The connection between addiction and codependency is, more or less, twofold in nature. In general, codependency is often part of a relationship between an addict and someone else in his or her life. Someone who is in a relationship with another person who has an addiction will typically display aspects of codependency. Codependency itself, however, can also be considered an addiction, specifically an addiction to an addict and the caretaking and enabling that a codependent person experiences with the addict. Addiction and codependency often go hand-in-hand, and many addicts have previous experiences as codependents in their past.
One of the easiest ways to understand the connections between addiction and codependency is to first consider what each term means. Addiction is, in general, a psychological or physiological compulsion or need to do something. This often involves some type of chemical addiction, such as to drugs or alcohol, though other forms of addiction can be equally powerful. Codependency usually refers to the state of a person other than the actual addict who is in a relationship with the person suffering from an addiction. This codependent can be a spouse, child, sibling, or any other person who is important in the life of the addict.
The bond between addiction and codependency typically forms as the codependent acts in a way that allows the addict to continue his or her addiction. A codependent will often suffer from low self-esteem and his or her sense of worth comes from the relationship he or she has with the addict. Someone who is a codependent will often make excuses for an addict, perhaps helping him or her with money and enabling the addiction to continue. But addiction and codependency does not merely involve an effort to help someone continue an addiction, as the codependent actually thrives on the relationship.
The codependent is typically addicted to his or her relationship with the addict, and can no more easily break away from him or her than the addict could break away from whatever is being enabled. This type of relationship becomes reciprocally destructive and the interplay between addiction and codependency often makes it harder for each person in the relationship to extract himself or herself from the situation. The codependent helps the addict stay addicted, and with each act of enabling the codependent only increases his or her own addiction to the relationship.
In fact, the term “codependent” stems from the idea that an addict is dependent upon the object of his or her addiction while the other person is dependent upon the addiction for his or her own needs. There is also a tendency for addiction and codependency to be potentially indicative of each other in the future. Many people who develop addictions later in life have early experiences with codependency, typically as a child to someone who suffers from an addiction. These children may unknowingly enable their parents to continue their addiction, and ultimately find themselves becoming addicts and developing codependent relationships with others.