WHEN A MAN LOVES A WOMAN
With a Lesson Plan on Alcohol Abuse, Alcoholism and Codependence
SUBJECTS — U.S./1991 to Present;
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Alcohol & Drug Abuse; Parenting; Romantic Relationships; Marriage; Father/Daughter;
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Caring.
MPAA Rating — R for language; Drama; 1994; 126 minutes; Color;
Available from Amazon.com. (The profanity in this movie consists of the f— word and the s— word which have been heard and used many times by the vast majority of children over the age of 12. The rating is egregiously undeserved, especially in light of the tremendous educational value of this film. In our opinion, this movie is suitable for ages 13 and up.)
THE BEST OF TWM
One of the Best! This movie is on TWM’s list of the ten best movies to supplement classes in Health, High School Level.
MOVIE WORKSHEETS & STUDENT HANDOUTS
TWM offers the following worksheets to keep students’ minds on the movie and direct them to the lessons that can be learned from the film.
Teachers can modify the movie worksheets to fit the needs of each class. See also TWM’s Movies as Literature Homework Project.
Michael and Alice are a young couple very much in love. But Alice is an alcoholic and can’t control her drinking. Michael has become a codependent Enabler in Chief, while their children are suffering from their mother’s inconsistent behavior. The movie is a gripping tale of love struggling against alcoholism and codependence.
SELECTED AWARDS & CAST
Selected Awards: None.
Featured Actors: Andy Garcia as Michael Green, Meg Ryan as Alice Green, Ellen Burstyn as Emily, Tina Majorino as Jessica Green, Mae Whitman as Casey Green, Lauren Tom as Amy, and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Gary.
Director: Luis Mandoki.
BENEFITS OF THE MOVIE
“When a Man Loves a Woman” provides emotional insight into a committed relationship. It is an excellent description of alcoholism and its effects on a family. Michael has learned to protect Alice from the consequences of being drunk. He sees someone he loves in pain and does what he can to reduce that pain. Alice encourages this behavior because it allows her to live an intoxicated life without paying the price. Over the years, Michael’s enabling behavior has become deeply embedded in the way he relates to Alice. He has become a codependent.
Mid-way through the movie, Alice “hits bottom” and realizes she has a serious problem with alcohol. She enters a treatment center and returns home desperately trying to stay sober. Alice soon realizes that she no longer wants Michael to protect her from the consequences of her actions, as he had done when she was frequently intoxicated. Taking responsibility for her own actions is an important part of her recovery. Their marriage is put under tremendous strain as Alice insists that Michael change the way he relates to her. The last third of the movie shows how the couple struggles to adjust to Alice’s new persona and the altered terms of their relationship.
Throughout the movie we are given hints of the impact of Alice’s drinking and the couple’s marital difficulties on Alice’s eight-year-old daughter, Jessica.
All of this is done with emotional insight and cinematic skill.
Another benefit of the film is Michael’s steadfast commitment to the oldest daughter, Jessica. Alice gave birth to Jessica before she met Michael but he is fully committed to being the girl’s father. His character shows that love for a child comes from raising the child, not from being a biological parent.
MODERATE. There is a limited amount of profanity in the movie. The couple talks about having sex rather than making love. This is just the way they talk. These two people deeply love each other. After Alice goes into recovery, she smokes all the time. This is a realistic touch because many alcoholics smoke heavily after they enter recovery. The couple is shown in a frustrating and ineffective therapy session in which there is no chemistry with the therapist. This could be interpreted by kids as an indictment of therapy. We suggest ignoring the first problem and turning the second and third into strengths with a brief discussion, see Lesson Plan on Alcohol Abuse, Alcoholism and Codependence.
Watch the movie with your child and go through as many of the discussion questions as you can. If you can get your child to read the handouts on Alcohol — and How it Affects Us and Codependence — What Happens When a Family Member is an Alcoholic or a Drug Addict, do so. Review them yourself and you will be able to give your child some accurate information and tell some interesting stories.
If anyone in your extended family has had to contend with alcoholism or drug addiction, TWM recommends that you tell them the stories of their relative’s battle with substance abuse. TWM also recommends taking your children to an open Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting. Start at the age of 12 or 13 and visit again every one or two years. As kids get older they will get more out of each session. Some AA meetings are divided into two parts. Try to stay for the second part. That’s when specially selected speakers talk about the difficulties they encountered while intoxicated and their new lives in sobriety. Tell kids that if they ever have trouble with alcohol, the twelve steps of AA provide a path to recovery.
Social-emotional learning from this movie centers on five topics: (1) Alice’s alcoholism and its effects on her family; (2) that Michael’s role as the one who solves problems when Alice gets drunk leads him into enabling behaviors; (3) how Alice overcomes her alcoholism and enters recovery; (4) how the couple tries to readjust to an Alice who isn’t drinking and who insists on taking responsibility for her own actions; and (5) the relationship between Michael and Alice’s oldest daughter, Jessica. See Alcohol — and How it Affects Us.
Alcoholics who are in AA don’t talk about achieving recovery, but instead, recovery is seen as a process which the alcoholic must go through every day for the rest of his or her life. They talk about “being in recovery” or “entering recovery”. Be sure to use this terminology when discussing alcoholism with a class.
LESSON PLAN ON ALCOHOL ABUSE, ALCOHOLISM, AND CODEPENDENCE
This film needs little introduction. The teacher should point out that actually being an alcoholic and living with an alcoholic usually ends up being much more painful than what’s shown in the movie.
Pause the movie right after Alice enters rehab and have the class read, in class or as homework, the handout Alcohol — and How it Affects Us. Students should have finished reading the handout before you show the rest of the film. The handout will be more meaningful to them having just watched the havoc that alcoholism wreaks with the family in the movie.
Before continuing with the movie ask the class to identify any “enabling behaviors” that Michael engaged in with respect to Alice. Four examples are: 1) taking care of her (“wringing her out”) at the end of many evenings when she got drunk and passed out; 2) partying with her when she got drunk and appreciating her wild drunken behaviors, such as joining with her in throwing eggs at a car (this was an illegal act; dried egg will destroy the finish on many cars requiring an expensive repair); 3) rewarding her with a vacation trip to Mexico for going out with a girlfriend, getting drunk, not calling anyone, staying out late, and causing him to miss work; and 4) interceding in her disagreements with the children when she had a hangover. There could be more.
After the scene that shows the therapy session have a short discussion about what was going on between Michael, Alice, and the therapist. You are looking for a student to describe the session in any negative way so that you can explain (or better, get the students to talk about) the reasons why the therapy session did not go well. Some possibilities are that Michael and Alice weren’t ready for therapy, that the therapist was incompetent, or that there was no interpersonal chemistry between the couple and the therapist. Ask the class what they should do if they find themselves in therapy that is not helping them. (Best answer: find a new therapist.) Stress that in psychological therapy, a motivated patient assisted by a skilled therapist can make amazing progress. What’s shown in the movie is not a typical therapy session.
After Alice is out of rehab, the movie shows her smoking heavily. Talk to the class about this after the movie is over. Alcoholics in recovery are under tremendous stress and they often take up smoking to relieve that stress. Unfortunately, they are replacing one life-threatening addiction with another. Depending upon how you relate to the class, you might consider making a humorous comment that one of the least realistic parts of the movie was Michael (who didn’t smoke) deeply kissing Alice at the AA meeting. For most non-smokers, giving that kind of kiss to a smoker is like licking the inside of an ashtray.
After the movie is over (or if there is a break in the movie at any time after Alice comes out of the rehab center) assign as homework the handout Codependence — What Happens When a Family Member is an Alcoholic or a Drug Addict.
After the movie and after the class has read the second handout, the students will be ready for a full discussion about codependence. Review the Discussion Questions and the Quick Discussion Question and select those that are appropriate for your class, given the discussions you have had during the movie, the grade level and the abilities of the class. The final step is to give the Unit Test on Alcohol Abuse, Alcoholism and Codependence. This test is designed to take a full 55 minute class period. Before giving the test, review it and make sure that the class has covered the major points of the test. In this instance, it is beneficial to teach to the test.
UNIT TEST ON ALCOHOL ABUSE, ALCOHOLISM, AND CODEPENDENCE
Unit Test on Alcohol Abuse, Alcoholism and Codependence
Click here for a test that can be handed out to students.
Write your answers on a separate sheet of paper. Your responses to questions A – F and 14 to 24 should consist of full sentences. Each answer must contain enough information to enable the grader to understand the answer without referring to the question. Use proper English grammar, correct spelling, and good penmanship. Ten points will be given for grammar, spelling, and penmanship. The answers to questions 1 – 10 may be one or two words.
Questions A – F must be answered correctly. If you give an incorrect answer to any of these questions, you will have to answer those questions again or complete a special homework assignment.
A. Why is it not safe for a pregnant woman to drink any alcohol?
Alcohol is a poison that stays in the blood of the mother until her liver breaks it down into harmless substances. Alcohol in the mother’s blood crosses the placenta and reaches the fetus. The fetus is growing so quickly that the presence of any alcohol can affect the development of nerve cells in the brain.
B. What is moderate alcohol consumption for an average sized woman and an average sized man?
Moderate alcohol consumption is no more than one drink per day for an average sized woman and no more than two drinks per day for an average sized man.
C. Abuse of alcohol by both alcoholics and non-alcoholics often contributes to injury and property damage. Which contributes to more injury and property damage than the other?
Abuse of alcohol by non-alcoholics causes more injury and more damage to property than abuse of alcohol by alcoholics.
D. What are the three primary effects of alcohol consumption on our brains? Here are some hints. One is the slowing of something that allows us to avoid being injured. Another is the reduction in an ability to do things, such as walking, manipulating things with our hands, and safely driving a car. The third effect of alcohol relates to something we rely on to avoid doing things that are unintelligent or wrong.
The three primary effects of alcohol consumption on our brains are: 1) it slows our reaction time; 2) it reduces our coordination; and 3) it impairs our judgment about what the consequences of our actions will be and what is right and wrong.
E. As a result of the three primary effects of alcohol on our brains, alcohol consumption by teenagers increases the risks of four types of very unpleasant and dangerous events. List them out in sentence form. Here’s a hint. Three of these risks begin with an “A” and one with an “S”.
Alcohol consumption increases the risk of the following events: 1) an accident that could cause injury or death; 2) carrying out a physical or sexual assault; 3) being the victim of a physical or sexual assault; and 4) engaging in risky sexual behavior leading to unwanted pregnancies and transmission of STDs, including HIV.
F. What is it about the brains of teenagers and young adults that makes alcohol abuse more dangerous for them than for mature adults?
Alcohol abuse is particularly more dangerous for teenagers and young adults than for mature adults because the brain continues to develop into the mid-20s and alcohol abuse can cause permanent changes in the structure and function of the developing brain. A good alternate answer is that it impairs judgment more in teenagers and young adults because the judgment centers of the brain are not fully developed until the mid-20s.
There are 96 points to the rest of the test. (10 points are for grammar, spelling, and penmanship.) Answers to Questions 1 – 10 write the answer that properly completes the sentence. These answers are worth two points each.
1. There is an old saying that every time a person dies an entire universe is destroyed. With that in mind, answer the following question. Alcohol consumption contributes to approximately ___________ deaths from traffic accidents in the U.S. each year. Choose your answer from among the following possibilities: approximately 10,000, 12,000, 15,000, 17,000 or 20,000.
2. Alcohol consumption contributes to approximately ______________ serious injuries in the U.S. each year. Choose your answer from among the following possibilities: 300,000, 350,000, 400,000, 450,000, 500,000.
3. Assault can cause serious physical injuries and is a major cause of post-traumatic stress syndrome, which can affect a person for the rest of his or her life if left untreated. Alcohol consumption contributes to approximately _____________________ assaults in the U.S. each year. Choose your answer from among the following possibilities: 500,000, 550,000, 600,000, 650,000, 700,000.
4. Sexual assault is a particularly vicious form of assault because it focuses on what should be the means of expressing affection. Alcohol consumption contributes to _____________________ sexual assaults in the U.S. each year. Choose your answer from among the following possibilities: 45,000, 50,000, 55,000, 60,000, 65,000, 70,000.
5. Alcohol is a factor in ________________________ deaths among young people in the U.S. ages 15 to 19. Choose your answer from among the following possibilities: “one out of two”, “one out of three”, “one out of four”, and “one out of five”.
One out of four.
6. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. This means that alcohol causes our brains to operate _______________________.
More slowly or at a reduced rate of speed.
7. What percent of the population in the U.S. is alcoholic? ______. Choose your answer from among the following possibilities: 5.0%; 5.5%; 6.0%, 6.5%, 7.0% or 7.5%.
8. ______________ children in the U.S. are affected by alcoholism or alcohol abuse in a family member. Choose your answer from among the following possibilities: “one of two”, “one of three”, “one of four”, and “one of five”.
One of four.
9. Approximately _________________ children are born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FES) in the U.S. each year. Choose your answer from among the following possibilities: 40,000, 50,000, 60,000, 70,000.
10. Children of an alcoholic parent are __________________ to be beaten or sexually abused than other children. Choose your answer from among the following possibilities: more likely or less likely.
The answers to the remaining questions will be worth five points each. Remember to answer in complete sentences, use correct English grammar, and spell words correctly. Write legibly.
11. When did Mary, the alcoholic woman whose situation was described in the handout, “hit bottom” and join Alcoholics Anonymous? Was it when she lost her job, when she bit her favorite nephew while she was in a drunken rage, or when she woke up in a hospital room with a broken collarbone, no memory of how she had fallen, and no idea where she had left her beloved dog?
Mary hit bottom when she woke up in a hospital room with a broken collarbone, no memory of how she had fallen, and no idea where she had left her beloved dog.
12. Mary has been in recovery for fifteen years faithfully going to AA meetings several times a week. She has not had a drink of alcohol in all this time. What, if anything, happened to Mary’s desire to drink alcohol? What will most likely happen in the future with respect to this?
Mary has not lost her desire to drink alcohol and most likely will never lose that desire. All that she can do is refuse the urge to take that first drink.
13. Doctors tell us that alcoholism is a progressive disease. What do they mean by this?
It doesn’t get better without treatment; it just gets worse and eventually, if left untreated, it will result in death.
14. Al-Anon is a self-help group for adult family members of alcoholics. What is the name for the self-help group for teenagers with a parent or family member who is an alcoholic?
Alateen is a self-help group that assists teenagers who have an alcoholic parent or family member.
15. When psychologists are trying to determine whether a person is an alcoholic, they look for five symptoms. One of the symptoms is an increasing tolerance for alcohol so that the person must drink more to feel the effects of the drug. List three of the others. You will get extra credit if you can list a fifth.
The four other symptoms of alcoholism are: (1) craving: a strong need or urge to drink; (2) loss of control when drinking: not being able to stop drinking once drinking has begun; (3) loss of independence from the drug: continued abuse of alcohol despite harm or personal injury; and (4) physical dependence: withdrawal symptoms such as upset stomach, shakiness, sweating, and anxiety.
16. What is “hitting bottom” for an alcoholic and what is the importance of hitting bottom?
“Hitting bottom” occurs when things get so bad for an alcoholic that he or she realizes that drinking alcohol is intolerable and makes a fundamental decision to fight the addiction.
17. One of the indicators that a person has a drinking problem is when other people tell that person that they think he or she has a drinking problem. There are four other indicators. List at least two of them. If you can list one or two more, you’ll get extra credit.
Indicators that a person has a problem with alcohol are: (1) you drink alone when angry or sad; (2) drinking makes you late to work or school; (3) you forget what you did while drinking; and (4) you get headaches or a hangover when you stop drinking.
18. Define the term “enabling behavior” and give two examples of types of enabling behaviors.
Enabling behavior is when a non-alcoholic protects the alcoholic/addict from some of the unpleasant consequences of intoxication. The following types of enabling behaviors are listed in the handout: (1) fixing problems caused by intoxicated behavior and helping the alcoholic/addict get out of trouble caused by the addiction; (2) cooperating in the alcoholic/addict’s denial that there is a problem; (3) helping the alcoholic/addict hide addictive behavior and its effects from others; (4) providing financial support for the addiction; and (5) avoiding making friends or bringing people home who might not be in on the “secret”.
19. What is codependence?
Codependence occurs when a family member (1) gets psychological gain from enabling behaviors or an altered role in the family caused by the substance abuser’s behavior and (2) has developed an emotional need to enable the addictive behavior even when he or she sincerely objects to it. Codependence is itself a psychological condition that needs treatment.
20. How does a parent’s alcoholism or drug addiction injure his or her children?
A strong answer will contain many of the following concepts. Children need consistent caring interactions with their parents in order to learn how to have trusting relationships with others. Alcoholics/addicts cannot consistently act in a caring way. People cannot rely on them. Their commitment is to the feelings that the drug unleashes when they take it. When people are intoxicated their behavior is erratic and they cannot focus on the needs of a child. No matter how much a parent loves a child, if that parent is an alcoholic/addict, there will often be times when the parent chooses intoxication over the needs of the child. Not being able to trust their parents, children of alcoholics often have trouble trusting others. Frequently, the mixed messages received from their parents also cause children of alcoholics to suffer from low self-esteem and various psychological disorders. Another way to approach answering this question is to focus on the dysfunctional roles that a child in a family that includes an alcoholic might adopt. These include “Enabler in Chief”, “Family Hero”, “Lost Child”, “Mascot” or “Scapegoat”. A strong answer would explain how each of these roles develops and how they can prevent the child from attaining self-actualization.
21. Describe what is meant by the term “Enabler in Chief” and how that role can harm an individual in a codependent relationship.
A strong response will include the following concepts: (1) an Enabler in Chief is the codependent person who takes primary responsibility for protecting an alcoholic/addict from the consequences of intoxicated or out-of-control behavior; (2) The Enabler in Chief is injured by giving up goals in his or her own life for the benefit of the alcoholic/addict.
22. Describe what is meant by the term “Family Hero” and describe how the role of Family Hero will be damaging to a child in a codependent relationship.
A strong response will include many of the following concepts. The Family Hero tries to act perfectly and do everything right. When the Enabler in Chief and the substance abuser are married, the Family Hero is often the oldest child. A child Family Hero makes good grades, seldom gets into trouble, and almost never does anything to cause the non-addicted parent (the Enabler in Chief) pain or distress. The child Family Hero thinks that if only he or she were perfect, the addicted parent would reject intoxication and become the parent the Family Hero always wanted (and was entitled to). A child Family Hero cannot speak up for his or her own needs or desires and is motivated by fear of further disruptions in the family system. The fundamental problem with the role of the child Family Hero is that this person is acting as the perfect child for the benefit of others, rather than for the purpose of self-actualization. Some child Family Heroes, who are fully involved in codependence, don’t know what they want in life. Moreover, child Family Heroes are bound to be frustrated because an alcoholic/addict will not stop drinking or using because a child acts perfectly. Nor will having a perfect child make up for the sacrifices and losses of a parent Enabler in Chief. The only way to be a true Family Hero is to recognize the alcoholic/addict for what he or she is, to stop all enabling and codependent behaviors, and to take the route of self-actualization.
23. Describe what is meant by the term “Lost Child” and how that role can cause harm to a child.
To avoid causing problems and to help the family system maintain a balance, some children avoid getting in the way and give up any effort to get their own needs met. An alcoholic/addict parent will be absorbed with getting high and avoiding the consequences of the intoxicated life. An Enabler in Chief parent might be so focused on protecting the substance abuser that he or she will not have time or energy to nurture this child. Rather than demanding attention, acting out, or rebelling, and instead of becoming a Family Hero, the Lost Child simply retreats into him or herself. A Lost Child will often have terrible problems with self-esteem and in developing healthy relationships with others.
24. Describe one reason relating to enabling behaviors that causes marriages or romantic relationships to break up when one member of the couple enters recovery.
The answer should contain the following information: If the alcoholic/addict enters recovery and starts to assume a more equal and competent role in the family, relationships with family members that were based on the addiction must be adjusted. A recovering drug addict or alcoholic will not accept the enabling behaviors that he or she had previously sought. Changing patterns of relating to each other that have been set for years is difficult for any couple. Many marriages and romantic relationships cannot adjust to the recovery process and the couples separate or divorce. End of unit test
ALCOHOL & DRUG ABUSE
The following three questions should be asked together.
1. How did Michael enable Alice’s drinking?
Here are four examples; there may be more. As students give the examples, ask them why this particular behavior was enabling rather than nurturing. The answer is that enabling behavior is conduct that might otherwise be considered nurturing but which helps the alcoholic/addict avoid the consequences of an intoxicated lifestyle. 1) By taking care of Alice (“wringing her out”) at the end of many evenings when she got drunk and passed out; 2) by partying with Alice when she got drunk and appreciating her wild drunken behaviors, like when he joined with her in throwing eggs at the car (an illegal act; dried egg will destroy the finish on many cars requiring an expensive repair); 3) by rewarding Alice with a vacation trip to Mexico for going out with a girlfriend, getting drunk, not calling anyone, and causing him to miss work; and 4) by interceding in Alice’s disagreements with the children when she had a hangover.
2. Give an example of an action in which Michael saved Alice from the effects of her intoxication in which he was not enabling her alcoholism.
Here are four examples; there may be more. As students give these examples, ask the students why this particular behavior was not enabling behavior. The answer is that these actions were necessary to protect her from risk of injury or death or as to #3, it was meaningful action to help her stop drinking. (1) Rescuing Alice from drowning when she fell out of the boat; (2) letting Alice back into the house when she locked herself out in the middle of the night; (3) taking her to the rehab center; and (4) calling someone to help her when she fell out of the shower.
3. [This question may have been answered when discussing the two preceding questions. If not, ask it in this form.] How can you tell the difference between nurturing or life-saving behavior and enabling?
It depends on the situation and it’s not always easy. Most enabling actions are loving and nurturing if they are not taken in the context of permitting someone to live a life characterized by repeated intoxications. Bringing Alice a hot drink in the morning would not normally be enabling activity. Smoothing the waters and calming everyone down when a spouse is about to be too harsh with one of the kids, in most circumstances, is not enabling activity. Taking a vacation to get away from pressures that are weighing someone down is not usually enabling and can often be a good thing. However, in the case of Michael and Alice, these were occasions when he was playing Mr. Fix-it and allowing Alice to avoid confronting the consequences of her addiction. (Also, note that reasonable minds could differ on these questions. A good argument could be made that taking the vacation to Mexico was not enabling activity.) Obviously, Michael couldn’t have let Alice drown with the excuse that he was just enabling her alcohol abuse by saving her.
4. One of the people at the treatment center said to Michael, “Your wife is a very comforting person.” Why did the screenwriter have this character say that?
Alice had not been shown to be particularly comforting before. In their relationship, it was Michael who took care of people. However, Alice always had this ability. Remember, Alice was a school counselor and she listened to her friend for hours. However, she was not exercising that ability in the relationship with Michael. This scene shows that Alice is beginning to be able to stand on her own two feet and to help other people.
See the Quick Discussion Question. Questions A – F and 14 – 24 in the unit test are also good to review with students or to spark discussions.
5. Michael tells Alice: “If my wife hurts, I need to say, ‘What’s wrong honey? [Is there] something I can do and I love you.'” When in the movie does Michael make this statement and what is going on in this conversation?
This dialog occurs after Alice has been released from the rehab center and while she is in the early stages of recovery. She is trying to readjust her relationship with Michael. Previously, Michael (at Alice’s invitation and with her encouragement) had developed many enabling behaviors in which he would try to assuage her pain and fix the problems caused by her intoxication. In this conversation, Alice is trying to tell Michael, not very articulately, that since she is in recovery, she cannot tolerate this type of behavior anymore. He protests with the agony of the family member of an alcoholic/addict. Caring means trying to help when something is wrong, but that doesn’t always work with an alcoholic/addict. When the alcoholic/addict is still using the drug, the enabling behavior allows the alcoholic/addict to avoid facing up to the need to kick the habit. When the alcoholic/addict is in recovery, repeating enabling behaviors could lead back to using the drug.
6. Alice tells Michael: “I’m just hanging on here.” When in the movie does Alice make this statement and what is going on in this conversation?
This is at the beginning of her recovery when she is not used to resisting the craving to take a drink. She is trying to tell Michael that she is at great risk of drinking again.
See Question # 20 in the unit test.
7. Describe how Alice’s alcoholism affects her children.
The movie shows Alice being unable to help the children in the morning after the anniversary dinner; causing the children to worry when she is sick after being intoxicated and when she passed out; being irritable with Jessie when she has a hangover, and slapping Jessie. These conditions will cause Jessie psychological problems in the future. See also the response to unit test question #20.
See the Quick Discussion Question and Question #24 in the unit test.
8. Alice says, “I’m going to disappoint him. This is not the person he married. I’m not going to be fun.” What does this dialog refer to?
It refers to the fact that the alcoholic and the non-alcoholic members of a marriage or romantic relationship develop patterns of satisfying each other’s needs and that when this is disrupted, either partner justifiably worries that he or she will no longer be loved.
9. Alice says, “I told him it made me feel small and worthless when he tried to help. I shut him out because I knew that if he saw who I was he wouldn’t love me.” What does this dialog refer to?
It is normal for an alcoholic, a person who usually has low self-esteem, to fear that they are not lovable. The fear increases as the alcoholic/addict enters recovery. He or she fears that it was the addicted behaviors that the other person liked.
10. Alice engineers a situation in which Michael moves out of the house. (She didn’t come out and ask him to leave. However, she knows that Michael will leave when she tells him that he makes her skin crawl. Also, when he says he is going to leave she doesn’t discourage him.) Why did she do this?
There are several possible strong answers. Here are two. Alice needed a break in their relationship to reevaluate it. She needed for them to start again without the enabling behaviors but this couldn’t happen until they were apart and then came together again under a new arrangement.
11. Compare Michael’s feelings for Jessie to the way he felt about his biological daughter Casey.
We favor the following response: He loved them both as his children. Caring for a child comes from raising the child, not from genetics.
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS (CHARACTER COUNTS)
Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.
(Be kind; Be compassionate and show you care; Express gratitude; Forgive others; Help people in need)
1. How does caring about an alcoholic/addict lead to enabling behaviors?
Alcoholics/addicts manipulate family members and friends into behaviors that enable the alcoholic/addict to continue with their addiction. They are able to do this because no one wants to see a loved one become homeless, go to jail, become unemployed, or suffer the other unpleasant consequences of the uncontrolled use of intoxicants. But sometimes not helping is the most caring thing to do.
ASSIGNMENTS, PROJECTS & ACTIVITIES
Have students attend an open AA meeting and report on their experience. Students can go alone or together. Remind them to act respectfully while at the meeting.
LINKS TO THE INTERNET
Codependency from AllAboutCounseling.com;
Centers for Disease Control – Alcohol – Frequently Asked Questions;
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism;
Surgeon General’s Call To Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking – A Call to Action for Educators; and
Alcoholism is a Family Disease from About.com.
The websites which are linked in the Guide and Comprehensive School Health Education — Totally Awesome Strategies for Teaching Health, by Linda Meeks, Philip Heit and Randy Page, 2009, McGraw Hill, Boston.
This Learning Guide was last updated on December 18, 2009.
LEARNING GUIDE MENU:
Benefits of the Movie
Selected Awards & Cast
Lesson Plan on Alcohol Abuse, Alcoholism and Codependence
Unit Test on Alcohol Abuse, Alcoholism, and Codependence
Assignments, Projects, and Activities
Links to the Internet
TWM offers the following worksheets to keep students’ minds on the movie and direct them to the lessons that can be learned from the film.
Teachers can modify the movie worksheets to fit the needs of each class. See also TWM’s Movies as Literature Homework Project.
QUICK DISCUSSION QUESTION:
From Alice’s point of view, what’s going on in her relationship with Michael from the time she leaves the treatment center until just before she gives her speech at the AA meeting? Here’s a hint, Alice tells Michael that she is afraid that the very thing that attracts them to each other is why they shouldn’t be together.
Michael and Alice began their relationship when Alice was drinking. They developed ways of relating to each other based on her alcoholism. She was the party girl who led the way in having a good time. He was “Mr. Fix-it”, who “wrung her out” at the end of an evening and he would try to correct for Alice’s erratic behavior with the children. In this way, Michael enabled Alice to avoid the consequences of living an intoxicated life. Over the years Michael came to get psychological satisfaction out of relating to Alice in this way. While Alice was in the grip of alcoholism, Michael was suffering from codependence.
When Alice left the treatment center, she no longer wanted Michael to help her engage in irresponsible behavior. She was afraid it would lead her right back to drinking. Alice had to do two things almost at the same time. First, she had to discover for herself whether, with the behaviors based on alcoholism stripped away, there was anything left of her relationship with Michael. In other words, she had to find out whether “the very things that attract us to each other are the reasons we shouldn’t be together”. And so she engineered the separation from Michael to give her the space she needed to figure this out. Second, she had to try to get Michael to change his enabling behaviors. Remember this dialog?
Alice: “I’m not your problem to solve. . . . It was so much more fun in the old days, wasn’t it Michael? I’d get drunk. I’d pass out and you’d put me back together. That was the best. It must have made you feel good. And that’s what hurts [me]. [Michael tries to hug Alice in a comforting way, like in the old days, denying what she has just said. She pulls away and continues talking . . . ] It’s not getting better. I don’t know how to make it better and . . . you don’t either.” Michael: “Baby . . . .” Alice: “Every time you say that, every time you look at me like that, Michael, I want to come out of my skin. You make me feel like a worthless, weak, animal….”
2.5 hrs to introduce and show the movie; unless the students read the handouts as homework 1.5 hrs class time to read the handouts; 1.5 hrs class discussion/lecture; 1 class hr. for the test.
TWM has provided two handouts for this lesson plan. If you don’t have time for both, use just one and present the information in the other handout in a lecture.
- Student handout Alcohol — and How it Affects Us;
- Student handout Codependence — What Happens When a Family Member is an Alcoholic or a Drug Addict;
- Codependence diagrams suitable to be projected on a screen or printed out and distributed;
- Unit Test on Alcohol Abuse, Alcoholism, and Codependence (for a printable version click here);
- Answer Key to Unit Test and Suggested Answers to Discussion Questions;
- Preview of Questions A – F on the Unit Test.
High school students love this movie because it provides emotional insight into a committed relationship. Students in high school are looking forward to having these relationships and are interested in exploring how they work.
Attendance at an open AA meeting is an excellent extra-credit activity. Some meetings are divided into two parts. Tell the kids to ask permission to stay for the second part. That’s when specially selected speakers talk about the difficulties they encountered while intoxicated and their new lives in sobriety. Tell kids that if they ever have trouble with alcohol, the twelve steps of AA provide a path to recovery.
alcoholism, alcohol abuse, “central nervous system depressant”, codependence, enabling, fetal alcohol syndrome, hitting bottom, incarceration, intoxication, recovery, separation.
The unit test is designed to be given in class and to take a full 55 minute class period. It is not easy and some classes may need more time. Tell students that they will have to read and understand both student handouts. Give them a copy of questions A – F to review at least one night before the test. See Preview of Questions A – F on the Unit Test. Make sure that the class discussion before the test gives students the information necessary to answer questions to A – F and 12 – 24. This unit is designed so that it is beneficial to teach to the test.
For a version of the test in Microsoft Word, suitable to be printed and distributed to the class, click here.
For an answer key to the unit test: click here.
MOVIES ON RELATED TOPICS:
All films listed in the Social-Emotional Learning Index under Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.
Search Lesson Plans for Movies
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