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A Father’s Story

My son, Michael, was a brilliant and talented young man. He had everything going for him, but he was also struggling with an addiction to heroin. I tried everything I could to help him, but nothing seemed to work.

Then, one day, I heard about a new intervention program. I was skeptical at first, but I decided to give it a try. The intervention was a success, and Michael agreed to go to rehab.

I was so relieved and hopeful. I thought that Michael was finally on the road to recovery. But then, something unexpected happened.

Michael’s codependent brother, John, visited him in rehab a week later. John convinced Michael to leave rehab and come home.

I was devastated. I couldn’t believe that John was putting his own needs ahead of Michael’s well-being.

Michael continued to use heroin after he left rehab. He eventually overdosed and died.

I’m still grieving the loss of my son. But I’m also determined to raise awareness about codependency and its deadly consequences.

An Interventionist’s Perspective on Codependency and Addiction

In my work as an addiction interventionist, I’ve seen firsthand how codependency can enable and even kill an addict. After years of working with addicted individuals and their families, I’ve got many tragic stories about the impacts of unhealthy enabling behaviors. I’d like to share some real examples from my career to illustrate the dangers of codependency.

One client, named John, struggled with a severe heroin addiction throughout his teenage years. His mother Sarah always made excuses for him, letting John avoid consequences like arrests and failed school classes. She gave him money whenever he asked, which often went straight to buying drugs. Despite my pleas, Sarah refused to stop enabling John’s addiction. She thought she was “helping” him, but her codependent actions only allowed his drug use to spiral further out of control.

Tragically, John died of an overdose at age 19. Sarah was overwhelmed with grief and guilt. Through counseling, she came to understand how her codependent tendencies had paved the road to John’s death. She only wished she had realized it sooner and set firmer boundaries.

Another recent client Amy was addicted to prescription opioids. Her husband Steve tried getting tough at times, but inevitably cave into Amy’s manipulation. She would threaten divorce or suicide unless Steve provided her pills. Their teenage daughter often had to care for herself because both parents were consumed with the chaos of Amy’s addiction.

As an interventionist, I emphasized to Steve that his codependency was damaging the whole family. With therapy and attending Codependents Anonymous, Steve learned how stop enabling Amy’s addiction. He filed for divorce, focusing on his own self-care and providing stability for their daughter. This finally motivated Amy to commit to rehab.

These stories illustrate how codependency destroys lives and families. The enabling partner often thinks they’re helping out of love. But in reality, they remove consequences that could prompt change. The addict never has to face their harmful behavior and gets worse. As an interventionist, my goal is to wake up families to these unhealthy dynamics before it’s too late. There is hope for recovery if codependent loved ones can learn to detach with love and set boundaries. It’s possible to support the addict without rescuing them.

What is Codependency?

Codependency is a relationship dynamic in which one person’s needs and behaviors are excessively focused on meeting the needs of another person. Codependent people often have difficulty setting boundaries and maintaining their own sense of identity. They may also feel responsible for the happiness and well-being of others, even to the point of sacrificing their own needs.

How Does Codependency Affect Addicts?

Codependency can have a devastating impact on addicts. It can enable their addiction, make it difficult for them to get help, and increase their risk of relapse.

Codependency Can Enable Addiction

Codependent people may enable an addict’s addiction by:

  • Bailing them out of jail
  • Making excuses for their behavior
  • Covering their tracks

Codependency Can Make It Difficult for Addicts to Get Help

Codependent people may sabotage an addict’s recovery by:

  • Being overprotective
  • Being controlling
  • Being manipulative

Codependency Can Increase the Risk of Relapse

Codependent people may create a chaotic and stressful environment for the addict by:

  • Constantly worrying about them
  • Dealing with the consequences of their addiction

How to Prevent Codependency from Enabling Addiction

There are a number of things that can be done to prevent codependency from enabling addiction:

  • Educate yourself about codependency and addiction. The more you know about these conditions, the better equipped you will be to help yourself or someone you love. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, learning about enabling behaviors and boundary setting can help families support an addict in recovery.
  • Set boundaries. It is important to set healthy boundaries with addicts. This means not enabling their addiction or bailing them out of trouble. It also means not allowing them to control or manipulate you. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), boundaries help family members disengage from codependent patterns.
  • Encourage the addict to get help. If you are concerned about an addict’s drug use, encourage them to seek professional help. There are many effective treatments available for addiction.
  • Take care of yourself. It is important to take care of yourself, both physically and emotionally. This means eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly. It also means spending time with people who make you feel good about yourself.

Signs You May Be in a Codependent Relationship with an Addict

If you recognize any of these patterns in your relationship with an addicted loved one, you may be codependent:

  • You constantly worry about them and try to solve their problems
  • You feel responsible for their happiness and wellbeing
  • You make excuses for their harmful behaviors
  • You have trouble saying no to their requests
  • Their needs always come before your own
  • You feel anxious when detached from them
  • You often feel angry, victimized, or unappreciated

Remember, you are not responsible for the choices of an addicted individual. You deserve a healthy relationship with boundaries. Help is available to overcome codependency.

Finding Support as a Codependent

Healing from codependency requires professional help, self-care, and community support. Here are some great options to consider on your journey:

  • Codependents Anonymous (CoDA) – Free 12-step meetings focused on developing healthy relationships. Online and in-person options available.
  • Individual counseling – A therapist can help you identify unhealthy patterns and establish boundaries. Look for someone well-versed in addiction and family systems.
  • Support groups – Connect with others impacted by a loved one’s addiction and codependency. Understanding and tips for self-care.
  • Reading – Books on codependency can offer insight and inspiration. The classic “Codependent No More” by Melody Beattie is a great start.
  • Self-care – Don’t neglect your own needs. Make time for exercise, hobbies, relaxation, and nourishing food. You matter too.

You don’t have to remain trapped in unhealthy relationship patterns. With help, codependency can be overcome.


Codependency is a serious problem that can have deadly consequences, as an interventionist I’ve witnessed firsthand. If you are codependent, it is important to seek professional help. A therapist can help you understand your codependency and develop healthy coping mechanisms. It is also important to attend support groups for codependents. These groups can provide you with support and understanding.

If you have a loved one who is struggling with addiction, it is important to be aware of the dangers of codependency. Set boundaries with the addict and encourage them to get help. And take care of yourself, so that you can be there for your loved one when they need you.

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