"Robert was born with a genetic predisposition to have a fatal disease, Alcoholism. His childhood inflicted a second fatal disease on him. My friend Robert was one more of the many Alcoholics to die of Codependence."


"Grave emotional and mental disorders is AA language for codependence. . . . Bill Wilson would have run to a ACA or CoDA meeting because that is where he could have found the roots of the depression which tormented him."


"Unfortunately, the Twelve Steps as practiced in AA are not always enough. Not because the Twelve Step process is not enough - but because the way it is practiced in AA leaves out a vitally important level of healing. That is the level of healing the emotional wounds. We can deal with our grave emotional and mental disorders by having the capacity to be honest with ourselves. That includes being emotionally honest with ourselves."

Welcome to a page of Joy to You and Me

the Web Site of Robert Burney and Joy to You and Me Enterprises.

Robert Burney is a codependency therapist, Spiritual teacher, and the author of the Joyously inspirational book

Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls.

This page is about Alcoholism and Codependence.
Quotations in maroon are from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney (Copyright 1995). Quotations from columns & articles (Copyright 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999) written by Mr. Burney are noted and in blue text. Blue text material that is not in quotes is from Robert's upcoming book Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light (Copyright 1998) unless otherwise noted. There are several authors quoted in excerpts from The Dance of Wounded Souls, those are noted with copyright acknowledgment at the end of the applicable page.


Alcoholism and Codependence

"I bring the term "milestone" up at this point because the term "Codependent" has evolved out of a vitally important event or milestone in this century. A milestone whose ripple effect has been vitally important in laying the groundwork for the change that has taken place in human consciousness.  

I believe that in a hundred years historians will look back and pinpoint this milestone as the single most important event in the twentieth century. This milestone was the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous in Akron, Ohio, in June of 1935. 

Besides the invaluable gift of sobriety that AA has given to millions of Alcoholics, it also started a revolution in Spiritual consciousness. 

The dramatic success and expansion of AA facilitated the spread of a radically revolutionary idea which has traditionally, in Western Civilization, been considered heresy. This was not a new idea but rather a reintroduction and clarification of an old idea, coupled with a formula for practical application of the concept into day-to-day human life experience. 

This revolutionary idea was that an unconditionally Loving Higher Power exists with whom the individual being can personally communicate. A Higher Power that is so powerful that it has no need to judge the humans it created because this Universal Force is powerful enough to ensure that everything unfolds perfectly from a Cosmic Perspective. 

This reintroduction of the revolutionary concept of an accessible Loving God has been clarified to specifically include the concept that the individual being can define this Universal Force according to his/her own understanding, and can develop a personal, intimate relationship with this Higher Power. 

In other words, no one is needed as an intermediary between you and your creator. No outside agency has the right to impose upon you its definition of God. 

The spread of Alcoholics Anonymous, and the other Anonymous programs which sprang out of AA, is the widest and most effective dissemination of this radical revolutionary concept that has ever occurred in Western Civilization. 

Mystics, gnostics, and certain "primitive" peoples have, throughout recorded human history, understood the Truth in this concept but the "organized religions" of urban-based civilizations have persecuted, tortured, and crucified any messengers or groups of people who believed in a Loving, personal God or Goddess - because it threatened the power of those organized religions' control over the masses and therefore their very existence. This time the dissemination of the message has been effective because: The time was right; the revolutionary concept was camouflaged as part of a successful treatment for a fatal, incurable disease; and it was accompanied by the Twelve Step Spiritual program.  

The Twelve Step program of AA provides a practical program for accessing Spiritual power in dealing with day-to-day human life. A formula for integrating the Spiritual into the physical. Even though some of the steps, as originally written, contain shaming and abusive wording, the Twelve Step process and the ancient Spiritual principles underlining it are invaluable tools in helping the individual being start down, and stay on, a path aligned with Truth. 

It is out of the Twelve Step Recovery movement that our understanding of the dysfunctional nature of civilization has evolved. It is out of the Alcoholic Recovery movement that the term "Codependent" has emerged." 


"The condition of Spiritual dis-ease has been a part of the human experience for so long - for thousands of years - that some of its symptomatic defenses have been genetically adapted by the evolving human species. Alcoholism, I believe, is just one example of a genetically transmitted, physical disease that is an adapted behavioral defense against the pain of Spiritual dis-ease."

 (Quotations from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney)

The Death of an Alcoholic 

By Robert Burney M.A.

"As long as we look outside of Self - with a capital S - to find out who we are, to define ourselves and give us self-worth, we are setting ourselves up to be victims. 

We were taught to look outside of ourselves - to people, places, and things; to money, property, and prestige - for fulfillment and happiness. It does not work, it is dysfunctional. We cannot fill the hole within with anything outside of Self. 

You can get all the money, property, and prestige in the world, have everyone in the world adore you, but if you are not at peace within, if you don't Love and accept yourself, none of it will work to make you Truly happy."
Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney

 My friend Robert died the other day. He died alone in a hotel room and his body wasn't found for two days. He weighed 125 pounds when he died.

Robert was an alcoholic who couldn't stay sober. He had been through full thirty day (and longer) treatment programs at least 15 times. He had been in detox fifty times easily. Drinking had destroyed his body. Robert should have been dead years ago. In the past 3 or 4 years almost every time he drank he ended up in intensive care. I did much of my grieving for my friend three years ago, the last time I rescued him from his cabin on Taos Mountain and took him to the emergency room. 

Robert went to lots of meetings and tried real hard to work the program but on one critical point he didn't have enough humility. He did not have enough humility to accept that he was lovable. 

My friend had made and lost fortunes in his life. He had been with lots of women and had lots of possessions. He still had lots of possessions when he died. He still had the cabin in Taos Ski Valley but he didn't have the strength to walk up the fifty steps to the front door. 

Robert used money to try to buy friendship and love. And then he felt betrayed because he believed that people only wanted to be around him for his money. If you were friendly to him for no apparent reason then he would talk about giving you money because that gave you an excuse to care about him. He just could not believe that he was worthy of love just for who he was. 

Robert was full of shame. He was full of shame because he was raised in a dysfunctional family in a shame-based society. His Father was a verbally/emotionally abusive perfectionist for whom nothing was ever good enough. His mother was too terrified and shame-based to protect her son. 

As a young child Robert got the message that he wasn't lovable but that if he was successful enough and made enough money he might earn the right to be loved. He was successful and made lots of money but it did not work to convince him that he was good enough. 

My friend had no permission from himself to receive love. When I published my book I listed him among people who had touched my life on the Acknowledgements Page. When he saw his name listed there he cursed me (his generation, and mine, were taught to relate to other men that way, to say 'I love you' by calling each other names) and cried briefly (which he felt was very shameful) and then he drank. In his relationship with himself Robert was too shame-based to believe that he was lovable. 

I believe that the great majority of Alcoholics are born with a genetic, hereditary predisposition that is physiological. Environment does not cause Alcoholism. Robert was not an Alcoholic because he was shame-based - it was because of his shame that he could not stay sober. He had a blustery, 'hail-fellow-well-met', in your face kind of ego-strength that was very fragile. As soon as he got sober his ego defenses would fracture and the shame underneath would cause him to sabotage his sobriety. 

That doesn't mean that people who can stay sober don't have shame. Some of us just have more ego defenses that buries the shame deeper. That is good news in early sobriety because it helps one to stay sober. It can be bad news later on because it can cause us to resist growth and to not have the humility to be teachable The reason that I am alive today is because I was able to go to treatment for Codependence in my fifth year of recovery while working as a therapist in a treatment center. I had sworn that I would kill myself before I drank again and the feelings which were surfacing had me close to it when I went to Sierra Tucson. That was where I met Robert. 

What killed my friend were the grave emotional and mental disorders caused by growing up with parents who did not love themselves in a dysfunctional family in an emotionally-dishonest, Spiritually-hostile, shame-based society. What killed Robert was his Codependence. His relationship with himself was full of self-hatred and shame and he couldn't stay sober long enough to get to the point where he could deal with his childhood issues. 

Robert was born with a genetic predisposition to have a fatal disease, Alcoholism. His childhood inflicted a second fatal disease on him. My friend Robert was one more of the many Alcoholics to die of Codependence.

Sacred Spiral

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Grave Emotional and Mental Disorders

By Robert Burney M.A.

"We are all carrying around repressed pain, terror, shame, and rage energy from our childhoods, whether it was twenty years ago or fifty years ago. We have this grief energy within us even if we came from a relatively healthy family, because this society is emotionally dishonest and dysfunctional.  

When someone "pushes your buttons," he/she is activating that stored, pressurized grief energy. She/he is gouging the old wounds, and all of the newer wounds that are piled on top of those original wounds by our repeating behavior patterns."
Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney

When I first got into recovery one of the things that I was told was that 'all I had to change was everything'. I had no idea what that meant back then. Now I know that it means that I needed to change my attitudes, beliefs, and definitions about myself and everything in my life. I needed to start surrendering my way of seeing things, of doing life. 

One of the first surrenders that I had to make was to let go of doing things 'my way.' (I used to sit in bars and get tears in my eyes over Frank Sinatra's recording because I was also doing it 'My way.') I had to start listening to those weird people who were telling me that I could live without alcohol. Then I had to start letting go of my belief that life was impossible without drugs and alcohol. 

Every time I go through a surrender in my recovery I am letting go of some of the ego definitions that have defined my relationship with myself and life. I have to let go of the attitudes and beliefs that I adapted because of the emotional trauma that I suffered as a child (which are still buried in my subconscious until I became willing to look at them.) 

There is an old AA saying that, 'AA doesn't open up the gates of heaven and let us in it opens up the gates of hell and lets us out.' What we are let out into is life. The only way that I had known how to deal with life up to that time was to drink and use. The Twelve Steps are a formula for learning how to deal with life in a Spiritual way, and they saved my life. 

Unfortunately, the Twelve Steps as practiced in AA are not always enough. Not because the Twelve Step process is not enough - but because the way it is practiced in AA leaves out a vitally important level of healing. That is the level of healing the emotional wounds. We can deal with our grave emotional and mental disorders by having the capacity to be honest with ourselves. That includes being emotionally honest with ourselves. And the only way to achieve emotional honesty is by releasing the grief energy that we are carrying around - the pain, terror, shame, and rage from our childhoods. 

Until we deal with our emotional wounds, we do not have the ability to be emotionally honest in the moment. Until we change our relationship with our own emotions it is impossible to be comfortable in our own skins. 

Emotional energy manifests in the body. Our attitudes, definitions, and beliefs (subconscious and conscious) dictate our perspective of life and our expectations of ourselves, others, and life. Those perspectives and expectations set us up to react emotionally to life events. If we have not dealt with the old wounds then we will live life in reaction - overreacting (or underreacting to keep from overreacting) - when our 'buttons are pushed.' Our fear of our own reactions determines the quality of our relationships. Until we go back and heal our childhood emotional wounds we cannot successfully change the old tapes we cannot achieve a healthy, emotionally honest relationship with ourselves and others. 

Grave emotional and mental disorders is AA language for Codependence. Codependence is all about having a dysfunctional relationship with self: with our own bodies, minds, emotions, and spirits; with our own gender and sexuality; with being human. Because we have dysfunctional relationships internally we have dysfunctional relationships externally. Because we cannot be emotionally honest with ourselves we aren't really being totally honest with anyone ever. 

Bill Wilson would have loved to have had the tools we have available to us today. He would have run to an ACA or CoDA meeting because that is where he could have found the roots of the depression which tormented him. 

Codependence Recovery is ninth step work, making amends to ourselves and others by changing the attitudes and behaviors that have caused us to hurt ourselves and others. And we cannot make those amends without owning the feelings. We are powerless to substantially change the behavior patterns in our most intimate relationships without doing the grief work.

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Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney is copyright 1995.  Material on Joy2MeU web sites (except where otherwise noted) is copyright 1996 thru 2015 by Robert Burney  PO Box 98 Fallbrook CA 92088.

(The articles "Grave Emotional and Mental Disorders" & "The Death of an Alcoholic" by Robert Burney originally appeared in Recovery Today a monthly newsletter of the LCDC training School which are distributed throughout the state of Texas.)
Although my book and articles make reference to Alcoholics Anonymous, the principles and Twelve Step program of A.A., this does not mean that A.A. has reviewed or approved the contents of this writing, nor that A.A. agrees with the views expressed herein. A.A. is a program of recovery from alcoholism only - use of this material in connection with programs and activities which are patterned after A.A., but address other problems, or in any other non-A.A. context, does not imply otherwise.