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What is the Effect of Alcoholism on Family?

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  • Written By: Tamsen Butler
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2016
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The effects of alcoholism on family are oftentimes more serious than the family immediately realizes. Not only are families generally unable to function normally when one or more members are alcoholics, but the impact of alcoholism on family can potentially spread throughout future generations. The pattern of addiction may be mirrored by children who then later turn to alcohol to cope with strong emotions because this is the behavior they learned in their formative years.

Alcoholism can tear families apart, particularly when it is one of the primary caregivers who is addicted. Alcoholism can have profound effects on a person's ability to care for other people and for themselves; alcoholics are physically dependent on the substance, which often impairs short-term memory, one's ability to reason and the ability to control motor functions. This makes alcoholics far less capable of caring for themselves, let alone for other people within the family.

There can be a profound financial effect of alcoholism on family as well. People with physical and emotional dependencies on alcohol can spend quite a bit of money to feed their need for drinks. Some alcoholics lose their jobs, and oftentimes this forces the family into financial problems.

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Parents and caregivers aren't the only parties capable affecting a family — there is also a potential effect of alcoholism on family if one of the children has an alcohol problem. A son or daughter who has problems with alcoholism and binge drinking often forces the focus of the family onto figuring out a method for alcohol recovery, compelling other issues to be swept under the rug. Addicts are also more likely to become involved in crime and to get involved with other substance abuse, which generally increases the problems associated with the alcoholism that the family has to face.

An alcoholic cannot truly put the needs of the rest of the family ahead of his own because he is psychologically and physically dependent upon the alcohol. Many people reach the point where they cannot stop drinking even if they want to unless they enter an alcohol detoxification program. Recovering alcoholics also may have family members who are constantly worried that the person will relapse, which can put the entire family on pins and needles.

The effects of alcoholism on family can turn positive if the alcoholic family member agrees to quit drinking and get treatment. Recovery oftentimes involves help from everyone, requiring a family to band together. The act of working together for the betterment of the family unit can have a huge positive effect that brings everyone closer together.

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irontoenail
Post 3

@Mor - I think the tough thing is that it's such a difficult disease to recognize in yourself, particularly when you are a parent. You might have an alcoholic spouse and just not know it, or you might even be an alcoholic yourself, because you would tend to hide your drinking from your kids anyway.

Mor
Post 2

@KoiwiGal - I'd say that was even more true with children who are exposed to alcoholic parents, especially if those parents happen to be abusive as well. I experienced this with one of my parents and it took me a long time as an adult to realize that I would still do things like tiptoe around my own house, because that's how I avoided being noticed as a child.

I was lucky that it was limited to a relatively small amount of physical abuse. I have met people through therapy groups who had it much worse and the damage that can be done to children exposed to this kind of alcoholism disease can be devastating. Some people say that it might be genetic, but I really think that the biggest factor here is nurture, because when you hurt that much it's easy to make the same mistake your parents made.

KoiwiGal
Post 1

The effects of having a family member with an addiction can be very far reaching and I think that often people feel like they have some kind of point where they aren't supposed to need help anymore.

My sister had a problem with alcoholism about a decade ago and it really shattered my family. It took us all a while to get our pieces put back together. And then it seemed like she was OK and we were all OK as well.

It's only recently that I've realized I'm not really OK. I needed more help with processing the things that happened back then. I'm in therapy now, but I wish I hadn't spent so long expecting the issues to just resolve themselves over time.

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