Codependency Perpetuates Addiction
The story is repeated all over the country and as the television show “Dragnet” used to disclaim, “This is a true story. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.”
First of all, let’s define a couple of terms, which most people use interchangeably. This is a term used to describe a person who is addicted to “helping” other people.
Mom is the poster child for Codependency
Harriet is a 68 year-old mother of four children, ranging from 34 to 46 years of age. Three of the four children are well-adjusted, reasonably happy and successful parents of their own children. However, the 34 year-old son is a different story.
He lives at home, is unemployed, drug addicted and has for the most part given up on life. He has no ambition, no dreams and no sense of personal responsibility.
He allows his mother to support him, (he has a codependency on his mother) clean up after him and feed him. The other three children recognize that she is being drained by her son, but she steadfastly refuses to make any changes, no matter how slight, in order to help her son break out of his addiction to alcohol and lead a healthy, productive life.
She is convinced that he will die if forced to fend for himself. She believes he is incapable of recovering. It is said that a codependent person will actually contribute to the other person being helpless, and so Harriet fits that description well.
She loves being mom, even if it means treating her adult son like a middle school child. The kind of behavior is also called enabling, because it is purposeful in keeping the other person in “need.” It is codependency.
Harriet has always made excuses for her son. When he loses jobs, it’s always somebody else who is to blame. She overlooks his drinking entirely, and when the family gathers to talk to her about helping him and getting him into treatment, she becomes very protective.
Here is an interesting test found on http://way2hope.org, giving us a roadmap of the symptoms of codependency. Codependency Test: Take this test to find out if you're helping people who need or needing people to help:
1. Do you feel demeaned, hurt or offended when someone you love tells you they don't need your help?
2. In the last year, has anyone resorted to arguing, begging or raising their voice to get you to stop trying to help them?
3. If you had plenty of money and your child, sibling or parent had an addiction to drinking, spending, gambling or drugs, and they asked you for money to help with their necessary expenses (food, rent, clothes, bills), would you give them the money?
4. When someone shares a life or relationship problem with you, but doesn't ask for help, do you offer help or advice, anyway?
5. When you survey your relationships, do you find yourself surrounded by mostly people who need you?
6. Do you ever find yourself making excuses for the needy people in your life?
7. If someone you love has a substance abuse, emotional, spending or gambling problem, do you avoid confronting them?
8. Do you measure your self-esteem by how much someone depends on you?
9. Do you ever remind people where they would be without you?
Harriet will not allow her son to grow up and take care of himself. His sister stated that he sits in his room most of the day and then he goes off at night to see his friends.
Mom is oblivious and if the brother is approached about standing up and taking responsibility, he immediately becomes defensive and angry. The three kids are trying to convince Harriet that she is actually hurting her son, but all efforts have failed thus far.
The needy son will never receive anything he truly needs from his mother, the classic enabler, who tries to rescue her son. For the family, it is a dance that never ends. The older children have managed to get their mother to allow some discussion about her moving in with one of them, selling the house she lives in, which will force the brother to move out and fend for himself.
They have contacted a local treatment center and are planning a family meeting to outline a plan for their brother. They want help for their mother, who has no understanding of tough love and how her enabling her son’s behavior is slowly killing him.
This is a story in progress. We pray for a happy ending.