Why Does Mommy Need a Nap? Children of Alcoholics Making it All Better

Woman and child walking on rocks codependency mommy needs a nap

Children are programmed to watch and imitate.


What is Codependency?

The definition of codependency is “excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner. Especially one who requires support on account of an illness or addiction”.  At Sanford Behavioral Health, our Family Program addresses codependency and other coping mechanisms loved ones of those with substance use disorders employ to make things better. Those who live with addiction in the family are well aware of their efforts to smooth the ruffles in the family system. Is Daddy late for the school pageant? He was needed at work. Is a teenage Bobby in trouble again? It’s kids being kids. Why is Mom so tired all the time? She is busy and needs a nap; let me do that for you. 


Work issues indeed come up. Also, moms get tired from a busy schedule, and kids do the darndest things. But if the “reasons” for excusing a loved one’s transgressions are because of an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, codependency is at play, and no one benefits.




The effects of addiction stretch farther than the addicted individual alone. Addiction affects an individual’s friends, co-workers, baristas, etc. And addiction touches all members of a household, including the dog. Addicted behaviors impact the children particularly. Little ones are developing ideas about how the world works and how a family should function.


We must remember that kids see EVERYTHING. Kids aren’t oblivious bystanders; they pay attention to absolutely everything we do and say. It’s their job, after all, they are programmed to watch and copy. So what effects do our addictive behaviors have on our children? And where does codependency come in?



Like our reaction to most stimuli, COAs may respond to parental addiction externally or internally. Examples of external symptoms include rule-breaking, aggression, and impulsive behavior. Internal responses look more like anxiety and depression. It’s important to remember these behaviors may have roots in the indirect effects of addiction. For example, Dad’s substance use may not be why Carol fights with girls at her school. Instead, Carol witnesses domestic violence spurred by Dad’s drinking.


child on a branch with adult codependency children of alcoholics

Addiction touches all members of a household.



And then those externally or internally responding children grow up to be adults. Adults in marriages, performing professional duties, and parenting children. There is an entire 12-step organization dedicated to supporting adult children of alcoholics, who grew up in dysfunctional homes, and whose adverse childhood experiences have negatively impacted their adult life. Appropriately named Adult Children of Alcoholics, or ACOA. The organization’s website has many resources, including meetings, literature, and counselors.



The family programs at Sanford Behavioral Health were created to include our patients’ loved ones during treatment and beyond. Family involvement is one of the essential components of a healthy long-term recovery. Because of this, we provide these programs at no charge to our patients’ families.

Family members can be powerful allies in the recovery process. And while a person is in treatment, it is an excellent time to involve family members. During their loved one’s care, family members may begin to recognize behaviors and habits that have developed while trying to cope with addiction in the family. Family members will also receive support in shifting their focus to areas of their lives that may have become neglected.


Characteristics of Codependency

  • My good feelings about who I am stem from being liked by you.
  • The good feelings about who I am stem from receiving approval from you.
  • My mental attention is focused on you.
  • My mental attention is focused on protecting you. (And manipulating you to do it my way.)
  • I solve your problems to bolster my self-esteem.
  • And I relieve your pain to bolster my self-esteem.
  • I put my hobbies and interests to one side.
  • I feel you are a reflection of a codependent me.
  • You are a reflection of me. Therefore, your behavior is dictated by my desires.
  • I am unaware of how I feel. Only how you feel – the essence of codependency.
  • I am not aware of what I want – I ask what you want. I am not aware – I assume.
  • My fear of rejection determines what I say or do.
  • And my fear of your anger determines what I say or do.
  • I use giving as a way of feeling safe in our relationship.
  • My social circle diminishes as I involve myself with you.
  • I put my values aside to connect with you.
  • I value your opinion and way of doing things more than my own.
  • The quality of my life is in relation to the quality of yours.


Codependency Sound Familiar?

Do any of these statements resonate with you? The above list describes the experience and concept of codependency. A word, much like “bipolar,” that many people use, but few use correctly. Codependency isn’t about an individual’s preference for company. It’s about placing your self-worth, energy, and soul into another person. It assumes that another person will help you to define your best self. Does this describe you? Your children? Your natural and unconscious behaviors and interactions hold a lot of weight.


Sanford Behavioral Health is licensed and accredited as an addiction, eating disorder, and co-occurring mental health treatment facility, serving all of Michigan and beyond. Each of Sanford’s facilities in Greater Grand Rapids is carefully and diligently crafted to create a welcoming and comforting environment. Sanford is led by a psychiatrist-led team of medical, clinical, and support personnel providing medication-assisted, evidenced-based treatment to residential, outpatient, and telehealth patients. For more information, visit www.sanfordbehavioralhealth.com.