Dealing with an Addict in Your Home – The Illusion of Control

Codependency is a disease every bit as insidious and subtle as addiction.  In my work with families who have addicted loved ones I see varying levels of enabling within the family system.  But one things is constant, there is always enabling present when there is an active addiction within a family system. The family will make excuses for the addict’s behavior.  They provide financial and emotional support even sometimes knowing that the money will be used to procure drugs and/or alcohol.  The codependent operates under the misguided belief that given enough time and support that the addiction will autocorrect and the addict will get free.

The great lie that those suffering from codependency believe is that they are somehow protecting the addict from consequences that would otherwise be too great for them to handle.  The truth behind this lie is that the enabler is motivated by the need to make themselves feel better.  Just as the addict feels compelled to change how they feel through the use of mind altering chemicals or compulsive behavior, the codependent changes their emotional state by giving themselves the illusion of control over the addict, the addicts behavior and the addiction itself.  Central to the belief system of the codependent is that they possess an amount control or power over the addict that they do not.  They have become convinced that by providing financial support, food, shelter and other forms of enabling that the addict will be protected from the consequences and will someday change.

The reality is that in dealing with an addict, most will only become willing to change once they have experienced the natural consequences of the disease.  Very few will find a source of internal motivation that produces the sustained desire for change.  The same is true of the codependent.  This is why groups like Al-Anon, Nar-Anon and Families Anonymous are important.  Just as the addict needs a program of recovery and a group to be accountable to in order to find a new way to live, so does the codependent.  The family must find a new way to live and to implement and respect healthy boundaries or old behaviors will begin to surface and relapse will happen in one way or another.

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