Creating an End to Codependency

Oct 6, 2020

A part of achieving recovery comes from knowing how to form healthy connections with others. Yet, people with substance use disorders who struggle with codependency may not even recognize the dysfunction in their primary relationships. For instance, a woman could be preoccupied with and dependent on a spouse, partner, or family member and not see how this person has been enabling her use of drugs or alcohol. Today, let’s introduce some warning signs of codependency and explain how to take steps to overcome it. 

For women with substance use disorders in codependent relationships, the dependency on a loved one may be worsening drug or alcohol use without her even knowing the codependency exists. Symptoms of codependency can include low self-esteem, trouble with boundaries, a strong focus on control, and a need for caretaking of a loved one while neglecting one’s own needs. As codependency can develop from mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, a recommended treatment program for a person with an SUD also includes treatment for the co-occurring disorder.

Symptoms of codependency in a woman with a history of substance misuse can come from how she sees herself and her relationships. She may feel a desire to always be in a relationship even when it’s unhealthy, experience intimacy issues, or struggle with communicating her own thoughts and feelings authentically. Let’s look at a handful of other ways to tell if substance use is accompanied by codependency.

A codependent woman has a high level of dependence on a loved one.

The dependence on a loved one can be characterized as extreme if it involves wanting to constantly please them while also controlling them and taking responsibility for their feelings. A codependent woman may not recognize the negative impact the relationship has on her because she’s been maintaining it to avoid being on her own. She may fear being abandoned or rejected by a loved one, and end up sacrificing her own needs to please them.   

A codependent woman may experience a variety of mental health concerns.

While stress may be a regular part of a codependent life, mental health disorders, including depression and anxiety, can also affect thoughts and behavior. Painful emotions can be brought on by feelings of shame, guilt, and worthlessness, and fixating on the mistakes in the relationship to add to the self-destructive thinking and choices. Overwhelmed by these kinds of feelings and struggling to authentically advocate for her own needs, the codependent woman may turn to drugs or alcohol to cope.

A codependent woman may lack the ability to create proper boundaries in relationships.

Boundaries in codependency can be missing, blurred, or rigid for a woman with a substance use disorder. Without healthy boundaries in place, she may avoid communicating what she needs and explaining why it’s important in favor of her loved one’s needs and goals. When she doesn’t create boundaries to protect herself in the relationship and establish consequences, one result for a woman with an SUD could be drinking or using drugs more often.

A codependent woman may devote a great deal of time to thinking about relationships.

“Replaying” an interaction with a loved one can be a way to obsess about a particular situation when living with codependency. A codependent woman might perpetually focus on a romanticized version of the relationship to avoid the reality of it, or she might make choices that she feels will make others like her even when the choice is detrimental to her own well-being. For example, she might give in to social pressure to drink at a gathering if she feels it will ensure acceptance by the group.  

A codependent woman may deny she has mental health and substance use issues.

Even if they have lived with depression and a drinking problem for years, codependent people may avoid admitting they need help and denying the problem even exists. Part of it can come from being so focused on others’ needs that they cannot see their own need for independence and healthy living. Even when treatment needs may be urgent, a codependent person may feel unable to ask for help or accept help when it’s offered.

Breaking the hold of codependency comes from accepting the help of trained professionals.

While it’s not an easy step for any person with a history of codependency to take, starting a treatment program that encompasses both mental health and substance use disorders is recommended. As part of the recovery process from an SUD, a woman can learn the skills she needs to recognize what led to her codependency and how to form healthy connections instead when creating future relationships. A treatment program offering family therapy can also give the codependent patient an opportunity to address her needs with a loved one and make sustainable changes to the relationship.


Hannah’s House is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 561.841.1272.

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