Falling in love is a wonderful thing. But adding substance abuse to that relationship can turn love into codependency. One partner covers for the other’s bad behaviors and before anyone knows the truth of what’s going on, a dangerous cycle exists. This cycle of a codependent relationship and substance abuse can lead to a tragic end.

What is codependency?

woman and man next to each other have codependency problemCodependency can be part of a romantic relationship, friendship or family relations. Most codependent relationships are romantic. However, some involve parents and children, siblings or just really close friends.

In each of these scenarios, there are two primary roles, those of manipulator and enabler. When substance abuse is part of the codependent dynamic, these roles are clear:


The manipulator in a codependent relationship of substance abuse behaves in ways that help them get what they want, such as money, drugs or alcohol. This manipulation uses relationships to exploit those who care about them. The manipulation leaves the loved ones, friends and other exploited parties feeling hurt, damaged and taken advantage of, just as they have been.


The enabler helps the manipulator by complying to what they’re doing, covering up for that person’s behaviors and even encouraging the manipulation. This person may suffer from low self-confidence, abandonment fears or other issues that keep them closely connected to the manipulator despite his or her negative actions.

Codependent behavior is highly destructive to the individuals in the relationship and those close to them. Entire families suffer damage by the cycle of destruction the manipulator and enabler enact.

When Codependency and Substance Abuse Collide

Codependency usually centers on a negative purpose. Substance abuse is one such purpose. Whether one member of the couple or both are abusing drugs or alcohol, codependent living can keep the fire of addiction burning. Sadly, most enablers are unaware of the role they play in the addiction, making breaking the cycle even harder than one may think.

Instead of refusing to help the substance abuser get drugs or alcohol, the enabler will go so far as to pay for these needs or drive the manipulator to a drug dealer. Even parents and adult children enable family members by providing money and transportation to get what the manipulator wants, often so they won’t get “sick” from withdrawal.

No one should think that the enabler is entirely self-serving. Instead, the enabler is getting something from this cycle, such as self-esteem. They usually live for the attention of their loved one, no matter how demanding or dark that attention may be in a quest for drugs, alcohol or money.

Codependent enabling rarely ends on its own. It can take drastic consequences to wake either party in the relationship up to the sick, vicious cycle. The death of one of the parties or hospitalization may be the catalyst for awareness and change.

Treatment for the Vicious Cycle in Substance Abuse

Ending this cycle begins with one person in the relationship waking up to the truth of their actions. They have to realize there is a problem that requires a solution. It can be either party, the manipulator or the enabler, who acknowledges the cycle and take steps to correct it.

While the manipulator needs treatment for substance abuse, the enabler also needs individual and family therapy. The enabler needs to get to know why they enable and how to stop contributing to the loved one’s substance abuse. The goal of treatment for each is to live a healthy life without codependent behavior, drugs or alcohol between them.

If you recognize the signs of codependent behavior in substance abuse and are ready for change, you need professional support and guidance. Crestview Recovery in Portland, Oregon offers addiction treatment programs that can help you break free of the cycle. Call Crestview Recovery now at 866.262.0531. Don’t wait to call because every moment is another step closer to potentially fatal consequences.