Vallarta Tribune, Apr 23-29, 2006, issue # 472, pg 19

I have written separate articles on addiction, codependency, and relationships and received many responses and questions asking more about the addict-codependent relationship. The amazing thing that I’ve noticed about this dysfunctional destructive cycle is that the addicts are very aware of their role in this type of relationship and the codependents are very unaware. They don’t realize why or how things happen in their relationship despite their best efforts. They (codependents) don’t realize how their actions, responses, and expectations provoke and maintain the vicious cycle. Their role and the damage they cause is disguised and overshadowed by the addicts’ blatant and inappropriate behavior. Yes, despite the codependent’s best, most sincere efforts, she is causing damage to herself, to the addict by enabling and rescuing, and to her children by allowing this to continue, often ignoring their pleas to do something about it.

Why?

If you are in a codependent relationship with an addict, you probably find yourself asking why things don’t improve, why you are always frustrated, or even miserable. You probably also wonder why you continue to tolerate it. The answer is simple and complex. As the addiction progresses so does your codependency. You have both had many years to develop your way of being and interacting. You’ve had years to developtolerance; you to your addict and him to his addiction. You’ve figured out many ways to adapt in order to maintain equilibrium of the couple and of the family. Your children have also adapted and developed a certain degree of tolerance. It has become familiar and not every day is a bad day, you aren’t always miserable. The good days in-between re-instill hope and encourage you to keep trying, to believe that things and people canchange. Eventually things either improve or they become much worse. If they are worse, then you are faced with the decision to end the relationship. Consider the following characteristics of an addict.

They are champion manipulators

They know what they are doing. However, it is important to note that these “skills” evolved over time as a response to their progressing addiction. They plan and strategize, and have practiced and mastered their manipulation skills. They have learned to lie with a straight face, without blinking, without remorse. They make so many promises they cannot or have no intention of keeping, that they no longer give them a second thought. They are full of excuses. Even if they feel guilty, it is easily justified and minimized. It usually takes an accumulation of circumstances or something that causes extreme guilt to provoke change. Desperate times require desperate measures!

Empty promises

They are always promising something: I will “try harder next time” or “not do it anymore” or “this is the last time.”  Doesn’t that sound familiar?  You have all heard, how they will try harder to quit their drug use or not have sex with other women anymore or not spend all of the rent money,or it may be the “last time” they will ask you for a favor or to lend them money or to give them a ride or a place to stay. They may promise to “pay you back,” or “never ask you again.”

Lies and more lies

They have to find a way to convince you of their lies in order to protect their truth, so they desperately insist “this time I am telling you the truth” or say “I swear to God” or “come on, do you really think I would lie again after what happened the last time?” They lie about where they were, who they were with, what they were doing, and how much money they spent. The most incredible and ridiculous part is how they respond to your questions and accusations like you are the one with the problem, the one who is crazy to think such things about them, the one who needs to do a reality check. They try (and usually succeed) to make you feel guilty and as a result, you end up retracting and/or apologizing for the question or accusation.

Always blaming

They have an excuse for everything. Blaming other people and outside circumstances comes naturally for them; it is never their fault. They blame their boss, the traffic, the weather, or the way someone looked at them. It rarely occurs to them to consider their part in the situation and they find it difficult to accept once other people have pointed it out and made it clear that they must own their share of the guilt.

No more second chances

As much as you know not to believe them this time, you’ve heard it all before. It takes numerous times (often years) of backing down, givinganother second chance, accepting their excuses, lies, and promises, before you finally put your foot down and say “NO more,” before you realize that there isn’t anything that they can say that will change your mind, or convince you, or make you feel guilty enough, or sorry enough for them. You must then set limits you are willing to enforce, not make empty threats, and remain true to your decisions even in your most vulnerable weak moments.

Closing thoughts from an addict: “Where are you in all of this? What are your desires and your needs? It’s not just about taking care of everyone else’s needs and desires. Be careful! You are not taking care of you. You are putting yourself in the hands of those who are not good for you. They are inconsiderate and possibly incapable of caring about you and your needs and desires. This is not healthy. Do you really want to be in a relationship where you are the only one who gives, without receiving anything? Ask for help! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”

Written by: Giselle Belanger, RN, LCSW, CADC