It is impossible to have a website like this without mentioning codependency.  This is a topic (or a condition) that some believe lies at the heart of the relationship between the drinker and partner.  It is a topic that is surrounded by controversy and emotion, almost as much as alcoholism and addiction.  Below we give a brief description of the more common views of codependency before we explain the view we at bottled-up have of the condition

What is Codependency?

There are various views about what codependency may or may not be, including some who even question whether it is even a real condition at all.  At one extreme it is believed by some to be a ‘disease’ that is in place long before the relationship with the drinker.  In this view sufferers have an inability to form healthy relationships, usually as a result of growing up in a dysfunctional family.  In this view they sought a relationship with a drinker or some other unreliable person because they need to ‘caretake’ and control someone and the drinker would fill that need and provide a purpose and a role for the codependent.

Others also see it is a ‘disease’, but one that is caused by living with a person who has an addiction.  Slowly they are drawn into the addict’s world and addiction and the need for control in their lives lead to psychological and emotional problems.

A less pathological view is that living with a person with an addiction brings a whole set of difficulties and it is not surprising that someone’s behaviour would change.  However, the persistence with these behaviours and methods lead to frustration, depression, learned helplessness, anxiety etc.

In Bottled-up we believe that for most this last view is the most relevant.  That is we believe that much of the behaviour known as codependency is ‘normal’.   We believe that most of these behaviours and emotions are a natural response to an extremely difficult situation.

We in no way deny that, for some, codependency may exist prior to the partnership with the drinker.  Indeed, if you find yourself unable to sustain intimate relationships it may be advisable to seek further help beyond this website.

For the majority of you in this website a change of behaviour, as suggested here, should be sufficient to reduce the worst of the symptoms of Codependency.  Many of these symptoms arise from repeated ineffectual attempts to control and contain the addictive behaviour and we want to show you different, more productive, ways to react and behave.

Symptoms of Codependency 

One of the main characteristics of Codependency behaviour is that it tends to perpetuate the addiction.  Obviously this is not the intention that drives the behaviour, but it does tend to be the result.  As we stated elsewhere on this website, the repeated unsuccessful attempts at controlling the drinkers consumption lead to particular patterns of behaviour in the partner.  These are:-

Controlling behaviour:- It is natural for you to want control of your environment and your life.  However, controlling a drinker’s behaviour tends to lead to arguments as they feel that they are being demeaned and
distrusted and this makes them want to rebel against any controls.

Perfectionism – means you need to get it right all the time, and so does everyone else.  The fact that this is not happening brings out continually more extreme attempts at control.

Avoidance of feelings – I’m allright, I’m fine.  If we don’t acknowledge feelings maybe they will go away.

Intimacy problems – avoidance of sexual or intimate behaviours and feelings.

Hypervigilance – when the drinker’s behaviour is the constant source of worry.  Where plans are continually being made in the event of his drinking.  Little attention is left for self.

Physical and/or psychological illness related to stress – eventually all of the above behaviours will take their toll, physically and emotionally.  Sleep patterns and diet are often the first to go so there is weight loss, or gain.  Anxiety whether or not accompanied by depression is common.

Bottled-up View

In Bottled-up we believe that many of these ‘symptoms’ can be found in people who live with problems drinkers.  We believe that one does not need to suggest that the partner of a drinker has a disease or a disorder to account for these ‘symptoms’.  If anyone is living in an environment that they have no control over, is it strange that they try to exert some control?  If someone has no idea when their partner will appear from the bar, who with, in what state and in what mood is it extraordinary that they spend a lot of time worrying.  I wouldn’t have thought so!

Where we do agree with some of the codependency literature is that these behaviours, natural or not, are counterproductive.  They exacerbate the very behaviours that they were designed to stop.  So what we feel is that you don’t need to be ‘cured’ of a disease but you do need to look at other, more effective ways of behaving.

This is a short overview of a complex and muddied area.  If you have any views, theories or observations on the topic please let us know what they are.