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LBI - Microsoft


Codependency is a set of maladaptive, compulsive behaviors learned

by family members in order to survive in a family that is
experiencing great emotional pain and stress.
It is a dependency on people - on their moods, behaviors, sickness or
well-being, and their love.
Codependents look strong but feel helpless. They appear controlling
but in reality are controlled themselves.
Codependent relationships are a type of dysfunctional helping relationship
where one person supports or enables another person's addiction
.to rely on another person or other people to make you feel worthy
and good about yourself.
The family is not just a group of people but instead it is a system with each
individual affecting the other; it is a system just as the human body is a
In the case of alcoholism and addiction, the family system organizes itself
around the disease and all members are profoundly effected in their new
Family systems may function in healthy or unhealthy ways, support adaptive
or maladaptive behavior, and support or not support the development of

The Unhealthy Family System

The following factors are characteristic of an unhealthy family system. Sometimes
the addictive behavior can cause these factors to develop or strengthen; other
times, these factors unintentionally influence the development of the addiction.
Either way, the cycle must be broken for the family system to be supportive of a
lasting recovery.

Rigid: The system does not allow for people to function outside of their
respective roles. Therefore individuals are reinforced for "acting out" their
unresolved conflict and unexpressed emotions.

Inconsistent: Due to the nature of addiction, sporadic and erratic behavior on

the part of the "addicted person" results in instability within the entire

Unpredictable: As the disease progresses, it may become increasingly difficult

to predict behavior, outcomes, etc. other than chaos and turmoil. This
lifestyle often propels other family members into "crisis living."
LBI - Microsoft

LBI - Microsoft

Impulsive: Decisions are made whimsically or based on a reaction rather than

a proactive course of rational action.

Closed The unexpressed message is that no one enters or leaves from "Our
Inner Circle." Therefore, families are isolated from resources that may
intervene or provide support. family members choosing not to operate in the
mode of dependency are maligned with judgment, guilt, alienation and/or

The Healthy Family System

A key goal in recovery is to change an unhealthy family system into a healthy

one. This is not only supportive of the addict's recovery, but is also much
more fulfilling for all family members. Characteristics of healthy family
systems include:

Respectful: Family rules are explicit, clear, well defined, reasonable and
consistently enforced. Boundaries support healthy respectful behavior.

Flexible: The system is able to accommodate changes and role diversity

without becoming rigid or intolerant. In other words, people are allowed to
express their unique self and adjust/move through roles accordingly. In
unhealthy family systems, roles are inflexible and people are only supported
while functioning in their respective roles.

Predictable: Family behavior, interactions, and customs/traditions are

consistent and predictable while allowing for spontaneity. As the disease of
addiction progresses, behavior may grow increasingly difficult to predict. This
lifestyle often propels family members into "crisis living," resulting in a lack of

Open Communication: Communication is open rather than closed. Individuals

are allowed to express feelings and needs without fear of reprisal, ridicule or
retaliation from other family members. Family members are allowed to need
help and support and communicate problems and conflicts openly. Unhealthy
family systems often disallow communication within the family and support
family isolation from the community and other resources. The message in
these families is don't talk, don't trust, and don't feel. Individuals are
supported in their differences and in their separation/individuation process.

The changes that adaptations that occur when addiction is present in a family
are normal but unhealthy. This unhealthy pattern that emerges is commonly
called codependency.

LBI - Microsoft

LBI - Microsoft

Codependency can develop through a number of circumstances, although a

common point of origin is within the family,
common contributors to codependency include:

Low self-esteem

Social anxiety

Verbal, emotional, or sexual abuse


People who live with an addict often cant sit idly by and allow these consequences
to take place. After all, an addict who spends all of the familys money on drugs
might force the whole family into homelessness
The problem may start with the addict, but the entire family may be impacted by
the addiction. As a result, spouses of addicts may be forced to pick up the slack,
helping to keep the household functioning even when the addict isnt doing his/her
fair share of the work. Its a normal consequence of an addiction, and in some ways,
its not an unhelpful response if it helps to keep the family functioning.
people who have low levels of self-confidence often have codependent tendencies
But people who are codependent rarely use these addiction problems as an
opportunity for improvement. In fact, they may view the addiction as either simply
normal, or else somewhat rewarding.

Coming up with excuses for the behavior

Apologizing to others for the behavior

Amending any negative consequences for the behavior

Reassuring the addict

Addiction & Family Roles

There are six roles, including the addict, that have been developed and
are used to understand and define how the family system functions
around the substance abuser. These roles are identified as The Enabler,
The Hero, The Scapegoat, The Mascot and The Addict. These
roles can often be fluid and shift among family members depending on the
onset of the substance abuse, developmental stages of the children,
gender, age, birth order, parent/sibling relationship status and marital
status to name a few.
The Enabler is often the role taken by the non-using spouse, or if it is a single
parent home, the oldest child or the child closet to the substance abuser. This
LBI - Microsoft

LBI - Microsoft

person does everything in their power to pick up the pieces that the addict has left
undone. This can include ensuring all bills are paid, making excuses for the addict in
social and business situations, ensuring the kids are going to school, maintain
communication with family members and friends. The enabler is often in denial
about the severity of the addiction and continues to make excuses for the addict.
These behaviors are a defense mechanism in an effort to present a picture of ease
to those outside the nuclear family. These behaviors are a baseline for the fear,
anger, guilt, shame, concern, etc. that have been internalized.
The Hero is defined in the family as the person who appears confident,
overachieving and serious. This person also assumes a role of parentification as
evidenced by taking on responsibilities that far exceeded their developmental stage
as in comparison with their peers. These responsibilities can include making lunch
for their younger siblings and providing support to the non substance-abusing
parent. This person likely also strives for perfectionism by getting straight As and
being the star athlete. Given the nature of how alcohol and drug addiction
progresses, this role is often difficult to maintain as The Hero feels that he/she is
constantly needing to take on more and more responsibility. These outward
behaviors are a baseline for feelings and emotions, such as inadequacy and guilt,
stress and anxiety, which the individual has likely internalized.
The Mascot is the child in the family who uses comedy when facing uncomfortable
and difficult situations that stem from the insecure environment established as a
result of parental substance abuse and behaviors of The Scapegoat. The Mascot is
aware of the sense of relief he or she brings to the family and will continue to
sacrifice his/her own needs to maintain this balance.
The Lost Child is isolative, withdrawn and does not appear to connect with any
person within the family system or outside the home. This child has difficulty
engaging with others and developing social skills. As a result this child engages in
fantasy play as a way to disassociate and protective themselves (physically and
emotionally), from the negative and chaotic home environment.
What About The Addict? How does the substance abuser perceive how his or her
drug and/or alcohol use impacts the family system? There are many responses to
this question. Many addicts feel a strong sense of remorse, guilt and shame for the
pain and distress they have caused their spouses and children, in addition to their
extended families, friends and business endeavors. Many addicts dont want to stop
using, which creates anger and resentment from the family toward the addict, and
the addict toward the family for placing pressure on them to stop using.

LBI - Microsoft