Alcoholism & Its Effects on The Family

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Every year, more than 3.3 million people die due to alcohol abuse. Alcohol abuse is classified as a substance use disorder (SUD). Like illegal drug abuse, alcohol misuse can negatively affect every aspect of an individual’s life.

Marriages can start to crumble. Children inherit negative habits and experience traumatic incidents. Siblings and elderly parents might struggle in dealing with the problem. Not to mention the career troubles, social group issues, and mental health struggles you’ll experience.

If you or someone you know struggles with alcohol abuse, it’s time to get help. Learn more about the alcoholism effects on family members.

Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse or alcoholism is a mental health disorder. It occurs when an individual can’t control their consumption or can’t voluntarily stop.

Estimates show that over 12% of the U.S adult population now meets the criteria for alcohol abuse. Because a crucial aspect of this disease is denial and lack of accountability, it can be tough to seek help. If you think your drinking habits are bordering on dangerous, look out for some common red flags.

Alcohol abuse

Signs of Alcohol Abuse

There are various physical, psychological, and behavioral signs of alcohol abuse. Some of the most common red flags include:

Everyone experiences alcohol abuse differently. Some may function better in society than others. They might be able to hide their reliance on alcohol from friends and family.

But despite what many alcoholics think, alcoholism isn’t a solitary experience. An addict’s family and friends will also experience a range of negative effects of alcohol.

alcohol's effects on the family

Alcoholism Effects on Family Members

If your parent, child, or partner is struggling with alcohol abuse, it can take a huge toll on the relationship. People with addictions tend to be secretive, volatile, and manipulative. Acknowledging that your loved one is a good person going through a bad experience sometimes isn’t enough.

Relationships can easily crumble under the stress of alcohol abuse. A study of divorce patterns has shown that over 30% of marriages end due to substance abuse. But marriage isn’t the only relationship affected by alcohol.

Alcoholism' Effect on Children

Children of alcoholic parents are the most studied group for issues relating to alcohol abuse. Over 7.5 million children in the U.S currently live with a parent who struggles with alcoholism.

Mental health consequences are one of the biggest impacts on children of alcoholics. The psychological effects of growing up in a home with alcohol abuse stretch from infancy to adulthood. Studies have found that children whose parents abused alcohol had higher risks of:

Alcoholism affects children deeply. The risk of developing substance abuse disorders later in life is four times higher for children of alcoholics. If you’re a parent struggling with alcohol, you might be passing on the same problems to your child.

We know that over 30% of marriages end due to substance abuse, but how does that affect children? Research studies have found that children experience deep pain when parents get divorced. A large number of children also develop long-term psychological issues.

Sometimes, strained marriages do not end in divorce. Studies have found that alcoholic men are 5 to 7 times more likely to resort to physical and verbal abuse. Of course, children raised in this traumatic environment will undergo psychological damage.

Children who grow up in the midst of family conflict have a harder time transitioning to adulthood. They also have higher chances of maladjustments in childhood and teen substance abuse.

Even if verbal or physical abuse doesn’t happen, children often suffer emotional neglect. Parents with addictions might not be present in their children’s lives. For example, a parent might fail to attend important events, drive their child to school, or create emotional bonds.

Childhood emotional neglect often leads to problems in adulthood. Low self-confidence, trust issues, and self-harm are typical in adults who experience neglect.

Finally, a child of an alcoholic parent might feel negative and confusing feelings. They might be ashamed of their parent, seem confused or angry, and lack trust.

Alcoholism' Effect on Teens

As children grow into teens, a new set of challenges occur because of the negative effects of alcoholism. Due to their growing sense of self-identity, teens and parents already face some hurdles. If you add alcohol abuse to the mix, it can be a recipe for disaster.

Studies have found that parental alcohol abuse can decrease feelings of stability. Parents might care about a clean room one day, not say a word the next, and punish their teens the day after. These inconsistencies can reduce a teen’s level of self-esteem and sense of competency.

Alcoholic parents also provide a lower level of monitoring. Adolescents might try to test their independence and see how much they can get away with. Studies have shown that lower levels of monitoring can result in higher rates of alcohol and drug use among teens.

Teens might also suffer from emotionally unavailable parents. This can make them feel like they have no one to turn to. Without a safe place to share their emotions, teens might resort to dangerous activities. Alcohol, drugs, and risky behaviors will become their methods of dealing with problems.

Alcoholism' Effect on a Spouse or Partner

Living with a spouse’s drinking problem can feel like getting pulled in a million directions at once. If your partner isn’t reliable or trustworthy, you might start taking on more than you can handle.

A wife with an alcoholic husband, for example, might become the sole caregiver. She might also have to keep up with household tasks and earn an income at the same time. This can lead to exhaustion, burn-out, and feelings of contempt.

Alcoholism also leads to a less fulfilling sex life. Several studies have shown that drunk sexual experiences are less positive and less satisfying. Medically, alcohol also affects vaginal lubrication and the quality of erections, making sex difficult.

Emotional detachment is common amongst couples dealing with alcohol abuse. Trust issues, secrets, and withdrawal from one another often occur. It can quickly reduce the quality of a marriage, ending in separation or divorce.

Physical assault is one of the most common marriage problems when it comes to alcohol abuse. In a recent study, 55% of people reported that their partner had been drinking before the assault occurred.

Shame, guilt, and self-blame are common feelings in relationships strained by alcohol abuse. Attempts to “fix the situation” might go wrong and create even deeper feelings of failure.

Spouses and partners often take on the role of keeping up appearances. They might cover up their partner’s mistakes, lie about the abuse, and try to keep the family together. These daily stressors often take their toll and put the partner under a lot of pressure.

Alcoholism' Effect on Parents and Siblings

The negative effects of alcohol on family life don’t stop with children and spouses. Parents dealing with their adult child’s alcohol abuse also suffer.

There isn’t a lot of research on this group of people, but it’s easy to foresee the problems that might arise. Some of these can include lending their children large sums of money or covering up their mistakes.

Elderly parents might also take responsibility for their grandchildren if their parents can’t care for them. It places a financial, emotional, and physical burden on the aging grandparents. The parent-child relationship will suffer under these circumstances.

Of course, parents of alcoholics also deal with other stress. They might constantly worry about their child’s health and finances. They may have tried to confront them, only to find denial, lies, and arguments. Parents will undoubtedly suffer from guilt, shame, embarrassment, and misplaced blame.

Not to be left out of the equation, siblings also feel the effects of alcohol abuse. Usually busy dealing with their own lives, children, and careers, your siblings take on the added stress of your addiction. Because they care for you so much, they might also loan you money or take on caring for your children.

Alcohol Abuse Treatment Options

If you’re ready to embrace life without the negative effects of alcohol abuse, treatment options are available! By seeking treatment, you’ll be healing your physical, emotional, and mental health. But maybe, more importantly, you’re on the road to healing familial relationships.

alcoholism treatment 1

Inpatient Recovery

A very popular and safe choice, inpatient recovery requires you to live at a facility while you get clean. This method of treatment ensures round-the-clock care and supervision.

Detoxification, individual therapy, and group therapy are a part of the process. You’ll have access to a team of doctors, mental health professionals, and caretakers to ensure you get the best level of care.

Other activities like nutrition counseling, 12-step programs, and holistic programs balance the process. The duration of stay depends on your individual needs. But the most important thing is that you’ll be able to recover without the pressure of work and family life.

Studies conducted on women receiving inpatient treatment showed the highest success rates. The length of time also determined progress. Patients who received long-term treatment, six months or more, had a 71% success rate.

Outpatient Recovery

Sometimes people have responsibilities that make inpatient treatment impossible. In that case, outpatient recovery is another choice.

Outpatient treatment requires you to attend weekly meetings with a counselor. It can include group therapy sessions or 12-step programs. You can also opt for daily online check-ins with a mental health professional to keep you on track.

Before seeking outpatient treatment, you should first receive professional help with detoxification. Detox usually lasts one week, depending on your physical and mental condition. It involves 24-hour medical care and supervision.

Detoxification can be very emotional and physically draining. Trying to do it yourself at home can have a high failure rate. Successful detox requires professional medical care and compassionate supervision.

Once you have finished the detox process, you can seek outpatient services. If you want an intensive program, SMART Recovery might be a good addition to your treatment plan.

SMART Recovery

If you’re seeking a more independent approach to healing, SMART Recovery might be for you. It stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training, putting the responsibility in your hands.

Of course, it’s not going to leave you without the tools you need to succeed. This program involves face-to-face meetings and daily online check-ins. Message boards, chat rooms, and contact information is available for you to access at any time.

This program focuses on building individual, independent processes for coping with addiction. It emphasizes developing and maintaining motivation for recovery. SMART Recovery also provides tools for dealing with urges and managing feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.

Lastly, SMART Recovery programs aim to help you live a balanced life. This program can be a standalone tool for recovery, or you can pair it with other treatment options.