Is dating someone codependent to alcoholics – when you are not an alcoholic – a sign of codependence itself?

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on August 1st, 2011 - Last updated: November 20th, 2023
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Dear Stanton:

I am currently attracted to a woman who has a history of dating alcoholics. When she told me that she had allowed her alcoholic ex-lover to crash on her couch indefinitely, I had to step back from the situation. I’ve tabled my romantic expectations, but I am not sure about our friendship.

Since I’ve had my fair share of alcoholic lovers, I know I can coddle abusive personalities. My fear is that I will enter into a friendship with this woman in which I’m coddling her addiction to addictive personalities. This is obviously unhealthy for me as well.

My current solution has been to limit my communication with her to letters and email. I find that it’s too easy for me to get caught up in the drama over the phone, and visits are obviously a bad idea.

Does this seem like a reasonable response? Do you think I should go one step further and sever the friendship completely?


Dear Mary:

Yes, your approach is sensible. It’s up to you whether to sever the relationship entirely, but I think you need to do everything to avoid becoming intimately involved with this person. I think of that line from “Casablanca” — “of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she had to walk into mine.” How is it that you and your friend both end up constantly with alcoholics? Is it where you meet people, is it because you feel unable to relate to ordinary (i.e., non-alcoholic) people, do you somehow signal that you accept/prefer alcoholics, do you make no demands for yourself in relationships and so end up with people with major problems who drain you?

I think you agree, you should change this aspect of your romantic life. In the meantime, follow a simple: “No alcoholics” rule. And, as you seem to feel, that should extend to other co-alcoholics.


I tend to be attracted to emotionally unstable people and alcoholics are a subcategory of that group. I often find myself taking care of a mate rather than engaging in an actual relationship. I think this behavior stems my insecurities, namely that I have thought in the past that I had to take care of someone in order to be wanted. I guess it all comes down to my sense of self-worth.



You analysis is the one I make in Love and Addiction. Whatever your reasons, I think knowing what you know about the costs of these relationships, you are obligated to avoid them.


Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

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