What is Codependency?
Co-dependency has several definitions that can occur to individuals, behaviors, activities, and even objects (e.g. homes, cars). Generally speaking, co-dependency is defined as an unhealthy relationship where at least one party in the relationship has little or no identity apart from the other person or behavior. This is especially true in substance dependency.
When an individual is co-dependent with drugs and alcohol, he/she might have difficulty imagining a life without the substances, even when the relationship is dysfunctional; that is, functioning in pain.
A person need not identify his or her self as an “addict.” Addiction is an illness that can be controlled and even cured. When a person identifies themselves with a behavior it is difficult to imagine not engaging in that behavior. For example, one would expect a person who identifies himself as a pianist, to play the piano. In the same light it would only seem reasonable for a person who identifies himself as an addict to engage in addictive behaviors. Changing one’s identity from unhealthy-dysfunctional behaviors to functional-adaptive behaviors is the beginning of real change.
Co-dependency in addiction is a bigger problem than addiction or dependency by itself. A person can be addicted but maintain a sense of self aside from the substance. This is often the case when a person is a functioning addict; having a career, a family, and engages in activities aside from substances. Additionally, there are those who are addicted to a substance, for example opiates, due to a medical condition and function fairly normal and have no identity with the substance. When the medical condition is cured the person may have very little difficulties ending the substance use.
When an individual can develop a sense of self, apart from substances, a healthier sense of self develops. This is when a person can truly differentiate his or her self from dysfunctional behaviors and live a life free of substances and unhealthy relationships.