answer the following questions honestly:

  1. Do you make excuses to cover up the actions or behavior of your addicted loved one?
  2. Do you provide any financial support such as lodging, cash, credit cards, cars, mobile phones to your addicted loved one?  Do you tell yourself that by doing this you are helping them?
  3. Do you manage the majority of your addicted loved ones affairs?  Do you take on responsibilities that should be theirs because if you don’t, things won’t turn out right?
  4. Do you avoid social situations or associations with individuals because you are fearful that the behavior of your addicted loved one will negatively impact you?
  5. Do you act in ways that you know are not helpful to your addicted loved one because you are afraid that if you don’t, they will reject you?
  6. Do you find yourself resentful that others don’t do for you, what you so willingly do for them?
  7. Do you get angry when someone refuses your help or take your advise?
  8. Do you feel pity or guilt when other people have a problem?  Are you eager to solve it for them?
  9. Do you often feel like you are the victim of the selfishness of others?
  10. Do you feel the need to be in control at all times?  Do you feel like if you aren’t the one making the decisions, then things are going to turn out wrong?

Can you relate to any of these?  If you can, and you are willing to do something about it, there is help available.  Many people require treatment for this condition.  It is far more common than you may realize.  Here are some things that can be done to treat the problem:

  1. Seek professional help.  While it may be your instinct to head to the library or bookstore and hide out in the self-help section.  Let a professional therapist or psychologist help guide you to the proper resources and educational materials that will benefit you the most.
  2. Begin attending Al-anon meetings to find out more about codependency defined.  you can find meetings in your local area by going to  Here you will find people just like you who are willing to talk about the problem in a way that removes the shame and stigma from both addiction and codependency.  You will find yourself in a safe place where you can begin to share your experience and lean on the strength of others until you have found some of your own that you, in turn, can pass on.
  3. In some cases, short term professional workshops are needed to jumpstart the process.  There are retreats that a person can attend that will address the problem more aggressively than weekly therapy appointments.  Some good suggestions to get you started are: The Bridge to Recovery (, Onsite Workshops (, The Meadows (

If you are in a relationship with an addict or alcoholic and have come to recognize that your enabling behaviors have contributed to the problem, please seek help.  It is just as important that the codependent get treatment as it is for the addicted individual.   Your future sanity and happiness depend on it.

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