Addiction Codependency: Coping Strategies for Living With an Addict

couple having a disagreement

Codependency and addiction are terms often used together when the relationship between two people becomes toxic, dysfunctional, or otherwise unhealthy due to prolonged alcohol abuse or other addictions. Many relationships affected by alcohol or other drugs end in separation and may have lasting effects like physical injuries, emotional trauma, additional addictive disorders, financial problems, or may even lead to the end of the relationship altogether. As alcoholism or other addictions begin to progress between one or both partners, many people find that they begin to blur the lines between healthy and codependent behaviors. Learning the signs of alcoholic or addiction codependency can help both you and the addicted person in your life get the appropriate substance abuse treatment that is needed in order to live a normal life.

Learning how to help an addicted partner get their life back on track while dealing with your own personal issues can be a challenge in and of itself. However, watching your loved one move on from the cycle of addiction and into a life of sobriety can potentially be an even more challenging obstacle to your relationship, especially if you are dealing with your own addiction issues.

After your partner makes a major life decision for their own well-being, you might feel forced to undergo a lifestyle change of your own to help with their recovery. However, nothing puts a strain on a relationship more than insincere or half-hearted attempts to understand or support what they are going through. 

Not everyone is willing to make drastic life changes together with their partner, and that’s okay. What matters more is that you are willing to give them the support and attention that they need, even if you don’t entirely understand their addiction and the reasons that may have led to it.

Related post: Family Support During Detox

Signs of Addiction Codependency in a Relationship

Codependency can be described as a learned behavior that makes a person’s self-esteem, mental health, and emotional needs dependent on the other person in the relationship. Codependency may affect a person’s ability to have a healthy relationship, and individuals in codependent relationships may also have issues understanding personal boundaries.

Codependency can manifest in many ways. Research suggests that children who have grown up in dysfunctional households are at risk of developing codependency in their own relationships as they get older.

Family dysfunction has also been linked to codependency, and usually stems from a family member struggling with an addiction (such as an alcoholic parent), physical illness, mental illness, or mental and physical abuse. [1]

Understanding the Difference Between Healthy and Unhealthy Coping Strategies

Knowing the right time to pick and choose your battles when it involves a partner’s substance use issues can be key in getting your message across to them.

Unhealthy Coping Strategies

  • Self-blaming. Rather than blaming yourself for your partner’s drinking or drug use, realize that they alone are responsible for how they handle their emotions and their recovery from an alcohol use disorder.
  • Attempting to control your partner’s drinking or drug use. Rather than trying to self monitor your partner’s addictive behavior by keeping constant tabs on their whereabouts, attempting to discard their alcohol or drugs, lecturing them, or pleading with them to stop, you might actively choose to let their addiction continue unabated. This may lead to future problems, but it is important to remember that you did not cause their drinking or drug use, you cannot control it, and you cannot cure it on your own.
  • Enabling your spouse. Enabling involves behaviors like “covering” for your loved one. For example, someone who is enabling their spouse may call their spouse’s workplace on their behalf when they are still recovering from hangover symptoms, or may buy alcohol or drugs for them to keep them supplied.

Healthy Coping Strategies

  • Offering help to a partner with an alcohol or substance use disorder can be a difficult problem to navigate. However, avoiding addressing the situation will only make it worse as time goes on. You can begin by researching substance use disorders to recognize the signs that your partner may have a problem that they are unable to overcome on their own without professional help.
  • Choosing the right time to talk about the drinking or drug use issues in the relationship is also important. Never try to talk to or reason with someone when he or she is intoxicated. Wait to have the discussion until they are sober, and make sure there is plenty of time to talk in a quiet and private space. Address concerns calmly and patiently without being judgmental or accusatory. Then, listen to what the other person has to say. Be honest, but emphasize the concern you have for your partner’s health and well-being rather than just listing your personal complaints.
  • Have options available on how to change unhealthy using habits. If the problem is severe, this may mean having a list of treatment options on hand when you’re ready to discuss your concerns. Having a partner, especially when there are children involved, leave to attend treatment in a residential facility may cause additional problems in your day to day life. But, these are worth the positive outcomes that can result with therapy and dedicated treatment to help a partner stop drinking. [2]

Related post: How to Help an Alcoholic Spouse: A Family Guide

There Is Hope in Recovery

At Eudaimonia Recovery Homes, we know the struggle of trying to achieve and maintain sobriety and can provide essential recovery support services and sober homes to help you or a loved one achieve lifelong recovery. Call us today at (512) 580-3130 or contact us online for more information.


  1. Living with an Alcoholic | How to Cope with an Alcoholic Spouse (americanaddictioncenters.org)
  2. Codependency & Addiction: Signs & Negative Impacts of Codependency (americanaddictioncenters.org)

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