The Effects of Alcoholism on Families
Despite its strong presence in everyday life, alcohol can be an incredibly dangerous substance when used in excess.
When an individual begins abusing alcohol, the impacts are widespread.
While they themselves will struggle financially, physically, and psychologically, the people around them can suffer as well. Specifically, a heavy toll can be taken on their family.
Taking a toll on the children
A sad reality of alcoholism is that it impacts those who depend on the addicted individual the most. As a result, it is often their children who suffer emotionally and physically.
For the child of an alcohol-dependent individual, feelings of guilt are an unfortunately common reality.
Especially when it comes to younger children, they can perceive the poor health and erratic behaviour of their parents as somehow being their fault, causing them great distress.
As a result, children can often experience severely low self-esteem, impacting both their ability to make friends and do well at school.
This can also occur with older children, but more often teenagers and young adults can feel overwhelmed or dominated by their parent’s alcoholism.
If they perceive the addiction like this, they can often feel powerful frustration, isolation, or even hatred towards their parent for the disruptive effect it has on their lives.
These emotional effects can very often stay with an individual and have serious impacts on them in later life.
They may develop attachment issues, causing them to struggle to find or sustain adult romantic relationships, or they might have very low confidence or self-worth.
In addition, a child will often experience effects that directly impact their health and physical wellbeing.
Primarily, this can occur through the neglect that alcoholism causes. A parent who is dependent on drinking is likely to let routines slip, lose interest in providing food or paying bills, and let a child essentially care for themselves.
The effects of this can be detrimental, forcing a child to eat less, have a generally poorer diet, and live in below-average conditions (which often causes them to sleep poorly).
However, it is also likely that a child may suffer from domestic abuse as a result of alcoholism.
Individuals who drink uncontrollably are more often than not under the influence of alcohol. Because of this, they have less control over their speech, actions, and temper, and so can easily become aggressive and violent.
Within the home, it is unfortunately children who likely face the consequences of this lack of restraint.
When addicted individuals are drunk and perceive there to be a problem, they are likely to punish whoever is closest to them, and that is often their children.
Putting a strain on the relationship
Another aspect of the family dynamic that can fall victim to alcoholism is the relationship an addicted individual has with their spouse or partner.
Financial and domestic
As an individual falls deeper into the addictive cycle and begins to care more and more about drinking, they can neglect their other responsibilities.
Work and chores can fall back in their priorities, but the case is often that these are shared responsibilities between partners.
Because of this, when one partner starts doing less, the other one has to start doing more.
This can mean they have to take on more financial burdens, complete more chores around the house, and handle the bulk of childcaring duties.
Emotional and physical
As this imbalance develops, the partner of an addicted individual can begin to feel the emotional repercussions.
They may start feeling alone and overwhelmed, or they might begin questioning themselves as to whether it is their fault that their partner has become an alcoholic.
Feeling unloved is also a common response, and this can spark low self-esteem and depression.
Relationships can be pushed too far, and research suggests that there is a connection between excessive alcohol consumption and marital breakdown .
Unfortunately, it is possible for partners to be the victims of domestic violence as well.
Disputes about sharing responsibility and the quality of relationships can spark violence and verbal abuse, further worsening a partner’s mental and emotional wellbeing.
Enabling addiction – why it doesn’t help
In response to the difficulties and tensions that arise as a result of alcoholism, it is normal for family members to try and help the situation.
A common method families employ, however, is to try and help the addicted individual avoid the consequences of their alcoholism.
They make excuses for them, help them get out of problems, and limit what they do and who they interact with to keep it as unnoticeable as possible .
Known as ‘enabling addiction’, this method may seem like a good way of keeping an individual under control and maintaining the image of normality, but this is never the case.
By doing this, family members only allow alcoholism to thrive, reducing as many of its consequences and indirectly making the addicted individual believe their actions are not actually having any consequences.
Not only is this ineffectual, but it also puts an even greater strain on the people around the individual.
They are burdened with trying to cover up the repercussions of the alcoholism, meaning they are under even more pressure while nothing is actually made better.
Getting support – how do things get better?
While it may seem like there are alternative ways of handling alcoholism within the family, there is unfortunately only one way to truly tackle it and make things better.
To beat alcoholism, reduce its negative effects, and help an individual regain their independence, nothing compares to reaching out for help and support.
When you get in touch with a GP, substance abuse charity, or private clinic, you can access the right treatment and support needed to help beat alcoholism.
It isn’t easy, but it is necessary, and it opens the door to a range of options going forward.
What kind of support is available?
Beating addiction is a long and difficult process, but by seeking support, there are lots of stages and treatments to be utilised.
Firstly, there is support on offer to help an individual overcome their physical addiction to alcohol.
Detoxification – which involves the tapering off of substance use so that the body can slowly adjust to its absence – is the primary method of doing this, and it usually takes place within a rehab centre.
When they do, threatening to ruin an individual’s progress, medicinal support can be prescribed to help reduce their impact.
Secondly, support can focus on the mental and emotional obstacles an individual faces as a result of their alcoholism.
As they become addicted, it is common for them to begin seeing their substance abuse as a means of self-medicating, but this is a dangerous way of thinking.
Therapy activities can be provided, allowing an individual to change this dangerous perception of alcoholism, help them handle difficult emotions and cravings, and boost their overall wellbeing .
Support and advice for families
While an individual faces a long and difficult journey to overcome their addiction, they do not face the process alone. As their families also suffer as a result of alcoholism, they too can benefit from support services.
For partners and children, therapy and support groups can be offered, allowing them to discuss and work through negative thoughts and feelings brought on by their partner’s or parent’s drinking, and meet other families experiencing the same thing.
This can make them feel less alone, allow individuals to share coping techniques, and reassure those at the start of the recovery process that things do get better later down the line.