One of the wonderful gifts of recovery from substance dependence is the ability to have relationships- with family, friends, and even romantic partners. When we get clean and sober, so many possibilities open up for us. However, in early recovery, it can be easy to fall into the trap of repeating unhealthy patterns. For some, this can include codependent relationship behavior. This pattern can create chaos and can be unhealthy for us and for the other people involved in our relationships. It’s important to be able to identify it when it crops up and take steps to prevent it from becoming a repeated dynamic in our lives so that we can enjoy healthy relationships in sobriety.

Why Does Codependent Relationship Behavior Come Up in Sobriety?

Getting sober is not an easy undertaking. For many of us, drugs and alcohol were the only tools we had for coping with life. Once that’s removed, we have to find totally new ways of dealing with our feelings. For some people, this can mean that we act out in other unhealthy ways, especially in early recovery. In the grand scheme of things, these can just be a few bumps in the road of our journey. However, it’s important to address unhealthy behaviors early on so that they don’t turn into new addictions. Examples of some of the behaviors people in early recovery may use to cope with difficult emotions include binge eating, shopping, impulsive sex, and codependent relationship behavior. Sometimes it’s tempting to use these behaviors to cover up unpleasant emotions in the same way we used drugs and alcohol to cover up those emotions. Ultimately, the goal is to develop enough healthy behaviors and coping skills that we don’t need to use these behaviors in place of our addiction.

Codependent relationship behavior can be used as a distraction by some people in recovery; for others, it can be a way to get validation and soothe feelings of low self-esteem that are common in early recovery. Unfortunately, over time this behavior can become destructive and can create emotional turmoil. It’s essential to be on the lookout for codependent relationship behavior so that it can be identified and addressed before it gets to this point.

What Does Codependent Relationship Behavior Look Like?

Codependence is defined as when one or both people in a relationship are excessively dependent on each other for their own physical and emotional needs and stability. It can affect any relationship, from a parent-child relationship to a romantic one. In early recovery, it can be hard to distinguish healthy behavior from unhealthy behavior, but it’s important to take the time to learn the difference so that you can experience positive relationships in sobriety. Some examples of codependent relationship behavior to watch out for include:

  • Spending excessive time with the other person, such as missing commitments or not taking care of your daily routine in order to be with that person
  • Having your mood dependent on the other person’s; for example, if you’re only happy when the other person is and you’re unhappy when they are, that’s an example of codependence.
  • Feeling responsible for solving the other person’s problems, such as wanting to pay their bills
  • Feeling anxious and out of control when you don’t hear from them or when you’re not spending time with them
  • Neglecting work and friends to spend time with that person
  • Needing to go everywhere with the other person
  • Having poor boundaries or not respecting the other person’s boundaries
  • Feeling angry, hurt, or abandoned when they don’t react the way you expect them to
  • Avoiding confrontation and refusing to express anger or disappointment for fear that it will hurt the other person or the relationship
  • Consistently putting the other person’s needs ahead of your own

Addressing Codependence

It’s is absolutely essential to address codependent relationship behavior before it becomes a big problem. Over time, these patterns can breed resentment, anger, low self-esteem, isolation, and can even contribute to a relapse. It’s important to focus on building healthy relationships with friends and sober supports, to focus on step work and healing from addiction, and to develop your own sense of self in order to avoid codependent relationship behavior.

At the Lilly Pad, we offer a highly structured environment for women so that they can spend time discovering who they are in sobriety. Our program offers a chance for women to work on becoming whole and healthy while in a safe environment so that they can stay sober and function in positive relationships. If you’re in need of a supportive and structured sober living environment for women, call us today at 561-758-1011.