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Avoiding Codependence in Family Recovery

The most formidable issue in recovery for families is walking the fine line in regards to support of the addicted loved one.  A family can struggle with traversing the proverbial razor’s edge between being supportive and suffocating their loved one.  Families can also struggle with the aspect of asking their loved ones who are struggling with addiction questions without making the process seem like an interrogation.  There is also the fear of enabling their loved one, whether it is done explicitly or done in more subtle ways.

In the broadest sense, families must decide what they have control over and what cannot be controlled.  The paradigm of powerful and powerless is one of the hardest life lessons and in the case of addiction in families, that paradigm comes front and center.  Having concern is healthy; however, it is easy to put others over yourself.  While it is natural to worry about others and want to help a loved one with addiction issues, what is the cost for the individual?  In regards to the division of what can be done and what needs to be done by others, there are some points to keep in mind.

Firstly, members of the family need to realize that caring for themselves is not selfish.  Practicing quality self-care in turn makes us better equipped to help others.  Being candid and brutally honest with yourself may bring to light that putting the issues of others over your own may indicate that you aren’t taking care of your own issues. Secondly, it can be a roller coaster of emotions when it comes to support a loved one with substance abuse issues.  However, self-help programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous are often overlooked and what ultimately needs to be realized is that the affected loved one needs to take ownership of their substance abuse issues.

Because the family is diverted their energies towards helping their loved one who is struggling with abuse issues, the family itself often loses the ability to communicate with each other.  Learning to relate to one another in healthy and constructive ways is often lost.  Family members should not be looked at simply by the role they play in the family dynamic; they need to be recognized for their identity and what makes them unique and special within that dynamic.  Investing in the self, families can often see the ways in which maladaptive mechanisms derail the fabric of family.

The most important lesson to be learned in avoiding codependence is that through struggle and loss new opportunities to learn and grow emerge.  There are chances inherent in those moments to learn to live and love more openly and freely.

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