Image of Karen Willock, Tree House family program staffer, explains how codependency works to to father of addicted son.

Codependency And Addiction

When you love someone, it’s only natural to want them to be happy. Especially when it’s your son or significant other. So you might give them your emotional support, encouragement, time, or expertise to support their growth and well-being. These are healthy relationships as long as both people do this. But if a relationship is codependent then your efforts to help someone often comes at the expense of your financial, emotional, social, or vocational growth and well-being. 

Codependency Symptoms:

Are you addicted to your child or partner? 

Codependency is not a brain disorder but it is an addiction. Not to a substance but to a person. And like any addiction, codependency includes a persistent and uncontrollable compulsion to act in ways that hurt you and the people you love just like people in active addiction. The easiest way to understand this is to see how some of the symptoms, behaviors, and feelings of codependency are similar to addiction. 

Symptoms: Physical or emotional symptoms of codependency and addiction include:

Increased tolerance:

More drugs or alcohol are required to produce the same effect; AND more toxic behavior is required to produce a negative reaction from codependents compared to before. 

  • Addiction: I have to drink twice as much as I used to get drunk
  • Codependent: I used to get upset when he yelled at me, but it doesn’t bother me anymore. 

Loss of Control:

A person tries and fails to control how much they drink or do drugs; AND a codependent tries and fails to control their behavior towards the person.

  • Addiction: I only intended to have 1 drink, but I drank so much I blacked out. 
  • Codependent: I said I’d kick him out if he came home drunk, but I ended up apologizing instead. 


A person denies their problem by rationalizing their actions.

  • Addiction: Everybody drinks, I don’t have a problem. Without alcohol, I can’t be social.
  • Codependent: I am helping him, he needs me. Without me, he would lose his job. Things will get better. 


A person feels a deep physical and mental need to use substances; AND a codependent feels a deep mental longing for the person.  

  • Addiction: My body aches if I go too long without a drink. All I can think about is going home and getting drunk. 
  • Codependent: He’s all I think about. When he’s not around I ache for him. 


A person uses substances compulsively despite the consequences it creates in their lives; AND a codependent feels compelled to act irrationally despite consequences it might create for themselves.

  • Addiction: I told myself I wasn’t going to drink but I ended up stealing money to buy alcohol.
  • Codependent: I went through his phone, I ate to make myself feel better, I left work early to go get him something. 


Some actions common for addiction and codependency are: 


A person downplays the consequences of their actions; AND a codependent downplays the negative influence of this person  

  • Addiction: Drinking has barely affected my job. Things are fine. 
  • Codependent: I’ve lost a lot of my friends but now I have time for the people who matter. Things are fine.

A person lies about the true nature of their addiction so that they can continue using. AND a codependent lies to others to enable the person’s behavior and/or their own.

  • Addiction: I lied about spending the night at a friend’s house (or working late) so that I could go drinking without anyone knowing. 
  • Codependent: He was too drunk to go to work so I called his boss and lied for him. I lie to my friends about how much time we spend together. 
  • Hiding and secrets:

A person hides their substance use to avoid shame or intervention. AND a codependent keeps things about the person secret to avoid shame. 

  • Addiction: My mom thinks I am doing so well. I hope she doesn’t find my drugs.
  • Codependent: He was doing so well last week. I hope nobody finds out he blacked out last night. 
Euphoric Recall:

A person romanticizes the feeling of using drugs or alcohol. AND a codependent romanticizes the feelings back when things were better rather than focusing on how things are. 

  • Addiction: I would love to feel that way again. 
  • Codependent: I miss the way things used to be with us. 


Some emotions caused by addiction and codependency are:

  • Sadness
  • Disappointment
  • Guilt
  • Fear
  • Shame

Codependency Help

Codependency Quiz:

You can’t fix what doesn’t exist and codependency is no different. Now that you have an overview of codependency, the next step is assessing whether or not you may be codependent. Take our free online codependency quiz today.

Codependency Worksheets:

Books are a great help when addressing codependency, but they can take time to get and read. If you want to start working on your codependency right now, here are some useful worksheets. 

Evaluating Codependence:

This downloadable worksheet will help you or a family member identify codependent behaviors and talk through examples of different codependent symptoms,  behaviors, or feelings.

Diagnosing Codependence:

This PDF contains a clinical Codependency Assessment created in a peer-reviewed study outlining the criteria for codependence  (Friel 1985; Friel & Friel 1987).

Codependency Treatment:

If you think that you may struggle with codependency, you don’t have to face it alone. Tree House Recovery’s National Family Program specializes in helping families heal while their loved ones seek help with addiction. Please call us today to learn more about how Tree House can help you.

CALL (855) 202-2138