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Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Alcohol Abuse And Codependency: A Psychologist's Point of View

Written by  Dr. Louise Klein

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In Drinking Drama: The Codependent Wife, there has probably been a gradual slide into concern with drinking problems in Lia and Robert's marriage. What started out as a few too many drinks in a social situation has become an addiction. Robert now drinks every day, he drinks when alone instead of only with company and his drinking is affecting his behavior. He and his family are in trouble.

In the early years of their marriage Robert's drinking was probably confined to the weekend so if he were hung over it was not "a big deal." He could take a few aspirins, drink lots of coffee and just sleep it off.

Not a problem, right?


Even then it was likely that Lia was resentful of the lost weekends. After drinking Saturday night Robert didn't have the energy to do chores on Sunday or visit with family. He just wanted Lia to keep the kids quiet and to tiptoe around him. He slept late and stayed on the couch all day while she felt like she never got a break. Plus she got tired of making excuses about why he never accompanied her on weekend activities. Sometimes she said that he was exhausted from a hard week at work. At other times she would phone her friends and say that one of the kids was sick so that she wouldn't have to face going somewhere without him. Covering up for a spouse is a sure sign that the couple are in a dance of co-dependency.

At that point Lia would have done anything to "keep the peace" in the house. She was afraid to set limits on his drinking or his behavior. The few times that she tried to urge him to drink less he responded angrily so she learned to keep quiet. But as she did this her resentment and frustration grew. The situation is ready to explode by the time they have reached the above dialogue.

It's an oft-repeated line that it's "only beer" or "only wine." These are still alcohol. If she tries to dump it all down the sink he'll probably just get in the car and drive to the nearest liquor store or bar. Driving "with a buzz on" is just another term for driving drunk. Maybe he'll be pulled over by the police and given a warning or suspension. But he could also have an accident and hurt or kill himself or someone else. Or maybe nothing at all will happen and this will just increase his feeling of invulnerability, as there will be no consequences to driving under the influence.

By now Lia is not sure how much more of this she can tolerate. She blames the drinking as if it's a living, breathing being that's destroying her marriage. She's tired of feeling trapped in this relationship. She's worried about the effect that the arguments are having on her children. But mainly she's scared about being abandoned or having to leave Robert. She's worried about how she would support herself and the children. And what could she possibly tell them about why she and their dad are no longer together?

Lia's first step needs to be taking care of herself. She talks about her alcoholic father and how she feels that she was set up to marry someone with similar issues. She should join Al-Anon, a support group for people who are living with an alcoholic. She could obtain a list of meetings by making a phone call to her local chapter of Alcoholic's Anonymous. There she would learn that she is only responsible for her own choices and actions, not Robert's. She can't make him stop drinking, but she can change the fruitless way they currently argue. She will learn to set limits with him and stick to them. Lia would also benefit from some individual counseling. She needs to increase her self-esteem so that she will not be afraid of Robert leaving her if she starts to assert herself. She will learn that she deserves more from her marriage.

It will not be useful to leave literature from AA or alcohol rehabilitation programs "lying around" for Robert to stumble upon. This will just make him angry and more defiant about not having a problem. Lia's best course of action may be to get on with her life without worrying about whether he'll be sober enough to make an appearance.

For example, she could have handled the dinner with her new friend in another way. Lia could have just planned to have dinner with Adrienne without including Robert. If he asked her why he's not included, she could answer him in a straightforward manner that she couldn't be sure that he would have behave appropriately. If he got angry and defensive she could have quietly left the room and not become drawn into an argument. Of course this will be difficult! I'm not trying to minimize that fact, but Lia needs to develop ways of relating to Robert that are different. She needs to stop making excuses for him. She'll have to start small and make changes as her confidence grows.

Most people with addictions seek help only when they've "hit bottom." Robert has got to be the one who wants to change his life. He may realize that he'll lose his family or his job, or both, if he keeps drinking. Maybe a co-worker will notice the days when Robert is hung-over and tell their captain. Most fire departments have access to counseling through Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). Sometimes an intervention is done and proves to be effective. This is where the family and friends of the alcoholic confront him as a group about his drinking. But this should only be done with the guidance of a therapist, as resources need to be in place immediately if the person agrees to seek help.

View Drinking Drama: The Codependent Wife!

Last modified on Wednesday, 23 February 2011 07:07
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Dr. Louise Klein

Dr. Louise Klein

Louise Klein was born on the West Coast of Canada but lived for many years in Los Angeles and Philadelphia. She has a doctorate in clinical psychology from Widener University in Pennsylvania. Dr. Louise Klein is an experienced therapist in insight-oriented talk therapy. She has worked with individuals, couples and groups for many years. Her experience with families includes stepfamilies, adoptive families, nuclear families and families dealing with illness or death. Dr Klein is also trained in thought field therapy and regression therapy and has taught and worked internationally. Louise Klein lives in a rural community with her husband and St. Bernard and has a stepdaughter in college in New England.

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