Alcohol Problems


Some Topics

  • Co-Dependency

    Some have suggested that the real purpose of adulthood is to heal the psychic wounds of childhood. Often, the “damage” left by a troubled childhood expresses itself as disordered eating and drinking. The disorder becomes complicated because you not only have to deal with an impulsive child who resists change but you are also a damaged adult, who is either afraid of change, or lacks the resources to change, or both. Some strange interpretations of co-dependency have emerged that confuse rather than clarify relationships of normal and alcoholic people.

    The main insight that people who drink too much create chaotic relationships that are difficult or impossible for more normal people to interpret, understand or sustain.

    One idea of co-dependency is that two (or more) people form a clinging relationship, because neither can cope with life's challenges independently. Every human needs other humans to live a successful life. The issue is not just the need for another person, but how the need or dependency is expressed. If a relationship begins with a one-sided tilt, a dysfunction and weaker partner takes more from a stronger partner; the result often is that both people become equally dysfunctional.

    A sober spouse of an alcoholic is inevitably drawn into a maze of confusing and contradictory events. The healthy spouse may have the personal resources and willingness to sustain a bad relationship, hoping that the drinker will reform. Often the drinking partner regrets drunken behaviors when sober and promises to reform. The tragedy of the relationship is that all the good intentions are finally defeated. Both partners are injured in a variety of ways and sometimes one or both dies.

    If you were counseling the healthy partner early in the relationship with an alcoholic, the only sane advice is to insist that the drinking stop or the relationship should end.

    An alcoholic parent creates a remarkable cascade of disability in the rest of the family. The children are often trapped in an abusive, controlling relationship with one or both parents. They learn all about dysfunctional relationships and may fail to complete the stages of childhood growth and development that are required to form a healthy adult personality.

    Food and alcoholic beverages often serve as buffers between conflicting adults or parents and children. Food reward and punishment schemes are often used to control children's behavior and often result in confused, emotional eating patterns. We know that foods affect the mood and thinking patterns of many people, and that compulsive eating patterns are linked to depression, conflict and family chaos.

    Any attempt by one person in a family to seek healthy change is opposed. Our nice ideas of rational, methodical changes are unwelcome. We often encounter patients who compulsively eat and drink. They suffer many symptoms from the food they eat but cannot change. They feel trapped, helpless, and desperately need food, drink, work, and sometimes drugs to feed their insatiable desires for something to relieve their suffering. They do not have a healthy-enough adult to organize positive changes. They must build responsible attitudes and skills and always need help, usually for many month or years.

    Laura Wills stated:" Suffering from any addiction means we rightly focus on the person in recovery, making sure they get the help and support they need. Sometimes however, we forget that the people who care about the individual in recovery can often end up badly affected, none more-so than the children of addicts. It is true that children are very resilient, but it does not mean they are never affected by what they witness.

    • You are at Alpha Online, the host of the Alcohol Solutions Center. Topics are from the book Alcohol Problems and Solutions by Stephen Gislason MD.

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