Several years ago I recall working with a couple Jeff and Eileen (not their real names). In a session just prior to Father's Day, Eileen and Jeff were discussing their concerns about getting together with Jeff's parents for a family dinner to celebrate Father's Day. Jeff's sister and her husband would be there as well as his brother and partner. as well. It turns out that what happened that day changed Eileen and Jeff's relationship in a profound way, providing an impactful boost in intimacy, closeness, and trust.
There have been many studies over the years on the impact of alcoholism on couples and on families, but nobody had ever asked the question: What is normal in family recovery processes? This research has potential implications for all families impacted by any serious mental health, behavioral, or physical disorder.
At first glance denial might seem like an immature behavior, like pretending something isn't a problem when it clearly it is and others seem to see it for what it is. In a closer look, consider how psychology defines denial as a defense mechanism to avoid painful realizations. This inability to take in the reality of what is happening is actually an unconscious mechanism to protect the individual from painful or uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Typically, the stronger the denial, the more is at stake emotionally for the person.
Codependency is an ever-present concept in the language of recovery. Partners, family members, and friends of people who struggle with problematic substance and behavior are typically automatically assigned this label. It is assumed that anybody in a close relationship with a person with an addiction is, by definition codependent.
This is a really good question to grapple with, one that can be answered from many perspectives. Let's start with some definitions found in some mainline professional addiction treatment sources.