Learning Limits: College Women, Drugs, and Relationships

By Kimberly M. Williams | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
Drug Use and Keeping Boyfriends

Keeping boyfriends was important to many of the women in the project. Women who already had boyfriends, and reported that their boyfriends used drugs excessively, often learned to tolerate their boyfriend's decisions quietly. Sometimes a woman would increase her own levels of drug use, often beyond the level where she felt comfortable, to approximate the level of her boyfriend. Some of these women adopted what often is described as "codependent" behaior where they had an "excessive focus on" their boyfriend's drug use or abuse or "addiction," and spent a great deal of time trying to help their boyfriends who often had academic difficulty from their excessive use.

In the 1990s, feminists have begun to critique the way in which those involved in the study of drugs (mostly psychologists) have organized and labeled some of the key problems associated with excessive, problematic use-- particularly codependency and addiction. Babcock and McKay ( 1995, p. 3) wrote of codependency: "This author's repeated impression has been that the term is most frequently used, by addictions workers and the public, to mean a disordered syndrome (often called a 'disease') of excessive focus on the other, which typifies most addicts' significant others (especially female), is chronic and is invested in the continuation of the addiction (as indicated by the prefix co)."

Van Den Bergh ( 1991, p. 6) focused her feminist critique on the addictions which she defined as "characterized by a mental obsession as well as compulsive behavior related to ingesting a substance (food, alcohol, drugs) or engaging in a process (gambling, sex, work). Schaef ( 1987) suggested that "societal structures can predispose persons to develop addictions; this purview is complementary to a feminist perspective." Schaef' s study seemed to suggest the importance of examining the societal structures, which for the purpose of my project were specific to the college culture in which drug-using behavior that could be classified as "addictive" as well as behaviors that could be construed as

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