Addiction Codependency in Families

Addiction treatment is generally for the person who’s addicted to a substance. However, addiction codependency in families is a large part of the patient’s addiction. For that reason, treatment programs at Recovery in Motion frequently include family therapy. Family units often recover and emerge from treatment stronger than ever.

What is Addiction Codependency?

Codependency is not a mental illness or a personality disorder. It begins as a well-intentioned reaction to a person you love who needs help. That’s certainly a natural response. At first, your reactions are probably helpful. As the crisis persists, codependent family members continue to try to help. It becomes a codependency when your actions are no longer in the best interest of the addicted person or yourself.

Mental Health America says, “co-dependency often affects a spouse, a parent, sibling, friend, or co-worker” of an addicted person. It explains that codependency is passed from generation to generation if it goes without treatment. While addiction codependency isn’t a mental illness, it does have many of the same characteristics.

Furthermore, according to Mental Health America, codependency “affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship” with anyone. Codependency relationships are usually one-sided and abusive. Codependency on a family member in active addiction isn’t good for the addicted person nor the well-meaning family member.

Family therapy during addiction treatment guides family members to effectively support their loved ones. We guide our families through exercises, techniques and education that give them insight into addiction. Family therapy untangles a dysfunctional family and strengthens its bonds. A solid support system is critical for a successful, long-term lifestyle in recovery.

Recognize Addiction Codependency in Your Family

You may find it hard to imagine that all your helpful actions may be enabling your addicted loved one. That doesn’t make you a bad person. It means you deeply care about your loved one. However, it also means that you and other family members may need professional guidance in how to help effectively. Firstly, let’s discuss what codependency can look like.

Psych Central explains that there are four stages of addiction codependency.

  • Early Stage: The early stage seems like any healthy relationship. “However, with codependency,” they say, “we can become obsessed with the person, deny or rationalize problematic behavior, doubt our perceptions, fail to maintain healthy boundaries, and give up our own friends and activities.”


  • Middle Stage: At this time, you may be recognizing that your loved one is in the throes of active addiction. You may try everything you can to help him or her stop abusing drugs or alcohol. In the process, you may isolate yourself and experience feelings of guilt, anxiety, or anger. Eventually, these feelings build up and often manifest in mood swings, your own addictive behaviors and more.


  • Late Stage: Finally, the late stage reveals that your personal health is at risk. Physical symptoms of insomnia, headaches, eating disorders, heart disease and more begin to develop. But that’s not all.


Psychological symptoms begin to develop in the codependent person, as well. These can include lack of self-esteem and hygiene. Addiction codependency also increases feelings of hopelessness, anger, depression, and despair.

Support Groups for Addiction Codependency

Support groups for the loved ones of addicted people generally mimic support groups for addicted people. Because experts now widely recognize codependency as a common part of addiction, most support groups have widely evolved. In other words, meetings commonly include the important topic of codependency. Therefore, codependent loved ones can hear from others who are on the same journey they’re on. Here are a few examples of support groups that can help people with addictions.


According to its website, Al-Anon explains that their support meetings are for families who want to recover from the effects of someone else’s drinking. “Many who come to Al-Anon/Alateen are in despair, feeling hopeless, unable to believe that things can ever change. We want our lives to be different, but nothing we have done has brought about change.”


The brain isn’t fully developed until age 25. It’s often easier for teens to experience addiction codependency. Trying to manage an alcohol parent or other family member is certainly complicated for adolescents. Additionally, adolescents tend to relate to peers better than adults. For that reason, Al-Anon has a comparatively similar model of support for teens called Alateen. It’s like Al-Anon with one exception. That is, teens attend meetings instead of adults.

Nar-Anon and Narateen

Al-Anon and Alateen meetings serve the needs of the family members of alcoholics. Nar-Anon and Narateen comparatively serves the needs of family members of people with substance addictions. These and many other support groups follow the 12-step process. Nar-Anon explains, “We’ve found that the working of these steps will bring the solution to practically any problem.”


Recovery in Motion recognizes how critical family therapy is for long-term addiction recovery. Within family therapy, we’ve seen a persistent theme of addiction codependency. For that reason, our therapists create an individual treatment plan for families.

After a thorough evaluation and as your family makes progress, treatment will evolve to meet your needs. As a result, family therapy and support groups guide you, your addicted loved one and other family members toward a healthy life as a strong family unit. It’s not too late. Contact us today.


[1] “Co-Dependency.” Mental Health America,

[2] “FAQ: Al-Anon Family Groups.” Al, 20 Feb. 2019,

[3] Lancer, Darlene. “Codependency Addiction: Stages of Disease and Recovery.” Psych Central, 8 Oct. 2018,

[4] “What’s Nar-Anon? – Nar-Anon Family Groups.” Nar,