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Can you live non-codependently, with an alcoholic?

Old 01-08-2011, 05:50 AM
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Can you live non-codependently, with an alcoholic?

Hi, newbie here

I've been reading some topics over the last few weeks, and doing some googling ... the feeling I get, is that generally speaking, anyone living with an alcoholic is codependent, am I right in thinking that's the general gist of things?

If so, it's news to me I've never considered myself codependent with my husband, but am wondering if I am and seeing how/if it can apply to my situation.

It's hard too, because I don't think I'm an enabler ... but is a definition of an enabler someone doing something as basic as just living with an addict?
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Old 01-08-2011, 05:57 AM
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Hi Maverick and welcome to SR!

I am glad to read you're reading the forums and having a look around.

I also understand that it appears that
it's just an assumption
that anyone who lives with an alcoholic
or an addict who is in their addiction or disease
is automatically a codependent/enabler.

But while that's not 'necessarily' so ....

it's also true that what is considered a 'normal' person
just simply would not tolerate the behavior
and negative actions
that go along with someone
who is living for their addiction.

SO the answer is a definite ... 'kinda'.

It's not about judging someone as anything.
It's about discovering where WE fit in.

codependency is far more than someone who puts up with a drunk.

I hope you'll keep reading!

Others will be along soon to welcome you
and offer their experience strength and hope as well.
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Old 01-08-2011, 07:51 AM
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ooh gosh...why would a normie want to....? its HE!!, and it makes us sick of all the effects it does on the MIND BODY and SOUL...i say RUN! and run fast! because if you dont...its gonna be a bumpie ride!
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Old 01-08-2011, 07:58 AM
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perhaps you haven't heard of the frog in the pot explanation yet? put the frog in the pot and he will stay in there and boil to death coz he does not notice the gradual change in the heat. one of the best explanations of how codependence gets you.
i find it very hard to think that a non codependent could live with and alcoholic or actually, vice versa- it would be impossible for an alcoholic to live with a non codependent person because a normal person would not put up with someone who regularly poisons themselves on purpose.

can be like a setup when we are young and hopeful that we would not live out the behaviors we grew up with, but then without any other better examples to live by we do and end up playing the game.....just like the frog in the pot.
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Old 01-08-2011, 08:03 AM
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^^good one! (got it)
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Old 01-08-2011, 09:47 AM
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Originally Posted by escape artist View Post
perhaps you haven't heard of the frog in the pot explanation yet? put the frog in the pot and he will stay in there and boil to death coz he does not notice the gradual change in the heat.
That's just normal human behaviour. When things change gradually people don't notice it, or prefer to not consciously acknowledge what is happening and instead allow their subconscious to convince them that it'll all work out. Otherwise every single smoker and person with unhealthy eating habits is co-dependant. And looking at a more extreme example, most people who were western-world adults in the 1930's fits the frog description. Millions of Jews, known trade-unionists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Romani and known homosexuals continued living in Nazi controlled countries despite the ongoing infringements on their freedoms.

This is because people are extremely, extremely adaptable, it's the main reason for our success as a species. It allows us to get on with living in a fairly extreme range of living conditions. When changes happen bit by bit, we take them in our stride and this can occasionally be our downfall as well as one of our greatest assets. Because it lets people accept things they shouldn't have to because when things change for the worse gradually it tends to be initially easier to just accept them than to take a stand and call a halt.

So no OP, I wouldn't for one second assume someone was any more "co-dependant" than everyone else in the world just because they live with an alcoholic.
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Old 01-08-2011, 10:40 AM
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Hello, Maverick and welcome.

I'm new here myself. I've been web searching to learn all I can about alcoholism for several months. That search landed me here and I found a lifeline.

My research has also led me to believe that Codependency is a word not well-defined. It means different things to different things to different people. You can find excellent descriptions of codependency on this site and others. There are a lot of books on the subject.

I often behave in ways that could easily be described as co-dependent and so does my AH. But, I also engage in strong and powerful behaviors. I agree with barb dwyer's answer to your question.

For example: I bring my husband lunch in bed most days even though he's perfectly willing to make his own (unhealthy) lunch. I want him fed and sleepy so I have my afternoons to work uninterrupted. I'm currently going through all our personal papers, finances etc. He knows I'm cleaning out the file cabinet. He doesn't know I'm also making my self copies of everything and putting it in a small portable lock box so that should I need or want to leave I can pick up and go. I also am building a personal cash stash. I garden and grow about 90% of my own vegetables. I do some decorative sewing and right now I'm re-doing my kitchen. See what I mean? Kinda powerful and Kinda co-dependent.

I'm really not interested in wallowing in my co-dependent behaviors. I'm also not interested in crying about being a victim, a martyr or a prisoner. I am very fortunate that my children are grown. I'm done with tears. I'm taking my life back.
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Old 01-08-2011, 10:54 AM
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I'm really not interested in wallowing in my co-dependent behaviors. I'm also not interested in crying about being a victim, a martyr or a prisoner. I am very fortunate that my children are grown. I'm done with tears. I'm taking my life back.


Verbena, this is wonderful. Thank you so much.
You are positive influence on me, for sure.
I want to grow my own food, and have a small farm to become self sustainable.
(My long term goal.)
you are acting powerfully in your own best interests.


Beth
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Old 01-08-2011, 10:59 AM
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Hi Verbena, I am sort of new here and haven't taken the time to figure out how to use the "Quote" function yet, so apologies, anyway I can't quite get my hear around your example copied below:
For example: I bring my husband lunch in bed most days even though he's perfectly willing to make his own (unhealthy) lunch. I want him fed and sleepy so I have my afternoons to work uninterrupted.
Is he incapacited and bedridden ? Just curious why he gets food in bed at lunchtime????
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Old 01-08-2011, 10:59 AM
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I don't see ANY co-dependence in your post, Verbena. The things you do that may LOOK co-dependent on the outside, are in fact not co-dependent in your case. You are doing them as part of a plan to get yourself out of a bad situation. That IS empowerment and not at all co-dependent.
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Old 01-08-2011, 11:00 AM
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Is he incapacited and bedridden ? Just curious why he gets food in bed at lunchtime????

Verbena tells why she does that. She wants him fed and sleeping so she can do what she needs to do without interruption. She has a plan, and that is a good thing.
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Old 01-08-2011, 12:14 PM
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I think so. I can think of a few things I did that now I might call enabling of my alcoholic former husband, but for the most part, I don't think I was codependent with him. Equally, there were some things he did for me that could be construed as enabling as well. When he tried to prod me into the codependent side of the alkie-codie dance, I just thought he was nuts. (For example, he wanted me to nag him more. I believe I responded that he must be smoking crack, how many millions of husbands out there would give a great deal to have their wives nag them less?)

When I lived with him, I did get wildly frustrated over his refusal to take responsibility for his destructive actions, but I never thought what I now know to be typical alcoholic traits were normal.
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Old 01-08-2011, 12:50 PM
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Verbena, I see myself so much in what you wrote "I do some decorative sewing and right now I'm re-doing my kitchen." I would imagine that means doing all the painting, woodworking, and learning how to do some plumbing, also. I've been there! Done that! While all the time, my DDH just sat there watching me, playing games on his computer. I'm not going to say a word about "decorative sewing" because you probably enjoy that as much as I do. Just some words of caution, don't over do it! We're not as invincible as we would like to think we are!

Verbena .....brings her "husband lunch in bed most days even though he's perfectly willing to make his own (unhealthy) lunch. I want him fed and sleepy so I have my afternoons to work uninterrupted." She does this for the same reasons I was glad when my DDH was taking his pain killers for his broken neck......for some peace and serenity! I wouldn't be so gracious to my DDH with bringing him his lunch......without first adding some grinded up sleeping pills in his lunch......to ensure his sleep is sound and long! It's like when I was in one of my counseling sessions. I told my therapist I didn't have any problems that a little arsenic couldn't cure! (LOL)

Maverick28, what a way to be welcomed to SR! You have just witnessed first hand how the minds of codependents work!

Millions of people are affected by the excessive drinking of someone close. The twenty questions on the following link are designed to help you decide whether or not you need Al-Anon:

http://www.soberrecovery.com/forums/...self-test.html

Now let me explain to you what I think the definition of an enabler and a codependent are. To me, being an enabler and a codependent are not quite the same. A codependent is a person who behaves in overly passive or excessively caretaking ways that negatively impact one's relationships and quality of life. It, also, often involves putting one's needs at a lower priority than others while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of others. An enabler in most definitions is a person who through his or her actions allows someone else to achieve something. Most often the term enabler is associated with people who allow loved ones to behave in ways that are destructive. For example, an enabler wife of an alcoholic might continue to provide the husband with alcohol. A person might be an enabler of a gambler or compulsive spender by lending them money to get out of debt. In this fashion, though the enabler may be acting out of love and trying to help or protect a person, he or she is actually making a chronic problem like an addiction worse. By continuing to lend money to the gambler, for example, the gambler doesn’t have to face the consequences of his actions. Someone is there to bail him out of trouble and continue to enable his behavior.

I don't consider myself an enabler, but I'm a codependent with a capital "C" . I just refuse to support my DDH in some of his ideas. For instance, he wants to sue someone over an accident that I consider him responsible for. However, I've had to concede to him on other minor things in order to keep the peace! Sometimes those things have not been so minor! Sometimes it's easy to lose ourselves in the process of trying to keep the peace!

I hope that helps!

Just my personal opinion. Take what you like and leave the rest.

Love and Peace,

Phoenix
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Old 01-08-2011, 12:57 PM
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Hi @phoenixthebird...i so love the diffention of enabler and co....and thank you for sharing it...
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Old 01-08-2011, 01:00 PM
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Originally Posted by CSHNow View Post
Hi Verbena, I am sort of new here and haven't taken the time to figure out how to use the "Quote" function yet, so apologies, anyway I can't quite get my hear around your example copied below:
For example: I bring my husband lunch in bed most days even though he's perfectly willing to make his own (unhealthy) lunch. I want him fed and sleepy so I have my afternoons to work uninterrupted.
Is he incapacited and bedridden ? Just curious why he gets food in bed at lunchtime????
My AH keep odd hours. He is an early riser and a morning drinker. He get's up somewhere around 3 AM gets coffee and goes out to his little office/workshop for a few hours. Starts drinking around 6AM. He comes in sometime between 11:30 and 1PM. He's sloshed and hungry. Fill his tummy and he's out for two or more hours. I can work without interruption.
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Old 01-08-2011, 01:14 PM
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...I think it's possible to be non-codependent living with an alcoholic if the alcoholic is abusive. Then the behavior isn't so much "putting him above myself" but "appeasing him so he doesn't hurt me".

While I will admit I did have codependent behavior with G, looking on my past relationships prior to this I had very healthy boundaries. I did go way out of my way to help them (I WAS raised to be giving to the extreme), I also recognized when my efforts did not result in positive changes, I recognized when I was being taken advantage of, and I recognized when a person was not giving in return because they didn't want to (versus the short-term "because they can't right now due to their own issues").

I have helped my friends through some very tough times, and they have returned the favor for me. Anyone who I felt would not do the same for me in return if I needed it was removed from any status higher than a casual acquaintance.
G is my third relationship... While I will not go so far as to say that my first two had a lot of success or promise towards anything long term, they were mature and I got what I wanted/needed out of the relationship in the beginning, put a little extra effort in when they went sour, and got out when I determined that my efforts should have had more positive results than what I got out of it.

Fortunately for me I wrote a ton when I was younger, and while a lot of my writing is about being upset about the state of the world and why is there so much war and everything, none of it sounds like I was willing to be a doormat, it was all about doing something to make my little part of the world better, or in sorting out upset feelings (I wrote most often when I was depressed) so that I could work through them. Almost all of them have a very positive spin by the last two lines, even the ones about my grandmother dying of Alzheimer's.

I guess that's something to talk about with my therapist next week. This session I know I spent a lot of time talking about G, but it was more about the things he did that hurt me, and how to undo them. G always told me I was codependent, but maybe he was wrong?

I don't know. All I'm saying is, I'm sure it's possible, but I'd say that you can't just say "Nope! I'm not codependent" - you probably need to take a good long look at why you're sticking around, and then having someone objective (familiar with codependency and without an agenda) to sort through it and let you know what they see?

I try not to officially "self-diagnose" myself with anything, but to think about it a lot, figure out what I feel are the big issues on the table, and walk someone else through it so they can tell me what they're seeing inside what I'm saying.
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Old 01-08-2011, 01:17 PM
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Last edited by Verbena; 01-08-2011 at 01:21 PM. Reason: Double post
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Old 01-08-2011, 02:37 PM
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Thanks for the info and sorry to be nosy. Just seemed odd to me that you would give him lunch in bed, but then I have sort of a small world I think. I would find it difficult to live in your circumstances, however it's amazing isn't it how we adapt and become used to things, people, and places. Truthfully though if that works for you then go for it, but isn't he sort of taking advantage ?
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Old 01-08-2011, 02:45 PM
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Originally Posted by CSHNow View Post
isn't he sort of taking advantage ?
That's what alcoholics do. They'll take advantage of anyone who will help them fuel their addiction.

The difference in this case, though, is that:
HE thinks he's taking advantage of lulu by getting her to prepare him lunch in bed while she "cleans out the filing cabinet", but really SHE is taking advantage of his desire to sleep all afternoon so that she can get her copies made and important documentation all backed up.

In short, for the moment, it's kind of like some weird quasi-symbiotic relationship thing... for now. Then Verbena will have her freedom on her own terms, and the balance turns in her favor. *Grins*
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Old 01-08-2011, 03:10 PM
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I'm not a fan of labels.

I'd say, no it does not make you co-dependent. In fact, there is no universal standard for co-dependency and there is a reason it isn't a clinical diagnosis.

Caring for people isn't co-dependency.
Nor is worrying, hoping or loving.

I think people take it to the extreme and seem to think that helping anyone or admitting any type of 'need' is co-dependency. It isn't.

People need one another.

The problems happen when we subdue our own happiness for the other person, and the other person takes more from us than we have to give. So we keep giving and giving at our own expense. To me that is what co-dependency is.

Don't try to label who you are, just be honest with yourself about what you are doing and what price you really are paying.

There is such a thing as denial. Denying that an alcoholic has a problem or that it doesn't affect you. It does. Even if you aren't thinking about it on a conscious level, it does.

If it makes it easier to put a label on it fine, but that doesn't always get to the core issues within us that allow us to put up with things or why we let things affect us as they do.

Sometimes seeing the truth in a situation is too painful to acknowledge so we put a mental and emotional block on ourselves for self preservation.

We also normalize very stressful things because the alternative (having to face the pain) isn't something we are ready for.

Just be aware of the toll (realized or not) that living/loving an alcoholic takes on you.

Take care of yourself.
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