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
The main insight that people who drink too much create chaotic relationships
that are difficult or impossible for more normal people to interpret, understand
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
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
only sane advice is to insist that the drinking stop or the relationship should
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.