Alcohol use disorder, or alcoholism, is a disease that affects both the individual and those surrounding them. Addiction creates both physical and emotional health problems, and family members will often share the emotional side effects.
Alcohol addiction is an all-consuming disease that alters a person’s ability to think rationally. Those struggling often engage in many problematic behaviors despite the negative consequences. As a result, their behaviors and attitudes change, placing stress on the family unit.
Unbeknown to many, alcohol abuse happens in various families and has numerous effects on children, spouses, and parents. Whether you abuse alcohol or are worried that a loved one might be, find out more about how alcoholism affects families here.
Effects on Family Members
When a person develops an alcohol addiction, drinking becomes the driving force in their life, alcohol becomes their priority, and other aspects are neglected. This can have extremely damaging implications on the entire family. For example, when a family member, such as a parent, abuses alcohol, it is common for those around them, such as their partner or children, to feel anxious and depressed. They may even experience feelings of guilt and shame.
Spouses and Partners
It is extremely common for partners to drink together socially. As spouses are generally dependent on one another, when one partner abuses alcohol, it disrupts the relationship in several ways. In fact, the Research Institute on Addictions states that substance use disorder is a key reason couples seek counseling.
Some common problems that arise when one partner abuses alcohol include:
- Financial instability
In addition, alcohol negatively impacts a person’s cognitive ability, resulting in many issues, such as putting themselves and their spouses or partners in unsafe situations. Neglect of shared responsibilities is also common.
When a person has a drinking problem, their partner or spouse may feel shame towards them and attempt to hide the existence of alcohol abuse by lying on their behalf. However, ignoring the problem while caring for them can enable alcohol abusers to continue feeding their addiction.
As those who abuse alcohol often have limited physical capabilities and cannot do things for themselves, partners typically become caregivers and take on a provider role. These enabling habits create a level of codependency and blur the line between helping and enabling a loved one’s drinking.
Furthermore, lower marital satisfaction is commonly associated with couples encountering alcohol problems. In the United States, alcohol abuse is a leading factor in divorce. This rate is higher when one person in the relationship abuses alcohol more than the other.
Impact on Children
When an individual participates in negative drinking habits and develops an addiction, it can negatively impact their children.
Children of those who abuse alcohol often feel an abundance of emotions, such as:
- Guilt – Children usually take on the burden of alcohol abuse and blame themselves.
- Confusion – Young children and teenagers may experience a lack of stability in the family home and an unawareness of what is happening.
- Anger – Children may feel irritated by their parent and other family members for enabling the addiction.
- Anxiety – A child will constantly worry about the health of their parent.
Although those struggling with addiction believe they can hide their problems from other people, children are likely to notice changes in a parent’s behavior. However, they may not understand why their parent-child relationship has drastically changed.
Having a parent who suffers from addiction can also result in a lack of care. A person drinking often neglects themselves and their children, and they are often unable to enforce healthy routines in schooling, eating, and hygiene. An accumulation of these things leads to a lack of stability which is key for healthy emotional development.
Unfortunately, disruption in a family unit can result in children encountering academic problems. Usually, this is because their behaviors are disrupted, and their minds are preoccupied with their family, making it hard to study and establish relationships among peers.
Children who grow up in a home with alcoholism are more likely to have issues with substance abuse. As relationships around a child suffer, they may turn to alcohol or other drugs through means of distraction. Children who have a family member, especially a parent, who has an alcohol abuse problem are also more susceptible to mental health problems, and they may find it difficult to form intimate and healthy relationships in later life.
When Your Child Has an Alcohol Addiction
Sometimes when family members are affected by alcohol abuse, it may be because a child has issues with alcohol. If a child or sibling has alcohol addiction, most attention will be directed towards them, resulting in a lack of care for other family members. This can affect parent and sibling relationships.
Alcohol Use Disorder and Violence
As alcoholism affects the brain and cognitive thinking, domestic disputes, including physical and emotional abuse, often arise. This is because alcoholism causes many additional pressures and stressors to impair relationships, which can lead to abusive communication such as:
Research has found verbal aggression twice as likely to occur when alcohol is consumed. It also indicates that domestic violence and physical abuse are four times more likely to take place.
Drinking problems are often associated with intimate partner violence. Research conducted by the World Health Organization suggests that the presence of alcohol makes the severity of domestic violence worse. In a published report, it was found that 92% of domestic violence victims reported that their partner had used alcohol or other drugs. This does not mean that drinking equates to violence; however, it must be considered as a key factor.
Furthermore, it is evident that drinking affects a person’s ability to think rationally and reduces self-control, which can cause negative interactions within intimate relationships.
Alcohol Abuse and Financial Problems
A family’s financial situation can be heavily affected by alcoholism for the simple fact that alcohol isn’t free. When people excessively drink, they will exceed the amount they typically spend and use the family budget to fund their habits. This can significantly impact a family’s ability to pay for household expenses. However, it is not just the price of alcohol that creates financial troubles for the entire family.
A person with an alcohol addiction has lowered inhibitions, meaning purchases will be made without considering financial problems. People may spend more money or make unnecessary purchases, resulting in serious financial difficulties.
Alcohol abuse can also result in disorderly conduct and poor performance at work. This can lead to job loss, which can create further financial problems. In this instance, a family member may forget to pay essential bills such as rent or utilities, accumulating late fees, resulting in debt.
Alcohol rehab support area:
Support for Families
Alcoholism is often referred to as a family disease as it affects the individual and all family members. Issues created by alcohol use can only be solved when support is sought for everyone involved. When an individual is ready to seek treatment, it is important to find a treatment program that encompasses all aspects.
Families affected by alcohol abuse have found family counseling to be highly effective in helping recognize the causes of problems and solutions to resolve them. Counseling also allows family members affected by alcoholism to address key issues with the person abusing alcohol.
In addition to counseling, treatment facilities offer many beneficial services, such as:
- Support groups
- Family therapy
- Educational programs
Having a family member with an alcohol use disorder can create significant emotional, financial, and health implications. However, many resources and options are available for those seeking help for their own well-being and a family member’s addiction.
Although it is important to find the right addiction treatment for a loved one, it is key to find support for the entire family. Support groups, therapy, and counseling can aid families affected by alcoholism.