The Dance – Understanding the Alcoholic / Codependent Relationship

by Lisa Frederiksen

By way of background…
If a loved one enters a residential treatment program – it usually lasts around 28 days. At the end of treatment, clients are encouraged to go to an SLE – Sober Living Environment. That can be their home (as long as all alcohol has been removed and all persons in the home agree to abstain from drinking) or it can be a treatment center sponsored SLE (usually a home in a residential neighborhood where other clients also reside, along with an employee of the treatment center).

Now to my experience…
I’d told my loved one of my fears about what might happen if he insisted on coming home as his SLE, instead of following the treatment center’s recommendation and going to one of theirsThe Dance - Understanding the Alcoholic / Codependent Relationship.

Yet, when the time came, he started doing that “thing” he did, and I started doing that “thing” I did. He with that “I’m so sorry” expression, pressing me to let him come to our home instead of a treatment center SLE, to let him do what he wanted — playing on the notion that if I loved him, I would. And there I was acting on my feeling that I needed to somehow make it okay for him because if I loved him, I should. After all, he’d stopped drinking, gone into rehab — what more could I want or expect him to do? But I wasn’t ready. I was scared – what if I didn’t do what he needed done and he relapsed. And I was enjoying not having the constant worry about “what if…”.

It was us doing the “dance” we’d done a thousand times before. That day, I was furious to find myself even considering doing it, again. I erupted!

I erupted from a place so deep — a place where years of broken promises, lies, disappointments and deceit had festered, until this one. . . more. . . tiny. . . little request proved to be the last straw. I erupted because I simply didn’t know how to feel, let alone say, “No, this isn’t right for me. I don’t care if it’s right for you or the man in the moon. It isn’t right for me!

Instead, I was getting it all mixed up in my love for him and my ingrained belief that I had to do what he wanted as a demonstration of that love. I was getting it all mixed up in my belief that not doing so would be selfish on my part and in my world, being selfish was bad, bad, bad. Suddenly, it all came crashing in, and my fury poured out as we engaged one more time in the dance of manipulation we both did so well – a dance choreographed by years of fear, anger and love.

In dancing, it only takes one partner to change the step and thus the entire dance; it may even end the dance. The same is true in family recovery from this family disease. It just takes one, but if both change and learn the new steps and practice those steps, together, a new dance is created. Sometimes one or both will go back to the old one – that’s normal – it’s what is most comfortable; it’s what they’ve practiced for years. But a new dance is possible. It may be together; it may be solo, but it is possible. It just takes practice.
To read more about experiences like “the dance” and find the tools that helped me get a grip on my life, please read my book, If You Loved Me, You’d Stop!

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Lisa Frederiksen

Lisa Frederiksen

Author | Speaker | Consultant | Founder at
Lisa is the author of hundreds of articles and 11 books, including "If You Loved Me, You'd Stop!," "Addiction Recovery: What Helps, What Doesn't," and "Secondhand Drinking: the Phenomenon That Affects Millions." She is a national keynote speaker with over 25 years speaking experience, consultant, and founder of She has spent more than 14 years studying 21st century brain research in order to write, speak, and consult on substance use disorders prevention, intervention and treatment; mental disorders; addiction (aka substance use disorders) as a brain disease; adolescent addiction treatment vs adult addiction treatment; effective treatment for co-occurring disorders (having both a substance use and mental disorder); secondhand drinking | drugging; help for the family; and related subjects. In 2015, she founded SHD Prevention, providing training and consulting to companies, public agencies, unions, nonprofits and other entities to address the workplace impacts of employee secondhand drinking and alcohol misuse.

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