About the Film



Death and Dying

Family History



Copyright © 2000 Trish Williams


Co-dependency is a disease which defines the condition of the alcoholic’s spouse, although there are definitions which include all family members of the alcoholic.

“It [co-dependency] fits the disease concept in that it has an onset (a point at which the person’s life is just not working, usually as a result of an addiction), a definable cause (the person continues to deteriorate mentally, physically, psychologically, and spiritually), and, untreated, has a predictable outcome (death).” (Schaef 6)

A co-dependent is an enabler, who subtly supports the alcoholic’s drinking. Al-Anon and AA and Adult Children of Alcoholics follow the twelve step program. The first step states “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.” (Al-Anon 3) With the realization that the spouse cannot control the alcoholic or their drinking, the focus is shifted to the co-dependent who examines their own disease and gains control over their behavior.

A co-dependent is an enabler, who subtly supports the alcoholic’s drinking.

Alcoholism is more common than most people think. Due to the progressive nature of the illness, along with the alcoholic and co-dependent denial, it can be difficult to diagnose. Wiseman discusses how often, the wives of alcoholics have difficulty determining whether her husband is just a heavy drinker or an alcoholic. “Wives in the United States also indicate their early resistance to seeing themselves married to an alcoholic.” (Wiseman 24) Denial and manipulation from the alcoholic can lead to self-doubt in the wife’s questioning and state of mind. Incidents that trigger the wife’s potential diagnosis include hiding bottles, lying about finances, drunk driving and arrest.(Wiseman 26) Major behavior changes such as becoming undependable, lack of responsibility, personality changes such as uncharacteristic indifference or violence, confirm the wife’s suspicion. (Wiseman 28)


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