The answer is definitely yes! There is a saying: “If you take the booze away from an alcoholic you get a co-dependent.” For me personally, addiction is what I quit and codependency is what I had to overcome to stay sober.
In a nutshell, co-dependency is the denial or suppression of our true self while relying on things outside of ourselves for our emotional needs, comfort, survival and approval. Those can be things like alcohol, drugs, money, sex, other people etc. In other words, our emotional/psychological needs are met by external sources. We can even do this with religion. I’m a born again Christian but I could make the process of religion an addiction if I did not know myself.
The first 10 years of my sobriety I was still anxious and afraid. I had terrible time with boundaries and an even worse time standing up for myself. I struggled with making decisions and I was constantly seeking other people’s approval. Basically, I did not really know who I was.
Codependency just like alcoholism is usually rooted in trauma and shame.
People that struggle with codependency learned to deny their feelings and hide parts of their authentic self. Somewhere along the way they were told (or led to believe) their authentic self was deficient, bad, wrong, or shameful. Maybe when they tried to express themselves in an authentic way it was met with guilt. They may have been told they were selfish to feel a certain way, or it was wrong or shameful to think or do certain things. The natural response for a child is to stuff those feelings and learn how to respond to the thoughts, needs and opinions of others. Essentially, they learn to put other people’s needs above their own since they were taught to not trust themselves.
This is how I was-always reacting to the feelings or needs of others at the expense of my own.
For addicts and codependents this usually happens on an unconscious level because the pattern of emotional denial started very early in development. They can turn to addiction in an attempt to soothe the anxiety, shame, guilt, and low self-esteem. The addiction also provides temporary relief associated with feelings of violation due to lack of boundaries and generally feeling trapped inside themselves. For instance, when I faced conflict, I was riddled with guilt whenever I chose to stand up for myself. Then I would constantly second guess myself and experience inner turmoil afterwards.
If our self-worth is coming from things outside of ourselves whenever we try to get our needs met and there is resistance we experience guilt.
The booze added another layer of protection against these feelings. The drugs and alcohol also allowed me to engage in what Alcoholics Anonymous calls ‘Grandiose Thinking.” I would get drunk and fantasize about all the wonderful things I was going to achieve. The next morning I would awaken with a hangover; lacking the courage to go through with any of these amazing things because fear, shame, low self esteem, and low self-efficacy would tell me I was not good enough.
Let me put this another way. If you believe that your feelings are wrong or bad then it follows that you believe you are wrong or bad.
When we deny ourselves, we have no internal sense of self and therefore look to other people, things, and substances to define us. The reason these things become who we are, is because we are detached from ourselves. Essentially addicts and codependent are trying to live for something outside of themselves. Everything is external.
It is in finding and living from our true self that we can heal.
Here is the crux of this, with co-dependency you feel trapped inside yourself. Early in my recovery I would get this image of me, literally inside myself, beating on my interior screaming “LET ME OUT.” Drugs and alcohol was my attempt to stop the screaming.
So the answer is yes. Addicts can and usually are codependent. They say knowledge is power and recognizing this is the first step to healing. How do you do that? Check out this video or read this blog “What is Codependency and is it an Addiction?
If you are struggling right now email me and I’d love to send you my free stay sober resource. It’s got great resources like meeting locators, tips on finding a great sponsor, the difference between A.A., N.A., Celebrate recovery and more GenuineLife@JodieStevens.org