How Chemical Dependency Affects One’s Spouse

When someone struggles with drug or alcohol addiction, the attention primarily focuses on that individual. However, spouses and other family members are often affected just as severely by the addiction. Spouses often try to “fix” the addicted person, becoming consumed with the challenge and potentially neglecting their own mental or even physical health. A popular, broadly defined term called “co-dependency” refers to the condition experienced by spouses, other family members, and friends of those who are chemically dependent.

What is Co-Dependency?
Some authors refer to co-dependency broadly, as “the dependence on a family member or friend who is addicted to drugs or alcohol.” Others definitions are more specific, such as “the psychological condition of devaluing one’s own needs and becoming excessively focused on the needs of a loved one who is chemically dependent.” Characteristics of someone who is co-dependent include the need to control, the need to fix others’ problems, low self-esteem, denial, and the desire for approval.

Why is Co-Dependency Harmful?
Co-dependency causes a man or woman to become so preoccupied with the situation of their spouse (or parent or sibling or friend) that they neglect their own well-being. This could include mental well-being, such as stress, excessive worrying, sadness and/or depression, and it could also include physical well-being, such as unhealthy eating habits or neglecting hygiene. There are free support groups designed specifically for loved ones of people who are chemically dependent. The most popular, nationwide program is call Al-Anon.

Do All Spouses Suffer from Co-Dependency?
According to some chemical dependency experts, all spouses of substance abusers are co-dependent because they must continually live with the addiction within their home; they are dependent upon their spouse and therefore their spouse’s condition. Others say that some spouses do not display the characteristics of co-dependency and are able to maintain a healthy lifestyle for themselves. Either way, spouses involved in situations of substance abuse need care and attention, just as the abuser does. Investigate co-dependency more thoroughly and how you can work on yourself, therefore helping your spouse to recover more effectively and helping to strengthen the family as a whole.

Many chemical dependency rehab centers focus on the well-being of the entire family and will explain co-dependency to spouses and how they can overcome it. Consider talking to your loved one about their addiction and the benefits of a chemical dependency rehab facility, and how it would benefit you as well.

Salt Lake Behavioral Health’s chemical dependency rehab program is one of the best in the nation. Visit or call for more information.

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