The effects of alcoholism on families
Addiction can have a damaging effect on entire families, which can impact many generations. When a member of a family is suffering from alcoholism, those closest to them can find that they have to contend with financial problems, strained relationships, and harm to their own health and wellbeing.
We have taken a look at the effects that alcoholism can have on a family, how to deal with addiction in the family and the support that Priory can offer as a person embarks on recovery.
How alcoholism affects the family
Its impact on children
Children can be greatly affected by alcoholism in their household. They can feel guilty, where they believe they are responsible for the drinking and the fact that it won’t stop. They can also become frustrated and angry, as they try to make sense of why a person they care about is behaving in such a way.
As alcoholism can disrupt routines, this can mean a child misses out on steady mealtimes or bedtimes, or has to take on additional responsibilities to establish routine in the household. Their mood and behaviours can also become unpredictable, where they find it difficult to make friends and are afraid of going to school.
Older children of alcoholics can suffer from obsessive perfectionism, hoarding, isolation and excessive self-consciousness, as they worry that they are different from other people. They can also have problems in school, as family life makes it difficult to study and establish relationships.
The emotions and thoughts that present themselves in childhood can be carried into adulthood, where the person struggles to find healthy relationships, behaves erratically, makes poor choices and has a negative self-image. They can also continue to feel the anxiety, depression and introversion that started when they were a child.
Its impact on spouses and partners
As a person becomes addicted to alcohol, their focus can shift, where they neglect their work in favour of drinking or dealing with the effects of drinking. This can lead to a spouse or partner having to deal with the repercussions of a loss of income or less money in the household. They may also have to take on more responsibilities with regards to the family and home.
A person with alcoholism may also put themselves and others in unsafe or risky situations when drinking or trying to acquire alcohol, which can be both draining and dangerous for those who care about them.
Co-dependency and enabling addiction
Everyone wants to love and protect their family. When someone has alcoholism, their family may try to hide its existence as they feel ashamed. They may want to help the addict get out of troubles caused by alcohol. Families can also try to help, control or cure the alcoholism, or even agree to let it continue in exchange for keeping everyone together.
While done with good intentions, this behaviour can result in alcoholism continuing to impact everyone in the family. Instead, seeking outside support can help to break the cycle, allowing everyone to rebuild a life away from addiction.
How to cope with addiction in the family
If you are dealing with alcoholism within your family, Pamela Roberts, Addictions Team Leader at Priory Hospital Woking, looks at the steps you can take to prevent the addiction from continuing to impact you and those closest to you:
- Accepting addiction - admitting that the person’s addiction is more than just a bad habit can take time. It involves you having to take a risk and step back from all the ways that you naturally want to help. Accepting addiction as an illness, where medical professionals are often needed to help the person get better, can often bring you some relief
- Breaking patterns – recognising addiction as an illness can help you to let go of feelings that you can change, ignore or control the behaviour of the person. It is important to think about the effects of your own behaviour here, and how you can change your patterns to help a person towards recovery
- Self-esteem and self-worth – dealing with the effects of addiction, such as social withdrawal or self-neglect, while also feeling responsible ton, may have left you without a sense of self. Start thinking about how you can recover the whole family, as opposed to just the one person with the addiction. Start paying attention to your own wants and needs
- Managing emotions – you probably feel a range of emotions towards the person with the addiction. While it can be difficult to step outside the cycle of blame and resentment, it is important to find healthy ways to manage and express your anger
- Seeking support – meet with other families or family members who have similar experiences with addiction and family recovery. They will be able to relate to what you are going through and offer strategies that they have found helpful
Support for addiction with Priory
At Priory, we help people with addictions throughout the recovery journey, and we also support their families. Our family support groups are there to help family members of people enrolled in the 28-day Addiction Treatment Programme (ATP).
We understand that it is never just one person impacted by addiction, so we have a process in place to help patients’ families heal, repair relationships and gain access to the support they need.