The damaging effects of alcohol addiction extend well past the life of the drinker, impacting family, friends and work environments. Alcohol consumption, in general, takes place in almost all segments of society with the family seeing the worst of its effects.
Those closest to the addict bear the brunt of addiction’s dysfunction, especially significant others. What’s even more disturbing is many spouses and significant others stick it out rather than leave the addict to his or her own devices. In this respect, is alcohol addiction contagious?
Interestingly enough, alcohol addiction generates its own cycle of dysfunction within the addict’s relationships, creating codependent partners along the way. Understanding how codependence develops out of alcohol’s damaging effects can shed some light on how this “contagion” has the power to destroy so many lives over time.
Codependency and Enabling
As far as alcohol addiction goes, partners who fall into codependent roles do so as a way to cope with the addiction problem. In the process, the codependent partner ends up being controlled by the addict’s behavior. From day to day, the codependent essentially enables the alcohol addiction problem by complying with the addicts’ demands.
Oftentimes, a person doesn’t even realize he or she is encouraging continued drinking. This plays out in different ways, whether it be lying for the addict, hiding his or her drinking from loved ones and friends or giving the addict money in hopes that he or she will eventually get treatment help.
Signs of Codependency
Codependency breeds ongoing emotional and psychological dysfunction within a person’s daily life through the efforts he or she makes to protect the addict and/or alcohol addiction. Under these conditions, a person starts to develop harmful traits that minimize his or her existence in the relationship.
These traits may take the form of:
- Obsessing over the addict’s shortcomings
- Low self-esteem
- Constantly worrying about the addict
- Inability to say no or set boundaries
- Inability to express how one feels
- Fear of rejection and/or abandonment
Who’s Most at Risk?
People most susceptible to falling into codependent roles have likely been exposed to this type of behavior on a long-term basis, such as during childhood. For this reason, certain risk factors make a person more likely to engage in codependent behaviors.
Risk factors to consider include:
- People who are recovering from substance abuse
- Adult children of alcoholics or parents who engaged in substance abuse
- Treatment professionals who work in the addiction field
- People raised by overly strict parental figures
Much like an alcohol addiction problem requires some form of treatment help, codependent behaviors will essentially take over a person’s life unless he or she takes steps to overcome it. In the absence of needed treatment help, a codependent partner will continue to pave the way for the addict to keep drinking.