Alcoholism is a form of addiction that affects all aspects of the drinker’s life. When a person has a problem with alcohol addiction, the compulsion to drink becomes the most important thing in that person’s life. Many people who abuse alcohol or become addicted to it believe they aren’t hurting anyone but themselves. But alcohol abuse can have a devastating impact on all members of the family.
Whether a problem drinker has actually stepped over the line into alcoholism isn’t really the most important factor on the impact their behavior has on the family. Alcohol abuse that is not yet actual physical dependence can still have serious consequences.
Financial Impact of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism on Families
The financial impact of alcohol abuse goes way beyond what the drinker is spending at bars and liquor stores, although those costs add up. Many individuals who have a problem with alcohol addiction also abuse other substances, which can be very costly. Under the influence of alcohol, the individual may lose his or her wallet or may rack up large credit card bills buying rounds for everyone at the bar. The drinker may spend all the cash on hand and then have no idea where the money went.
Other financial problems are triggered by alcohol abuse. The alcoholic may be unable to hold a job, because drinking has become the most important thing in his or her life. The more alcohol abuse progresses, the more chance that it may lead to being unable to pay the rent, mortgage or utilities. A spouse may struggle to cover the bills without the help of the person who is drinking too much. There could be legal fees or lost wages as the person abusing alcohol spends time in jail.
Emotional Impact of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism on Families
Alcohol abuse can cause the whole family to feel like they are under constant stress. It almost feels like they are having a daily car accident, because whatever may happen each day is completely out of their control. Life is unpredictable and unsafe. The individual who is abusing alcohol may end up with many different consequences, from drunk driving charges to domestic disturbances, and the members of the family are powerless to do anything about it.
Members of the family will most likely put a lot of effort and energy into worrying about the person who is struggling with alcohol addiction. The family helplessly watches as the drinker seems oblivious to how much he or she is hurting the other members of the family. Family members may also become enablers, buying alcohol for the person who has a problem with alcohol addiction or making excuses for him or her.
Outbursts in a drunken rage may be frequent. Children may feel like they are somehow to blame for the alcoholic behavior. Spouses or partners may feel lonely or abandoned, or they may feel like they aren’t really in a give-and-take relationship anymore. There may be constant conflict between spouses, which may ultimately lead to a broken home.
Subtle Ways Alcohol Addiction Impacts Families
There are some more subtle ways that alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction can impact the family. If there are children in the home, a person who abuses alcohol is giving a message loud and clear to the children that the way to cope with life’s problems is to turn to a chemical to escape from difficulties. This is really not coping at all. In this way, addictive tendencies are passed from one generation to the next.
If alcoholism progresses to the point where there are physical consequences, such as cirrhosis of the liver or liver failure, dealing with these illnesses will greatly affect all the members of the family. Family members may also struggle with fatigue caused by waiting up all night wondering where the person who is abusing alcohol has gone. The end result is the health of family members may ultimately be affected just from living with someone who is addicted to alcohol.
Although alcoholism may seem like a disorder that only affects an individual, in reality it affects every member of the family and may continue to do so even if the alcoholic quits drinking. Family members of those who struggle with alcohol abuse need to learn to practice self-care. One of the best places to get help for the way alcohol addiction has affected you is to attend meetings of Al-Anon. Alcoholism is a disease of body, mind and spirit. Family members didn’t cause it, can’t control it and can’t cure it. The best they can do is become aware that they have been affected by someone else’s alcohol abuse, and look for support from others who have been through similar circumstances.