To better understand codependency, let’s use an example. Take an alcoholic husband and a codependent wife. The husband’s drinking is impacting his job, their relationship, and the health of the family.
The codependent wife sees the pain that her husband is going through. She empathizes with his pain. She does as much as she can to make him feel better. The most appropriate thing to do in this situation would be to seek the support and guidance of an addiction professional.
The addiction professional would explain to the wife that drug addiction is an all-consuming condition. They would explain that the husband must be personally ready to receive help. The professional would likely advise about recovery options or intervention services.
The wife might sacrifice her well-being in an attempt to ‘save’ her husband. The addiction professional might advise the wife to put her own health and well-being first.
Unfortunately, this is not the approach that most codependents take. Instead, the codependent wife might enable her husband’s addiction. She might do this by neglecting her own needs. Her priority will be making sure that her husband experiences the least amount of pain and discomfort as possible.
This might be making a sick call to his job if he is too hungover to go to work or cleaning up if he gets ill. This might be so that the children don’t see their father passed out from drinking.
The problem is addiction is inherently a painful condition. Those suffering need to go through some challenging steps to get better, and sometimes, it takes a job or relationship loss for the addicted person to wake up to the problem. The person must be ready and willing to get help.