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A letter to addiction professionals

Hey professional peer, can you stop calling the loved ones of our clients who are struggling with addictions, codependent simply because they are with them? This language pathologizes someone who loves, cares, and worries about a person who is suffering. It just doesn’t make sense. I know your intention is to help them take care of themselves because two people drowning can’t help each other but wait a minute… if the opposite of addiction is connection, pathologizing loving behaviors is counterproductive. How about we help them navigate healthy and safe attachment behaviors so they can love the same while increasing emotional safety and creating tolerable boundaries for their loved ones in active addiction? Isn’t that what the long-proven attachment theory has shown us? The addiction field should stop using the term codependency and start using prodependency and healthy love. Because there is no such thing as “loving wrong” or “loving too much.”

In my practice, I keep seeing great professionals referring clients to CODA (codependent anonymous) groups where the concepts of tough love, problematic love, and trauma reenactment are at its center. In turn, I see people feeling guilty, ashamed, confused, and distrusting professionals who blame them for loving someone in active addiction. And I continue to see people in active addiction crawling in despair, guilt, and shame trying to do all on their own just to see themselves returning to use over and over again and further isolating themselves. I often have to dispute the impact that society has had on them by showing them that no one survives alone so who is benefiting from messages such as needing to be "self-sufficient," and "independent" at the cost of human connections? No human being lives without connection. Deep emotional connection is the root of self-efficacy and authenticity.

For addiction professionals who are interested in learning about evidence-based practices, here are some books and resources for your journey of increasing professional competency.

1. Prodependence: moving beyond codependency

2. Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) method

3. Attachment Theory with Dr. Sue Johnson

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