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Is Codependency an Addiction?

Karen has struggled with codependency in her own life. She writes about what she has learned in order to help others.


What Is Codependency?

Many people have no idea what the term codependency actually means. People often assume that it means being too dependent on others to meet your needs. It actually means quite the opposite. A codependent person depends on others to meet their needs. Codependents strive to be the answers to everyone's problems and the supplier of every need.

I often refer to my own struggle with codependency as having had a God complex. I wanted people to love and adore me for meeting all their needs and fixing all of their problems. I needed to be essential in order to feel as though I had any value. Needing to feel necessary is a common thread in codependents. Codependents are attracted to and thrive on people who struggle with addictions. If you have ever wondered if you or someone you know may be bound by codependency, see the list of signs and symptoms below.

Who Is Really in Control Here?

Codependents are both controlling and easily controlled. Codependents seek to control every aspect of every relationship. They have to be in control because, after all, codependents have all the no-fail recipes for every situation in the lives of others. No other methods will do. Any deviation from the codependent's recipe constitutes a mutiny, Mutinies cannot be tolerated and are dealt with swiftly and severely. Ways of dealing with mutinies vary depending on the situation. Anger and guilt are the two most powerful weapons of choice for bringing others under control. A codependent may respond to such a situation by exploding and breathing fire or crumpling up and becoming the victim.

Although the cry of every codependent is that no one controls them. the codependent is actually at the mercy of his or her own need for attention and validation. Codependents will do or allow anything that makes them feel validated, needed, loved, or appreciated, even if it compromises everything they believe in. Codependents take every criticism to heart and will bow and scrape to prove they are not guilty of whatever infraction they are accused of. This makes a codependent the perfect partner for those who struggle with addictions or the narcissist who gaslights and manipulates.

Having some control is not a bad thing; trying to control something or somebody over which I have no control is what is dysfunctional.

— Robert Burney

Why Do I Always End Up Feeling This Way?

Codependents often find themselves in the same situations of feeling used, abused, and abandoned because of repeat choices to enter relationships with toxic people. If you have ever asked yourself "How did I wind up here again?" you might want to take a look at the chart below. Codependents tend to have broken pickers, meaning that their skills at selecting friends and lovers are working against them, not for them. A broken picker does not come equipped with an alarm system to warn the codependent that the person he or she is interacting with is a risk. Instead, quite the opposite happens. The risky person feels comfortable and familiar. Comfortable and familiar are the green lights to dive into an exciting and promising new relationship. Sadly, what the codependent dives into is not a clear blue ocean, but a cesspool of drama and chaos. There is hope, however. Broken pickers can be discarded and replaced with a healthier selection process. This takes time, counseling, recovery, and prayer, but it is well worth the effort. A faith-based recovery group is an excellent place to learn new skills and set healthy boundaries regarding relationships.

Where Do Codependents Come From?

Like many other life-controlling issues such as addiction, codependency is rooted in unmet needs during childhood. Feeling rejected or abandoned, never measuring up, or role reversal in which the child takes care of an addicted or alcoholic parent are just a few of those ways. Dysfunction raises more dysfunction. A home in which one parent struggles with substance abuse or a behavioral addiction will contain another parent who is an enabler. a codependent. Without even realizing it, children in the home will model the behavior of one parent or the other. Unspoken roles are assigned to each member of such a household all of which revolve around the addict in some way, whether it be behaving badly to call attention away from the addict or being the rescuer who fixes everything. Either way, it is a setup for a lifelong battle with codependency and or substance abuse.


Is Codependency an Addiction?

In a word, yes. Codependency is an addiction to control, approval, and validation. The high comes from feeling useful, being complimented, and feeling needed. The ultimate high for a codependent is the illusive promise of a fairy tale ending. Codependency pushes us to put the best face on everything and paint an unrealistic picture of relationships and the future. It is a never-ending tide of extreme highs and lows in relationships. It causes those affected to lie to themselves about not only who everyone around them is, but also who they themselves are. Self-care for the codependent is nonexistent. To admit that self-care is needed would be an admission that one is not perfect. Not being perfect is unacceptable because those who are not perfect have no value in the eyes of the codependent. Mistakes are somewhere near a 10 on the Richter scale. They bring about panic, self-doubt, and self-deprecation. All of these feelings are the exact same things any addict feels during the cycle of addiction. The only difference between the codependent and any other addict is the drug of choice. For the codependent instead of alcohol drugs, or behaviors are people, love, approval, friendship at any cost, and control. Different drugs, same cravings. The feeling of being out of control is comparable to substance withdrawal.

If you believe that you struggle with codependency there is help and freedom. If you hold any of the beliefs listed in the chart below it is time to seek help and become a healthier you. This author has done so and is now able to fully enjoy life!


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.