Are you living with an addict or alcoholic?

 

It is estimated that more than 20 million people have a serious problem with drinking, and nearly half of all Americans consume alcohol regularly.  Most of these individuals do not suffer from addiction alone. Unfortunately, partners, children, parents, and other family members of alcoholics suffer the consequences of their addiction as well, and many codependent relatives and friends do not know that they may also be sick.

Codependency can be defined as excessive worry, often inappropriate, about the problems or the way a family member or close friend is consuming alcohol or drugs. The codependent forgets his or her needs, even forgetting to live his or her own life, to focus on the problems of others. It is very disappointing for the codependent when the person they depend on does not respond or listen to the codependent’s demands. The frustration and the need to control the addict’s life are immanent every day.  These relatives and family members cannot understand how the addict is unwilling to seek help.

The codependents believe they are responsible for the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of others around them. In addition, codependents believe that the addict is responsible for how they think, act, and feel. Many professionals working with families suffering from this disease say the codependent does not know where he or she ends and where the other begins. This is very common in many cultures, especially if the codependent is dealing with a spouse who is an addict.

What these codependent individuals need to understand is that denial is one of the most obvious signs of addiction. Addicts will not fully recognize that there is a problem with the way they consume alcohol or drugs. Alcoholics and codependents both deny and hide their feelings. They want to show the world that they are strong and that they can control the situation. The reality is that they lack self-esteem and are constantly looking for recognition in each other. They blame each other for all their misfortunes and don’t do anything to take responsibility for their actions as individuals. Many times the codependent lies and tries to cover the actions of the addict to the employers for fear that the addict will lose his/her job. Some even buy the alcohol or the drug for the addict to avoid confrontations.

For the family members of an addict or an alcoholic, the word codependency is not always welcome. However, it is important for family members to understand that they may be sick too. The wife, children, and other family members often suffer from a variety of emotional challenges due to the behavior of the addict. Just like addiction, codependency is a disease. It has signs and symptoms, which is the medical criteria used to diagnose a disease.

There are a number of questions that people living with an addict must answer as honestly as possible:

• Do you feel an urge to help others solve their problems?

• Do you give advice to the addict, even if he or she is not asking for it?

• Do you try to please others and almost never please yourself?

• Did you grow up in a family where there were problems with excessive alcohol consumption?

• Do you feel that if you are not productive, you are worthless?

• Do you feel you have to control the alcohol consumption or drug use in your family member or friend?

• Do you feel fear of abandonment, loneliness, or rejection?

• Do you often blame others for what is happening in your home?

If you answered yes to some of these questions, you may need help. Indeed, this is a situation where both the addict and codependent need help.  However, if the addict, due to the nature of the disease, refuses to receive it, it is necessary that the codependent still seeks help and support. This will allow the codependent to process painful emotions that are obviously bringing distress into their lives.

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