Signs that a Family Member Needs Help from Codependency

Learn what Codependency is and the visible signs that you are in a codependent relationship.

You are a codependent if you support or enable your loved one’s addiction, irresponsibility, immaturity and other unhealthy behaviors. While codependents want to control others to get the love and attention they need, they usually end up feeling controlled by others that they could not say “no” to.

Here are the tell-tale signs of codependency:

Low self-esteem

Do you have issues with thinking that people don't need you, care about you or want you? You may be in a codependent relationship if you are supporting a family member’s alcoholism because you are afraid that your relationship will go down the drain if you don’t.

Codependency may start from childhood, usually after an experience of being neglected or put into a difficult situation alone. It can be as simple as someone not picking you up when you expected them too and you felt alone or it can be as extreme as being abused by someone you trusted. Situations like these often leave codependents fearful that people would leave them. So, they want constant reassurance that their loved ones love them and would not abandon them. And this constant insecurity leads to allowing the other person to abuse him or her and supporting vicious habits such as abusing alcohol.

Making decisions based on your loved one’s opinions

If you make decisions based on what you think the other person wants you to do and not exactly on how you feel or think about it, then you may be codependent. That means you want to buy them drinks, hide their drinking problems or help them find a way to drink. And, thinking that you are just being compassionate towards them, not realizing that doing so, in fact hurts them. Then, not supporting their drinking habits can make you feel guilty.

A codependent has internal struggles with other people’s opinions. Oftentimes, codependents think that they make decisions they really don’t want to do out of compassion. But the truth is they make decisions to gain approval or love from other people. So, when the other person fails to return the favor they are often hurt and feel unappreciated.

Too preoccupied with other people’s problems

Do you often give unsolicited advice because you can’t bear to see other people struggling without you having to step in? Or is it difficult for you to say, ‘No” when other people ask for help? You may be a codependent if you are filling your days with lots of activities that have nothing to do with you, but more about other people and you think that not helping in any way is totally unthinkable.

While helping out often gives a feeling of satisfaction to others, doing so may leave you feeling resentful especially when they don’t appreciate it. Why? It is hard for an alcoholic to develop a mutually satisfying relationship especially when they have alcohol dependence.

You cannot depend on someone who is dependent on alcohol to care about you more than they care about having the next drink. Alcoholism is a disease that involves significant changes in the brains functions and such mechanisms make it extremely difficult for an alcoholic to control their urge to drink alcohol.

Al-Anon is a support group that can help families and friends of alcoholics especially those with codependency to cope with their loved one’s alcoholism. It recognizes that alcoholism is a family problem and it offers support to people with codependency. But if you think you have the visible signs of codependency it will be more helpful to attend Codependence Anonymous or CODA than Al-Anon.

Codependents Anonymous can help you identify with everyone else going through the same struggles. As you become psychologically healthier through the 12 Steps of AA and 12 traditions and with the support and encouragement of other CODA members, you can gradually solve these codependence issues. CODA meetings are held week after week for family and friends of alcoholics.

Codependence can destroy not only the relationship with the alcoholic and the rest of the family but the alcoholic himself or herself. Bear in mind that alcoholism can destroy a person’s health, relationships and financial and social standing. And, codependence can destroy you both by making you more dependent on the alcoholic who cannot respond to your emotional needs in a healthy way. So before you try to help the alcoholic, it will be wise to get help for yourself by attending Al-Anon or Codependence Anonymous. Or you can seek the help of an addiction counselor or psychologist to help you overcome your codependent behaviors.