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How Codependency enables Alcoholism

When someone is experiencing an alcohol use disorder, the people around him or her can begin to develop a codependent relationship.

When someone is experiencing an alcohol use disorder, the people around him or her can begin to develop a codependent relationship.

When someone is experiencing an alcohol use disorder, the people around him or her can begin to develop a codependent relationship. The codependent person may be a romantic partner, a friend, a parent or a child, but it is a very unhealthy way to cope in this situation. Fortunately, there is help for the person with alcohol use disorder, and there is also help for the codependent partner.

What Is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is an alcohol use disorder, but it is the most severe type of this kind of disorder. Someone is experiencing alcoholism when he or she cannot make it through the day without having a drink. This person may even believe that he can’t function normally without drinking alcohol first.

What Are the Signs of Alcoholism?

Alcoholism has several physical signs that you would be able to see in your loved one. They include the following:

  • Hair and fingernails that are fragile.
  • Capillaries in the facial skin that are damaged.
  • The existence of injuries and bruises.
  • Jaundice of the eyes and skin.
  • Failing to bathe on a regular basis.
  • The appearance of flushed skin.
  • Breath that smells like alcohol.
  • Signs of premature aging.
  • Dry skin.
  • Extreme weight gain or weight loss.

What Is Codependency?

Codependency is when a person derives self-esteem from another person. Also, her emotional needs may be met by this same person. A codependent person may be in the habit of enabling the person with substance abuse issues, but this is unintentional.

In a healthy relationship, it is a relationship of giving and taking with the intention of making sure that each person’s needs are met. In a codependent relationship, the needs of one person take precedence over the other. This creates an imbalance of power in which the needs of the taker in the relationship are the top priority, and the other partner is left to give and give without receiving much in return.

In a codependent relationship, there is a giver and a taker, and they can be described as the following:

The Giver

  • Loses one’s identity in the relationship.
  • Is unable to make sure that boundaries are maintained.
  • Places value on sacrificing oneself for others.
  • Has a strong desire to matter to someone else.
  • Places the focus on the other person’s behavior rather than their own.

The Taker

  • Fails to live up to his responsibilities and refuses to make changes.
  • Avoids taking responsibility by using the relationship.
  • Lacks coping skills and life skills.
  • Acts entitled or irresponsible.
  • Acts in a manipulative or selfish manner.

Codependency often occurs in relationships that contain one addicted member. Codependency then causes a cycle of destructive behavior that helps no one and can ultimately destroy relationships and lives.

What Are the Signs of Codependency?

The following are signs of codependency that you might recognize in your relationship with your loved one:

  • You are ashamed, guilty or depressed because of what is going on in your relationship.
  • Both partners deny their own behaviors and behaviors of the other party.
  • One person may believe that all he or she has is the relationship. If this is the case, the attachment is unhealthy.
  • Codependent partners take responsibility for their partners and may make excuses for them even when they repeatedly engage in addictive behaviors.
  • One partner constantly makes sacrifices for the other partner. For example, one partner may give time, take responsibility or sacrifice his own needs for the sake of the other partner.

How Codependency and Alcoholism Impacts Relationships

Codependency is like substance use disorders in many ways. For example, codependency does not mean that you are failing morally, and it doesn’t mean that you have a personality flaw. It’s something that occurs because of the circumstances that present themselves when someone is experiencing alcoholism. The best way to face this problem is to recognize that it exists so that you can solve it, but the first thing is to understand how a relationship ordinarily forms.

When anyone first gets together with another person in any setting, the parties tend to do the following:

  • One person will present qualities that are the opposite of the qualities of the other person.
  • One person will act in a way that complements the other person’s qualities.
  • One person will take on some of the other person’s qualities.

Change and growth in a relationship are natural. If the relationship is healthy, the change will be positive and have the ability to fulfill each person’s life for the better. In contrast, an unhealthy relationship causes both parties pain and contributes to a toxic cycle that neither one can find a way to break.

The Cycle of Codependency and Alcohol Addiction

In the beginning of the cycle, you and your partner meet, and you begin to have feelings for each other. The next step may be to fall in love. Then, you become a couple and share your life together. Each one relies on the other to have their emotional needs met.

At some point, your partner began to abuse alcohol. You may have known that there was always an issue with alcohol, but you are just facing it now. You tried to set boundaries, but your partner rarely acknowledged them. This is when you began to make excuses for your partner’s behavior when he or she was having a drink. You began to enable this behavior at this time.

Your partner began to engage in unhealthy behaviors more than ever, and the cycle became worse. Because of this, you started to experience a loss of self-respect, shame and guilt. Overall, the addictive behaviors were getting worse at this point.

The good news is that you can break the cycle described above with addiction treatment. Family therapy will be a part of the treatment plan in this instance.

What Is an Enabler in a Codependent Relationship?

The enabler allows the partner with the alcohol use disorder to continue his or her negative behaviors. The person with alcohol use disorder is aware that consuming alcohol is a problem and that the best thing to do would be to stop drinking, but they don’t because they like what they are getting from the alcohol. In the same vein, the enabler enjoys what she receives in this codependent relationship, so she stays where she is.

How Codependency Can Be Dangerous

Codependency can be dangerous because it is what is allowing a partner to continue in an alcohol use disorder without having to suffer any consequences. People ensconced in an alcohol use disorder must have consequences so that they can see that they need to obtain help in order to change. Alcohol abuse disorder is a chronic disorder, and in the last stage, it can end in the person’s death.

When you choose not to act, you allow your loved one to keep the insanity going because he or she won’t have any reason to stop the behavior.

Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder and Codependency

Whether you are someone with an alcohol use disorder or are currently in a codependent relationship, you have what it takes to take control of your life and make the changes you need to make. At Illinois Recovery Center, we can treat you or your loved one for alcohol use disorder. We also welcome you to join your loved one in family therapy.

About Dual Diagnosis

Alcohol use disorder often co-occurs with other mental health disorders. Generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder and panic disorder are the anxiety disorders that co-occur most often with alcohol use disorder. The mood disorders of major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder commonly co-occur with alcohol use disorder. People often choose alcohol to help them cope with traumatic memories, so alcohol use disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder co-occur in large numbers.

When someone diagnosed with alcohol use disorder also has a mental health disorder, it is known as a “dual diagnosis” or a “co-occurring diagnosis.” Both of these disorders must be treated at the same time. Otherwise, you or your loved one will not see the best results from treatment with either disorder. We can offer you dual diagnosis treatment at Illinois Recovery Center.

Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

If you or your loved one has been experiencing an alcohol use disorder for several months or years, you would be unable to suddenly stop drinking. If you were to do this, it would lead to highly uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, including heart palpitations, vomiting, nausea, hand tremors, anxiety, insomnia, sweating and headache. In our medical detox program, we will administer medications that will relieve these symptoms. Our medical staff will supervise you throughout the process to ensure that you are comfortable and safe.

Residential Treatment

After you or your loved one complete the detoxification program, we will place you in our residential treatment program. Your loved one will have 24-hour care and a strict schedule of individual therapy, group therapy, experiential therapy and family therapy. Family therapy is highly beneficial to anyone involved in a codependent relationship because they learn the best ways that they can help their family members in these counseling groups.

If you are ready to get help for yourself and your loved one. Contact us at Illinois Recovery Center.


  • What is codependency?
  • What are the symptoms of codependency?
  • How does codependency enable alcoholism?
  • How can I tell if I’m codependent?
  • How can I stop being codependent?
  • What is the difference between codependency and healthy dependencies?
  • My partner is an alcoholic, and I want to help, but I don’t want to enable their drinking. What should I do?
  • I think I might be an alcoholic. What should I do?