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Benefits and costs of alcoholic relationships and recovery through Al-Anon.

Young LB, Timko C. Benefits and costs of alcoholic relationships and recovery through Al-Anon. Substance use & misuse. 2015 Jan 1; 50(1):62-71.

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BACKGROUND: Codependence is an ambiguous and disputed term often used to characterize both those who maintain relationships with alcoholics and those who seek help through resources such as Al-Anon Family Groups. OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this article is to better understand non-pathological reasons for maintaining alcoholic relationships and for help-seeking by detailing the costs and benefits of those choices. METHODS: The costs and benefits both of remaining in an alcoholic relationship and of seeking help in Al-Anon were identified through a review of available research on alcoholic family systems, Al-Anon, and other mutual-support groups. RESULTS: Alcoholic relationships may benefit concerned others by preserving self-identity, social identity, values, security, stability, and hope. Costs of alcoholic relationships include physical symptoms, injury, mental problems, financial difficulty, legal troubles, and relational distress. Al-Anon is perceived beneficial for six primary reasons: Al-Anon philosophy, format, social support, accessibility, effectiveness, and potential to change the drinker's behavior. Possible costs of Al-Anon include marginalization of the concerned other, blame, codependent pathology, sexist stereotyping, substitute dependency, and perpetuating victimization. Conclusions/Importance: The identified costs and benefits of alcoholic relationships and help-seeking in Al-Anon can help to model decision-making processes using existing behavioral health frameworks without defaulting to the stigmatized and ambiguous codependence terminology.

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