The Cycle of Addiction and Codependency

by Julie Neale
July 22, 2019

The fall of our son’s senior year at college, we realized many things were not adding up. He no longer wanted to come home for a visit, he was sick often and was doctor shopping, he had dropped most of his spring semester’s classes, and he was always needing money. If it were anybody else’s child, I would tell them this sounds like addiction. My husband said he felt sure our son was an addict. My first response was denial. One would think I knew better considering the family I came from, but as Melody Beattie says, “Denial is the shock absorber for the soul.”

I grew up in a big, fun, chaotic family where alcohol and even some drugs flowed freely. My father was a very successful orthopedic surgeon and a high-functioning alcoholic for many years. But after he retired and had too much time on his hands, he realized he couldn’t control his drinking and needed help. He went to treatment and lived a sober life for many years until his death. My oldest sister, too, was an alcoholic who went to treatment twice as a young adult and then, sadly, took her own life.

I couldn’t understand why my father and sister couldn’t just make a decision to stop drinking. Why did my son have the same problem? Why could so many other people control their drinking, yet my family members could not? Did their lack of control point to a moral defect or a lack of self-discipline? Surely experiencing the pain and consequences from their behavior would be enough to make a person stop. I was terribly perplexed. I began to ask, is addiction a choice?

I was determined not to let our son’s addiction do to him what it had done to my sister or my father. Little did I know how powerless I was! I became obsessed with him: where he was, how he was, and what he was doing. I was in so much pain that I tried to learn everything I could about addiction. I read the AA Big Book and many books for codependents. I attended recovery groups and found a sponsor. I began to understand and believe that addiction is a disease and not a moral defect. But through my search for understanding, I also realized I couldn’t control or change my son—I can only work on myself. Just as the addict is addicted to a substance, I am addicted to my addict. Is codependency a choice?

This video clip called “The Cycle of Addiction” from solidified my understanding of addiction and codependency.

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Julie Neale

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  1. This was a really good read and a great visual demonstration. I have known this info forever as I grew up in an addicted household but every time I read it again, or like content it hits a new bone! Thank you for sharing!!

    • Tracey, thank you for reaching out! Together we are stronger!

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