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Your Role in Your Loved One’s Recovery

Breaking free of codependency

Codependency is when we try to cope with the destructive behavior of another person by controlling their behavior and actions. With the goal of helping a loved one, we take time off work, devote less attention to other members of the family and ourselves, and deplete savings. Sometimes these actions enable the destructive behaviors to continue. To help the person we love, we must stop trying to control their behaviors. Learning to let go is one of the most difficult challenges the parent of an addicted child faces. It’s an ongoing —yet liberating—process. Group members in Learn to Cope provide each other with strength and encouragement, forming a supportive community that makes it more likely for our loved ones to recover.

Behaviors Include

  • Trying to control another person’s behavior and the consequences of those behaviors
  • Doing for another what they are capable of doing on their own
  • Making decisions that allow codependency to continue
  • Neglecting your own needs and the needs of other family members
  • Giving a message that says, “I don’t think you can make it on your own”
  • Being more concerned with being a “good” friend than with your own well-being
  • Being trapped in a destructive cycle of giving more and more while increasingly neglecting one’s own needs

Things to Know

Expectations are High.

Many people, including drug users themselves, have mistaken beliefs about drug addiction and recovery from addiction. Two of the most pervasive myths are that a person can get off drugs alone and that most addicts can become permanently drug-free. These ideas stem in part from notions that continued drug use is voluntary and that a person’s inability to overcome addiction stems solely from character flaws or a lack of willpower.

It is very difficult for opiate and injection drug users to quit on their own and relapse is common. Many people with addiction problems also have mental health disorders, which makes recovery even more challenging. Newer research about addiction can help families and those struggling with addictions gain a more realistic view about treatment and recovery.1

1 Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2004. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 39.) Chapter 2 Impact of Substance Abuse on Families.
Addiction is a disease.

Long-term drug use causes profound changes in brain structure and function that result in uncontrollable compulsive drug craving, seeking and use. It is the quintessential “bio-behavioral disorder” with profound effects on a person’s physical, emotional and mental health, as well as his or her family, colleagues, neighbors and community.

Addiction is a treatable chronic disease. The changes in brain function and structure that occur with drug use persist long after drug use is stopped. “Cure” is therefore not necessarily an attainable or appropriate goal.



These factors should be in place for a good chance at recovery:
  • Treatment is readily available and accessible.
  • The individual remains in treatment for a long enough period of time to become sober.
  • Treatment continues beyond detoxification. Detoxification is only the first stage of treatment and is rarely sufficient by itself to lead to long-term recovery.
  • Over time, treatment addresses multiple needs including individual drug abuse, as well as issues relating to social, mental, and physical health.
  • Individual has access to counseling, medication, and behavioral therapies that can be used in combination to support recovery.
  • The treatment plan includes opportunities to adjust goals along the way.
  • The individual has the support and involvement of family members who have dealt with their own recovery, and are able to separate.