In this article, alcoholism is considered in terms of the set of interactions in which it occurs. The adaptive function of alcohol and the concept of codependence are viewed in the light of data derived from systems analysis. Alcoholism is then resituated in relation to the life cycle of families, in a developmental dimension which allows the addictive type of alcoholism in young subjects to be distinguished from alcoholism of mature adults, in which the spouse is markedly involved, and the alcoholism of social isolation in subjects who have lost their work and their family. The objective of therapeutic interventions focusing on the couple and/or family unit is to destabilize a system whose natural tendency is to maintain a steady-state around alcoholic behavior. Changes of behavior of the various people involved can only be truly considered at the cost of this destabilization.