The Painfully Slow, Nasty Way Alcohol Breaks Family
When you indulge in the ongoing overconsumption of alcohol, you are not only subjecting yourself to a chronic problem but also exposing your family, colleagues and other people around you to avoidable stress, unnecessary drama and a host of serious problems. Understand that there are no misconceptions about how alcohol breaks family and friendships. Although alcohol use disorder can feel like a solo disease, it isn’t. The one with the condition doesn’t suffer alone. Alcohol breaks family.
Loved ones and anyone who is part of your world will suffer as well. It can destroy marriages, create permanent rifts between parents and siblings, demolish careers and put families through financial ruin.
Americans Are Losing the Battle Against Alcohol
86.4% of people 18 years and older have indulged in alcohol consumption.
National Survey on Drug Use and Health
The statistics in this country are staggering. The evidence in how alcoholism is taking its toll on personal productivity and livelihood is appalling. And for all the public service announcements from national and local agencies, community coalitions and private entities that provide information and scientific-based warnings about the ills of alcohol use, this is where we are.
- 1 in 8 Americans has alcohol use disorder (15.1 million)
- 30 million Americans suffer from alcohol abuse
- Greatest increase in alcohol consumption: women, minorities and seniors
What’s more sobering about these statistics is that most of the people who have lost control over alcohol use don’t even know it. This, in part, is why less than seven percent of those needing help, seek help.
Signs of Alcoholism in Families
For the partners, parents or children of someone struggling with an alcohol disorder, because their focus is on the person with the substance problem, all too often their own inner cries for help are muffled. There are many reasons for that and it’s the quiet, subtle way that alcoholism affects your self-worth, self-esteem and positive self-actualization. Below is an overview of the process that creeps up over time.
Negligence of Responsibilities
Alcohol has the tendency to impair the cognitive abilities of the user and affect his or her physical capabilities. This diminishes the capacity of the user to perform the duties they are obligated to do. When the level of alcoholism increases, the user tends to neglect the responsibilities related to family, work and society. This ultimately shifts the burden of carrying the relationship onto the sober partner.
Alcoholism is referred as a family disease. Wives, husbands, siblings, children, mothers and fathers are bound to suffer from and with the alcoholic. Several negative impacts can be inflicted on the mental health of the people sharing the space with the person addicted to alcohol.
Alcohol Abuse and Its Effects on Children
Alcoholism inflicts substantial harm to the lives of the children of alcoholics. They are likely to suffer mentally, emotionally and, at times, physically. Children of alcoholics demonstrate symptoms – such as low levels of self-esteem, aloofness, helplessness, guilt, anxiety and depression. Without therapy, these problems are likely to stay with them into adulthood impacting their behaviors, decision making and perceptions of self and the world around them.
Children can generate guilt relating to the temperament issues and alcoholic behavior of their parent and blame themselves for it. More than 10 percent of children in the United States live with a parent(s) who are alcoholics – and that’s a reported statistic. The real numbers are much higher. Since alcohol use leads the user to often neglect their home life, children are vulnerable to abandonment and deprived of their basic needs.
When young ones grow up in an environment of accepted alcoholism by mothers, fathers or siblings, the resounding message is that alcohol is the coping mechanism in handling life’s challenges. This is one of the many reasons why alcoholism is often a generational disease.
Rift Between Partners
There is a strong association between alcoholism and divorce ratios in America. According to a recent study, marriage and subsequent alcohol use in a partner cannot be separated. The former is bound to suffer due to the latter. Participants in the study were comprised of people in their first marriage. Those married to spouses who did not have an alcohol use disorder had higher rates of marital success than those who did come into marriage with the disease. Further, the statistics denote that marriages have 0.41 hazard ratio if the husbands are alcoholic and 0.27 hazard ratio if the wives are addicted to alcohol. Alcohol disorder in one of the partners, in the first marriage, brings a substantial risk of communication decline and ultimately, divorce.
When one partner is living with alcoholism in the other, the sober one takes on added liability encompassing all aspects of their lives. Some, not all, alcoholics can become belligerent after drinking, lashing out in emotional outbursts that not only hurt but can turn physical and cause injury or death. The complicated and tumultuous circumstances that become their normal day-to-day existence create huge rifts – irreconcilable differences that can’t be healed without a treatment and recovery plan.
Mounting Legal Issues
Heavy alcohol consumption changes brain function, especially to the prefrontal cortex that harbors decision-making, rational thinking and understanding the correlation between cause and effect. As a result, alcoholics cannot properly assess what’s in front of them, literally and figuratively. In addition, the brain of the alcoholic will change physiologically, increasing risks for other physical and mental health conditions.
Diminished brain function puts alcoholics and those around them at greater risk for harm. With their loss of control in personal matters and their own behaviors, an increase for risky interactions heightens the likelihood of legal battles to come. Adverse sexual encounters, violence, driving under the influence and mismanagement of finances are just some of the negative effects of alcohol use disorder.
Alcohol-impaired drivers caused 28% of crash deaths in 2016.
The consequences of such acts lead to legal problems and societal humiliation of the alcoholic and his or her family that can last for decades. To pay any associated fees or penalties ordered by civil or criminal courts or personal injuries due to the alcoholic’s negligence or willful acts, the family of the addict can lose everything they’ve worked so hard to build – savings, retirement, home and security.
The Damage Done Doesn’t Have to Be Forever
Alcoholism, untreated, brings turmoil and disorder to the family dynamic. The alcoholics may recover, through rehabilitation and other support programs, but the individuals who have lived with them through addiction endured emotional and mental anguish. Alcohol consumption is a personal choice but when it morphs into alcohol use disorder, the entire family suffers.
Empower the Family Again, Just Ask How We Can Help with Alcohol Use Disorder
Authored by Melanie Stern, Content Director for Scottsdale Recovery Center, Arizona Addiction Recovery Centers and Cohn Media, LLC. Writer and broadcaster covering the following industries: addiction rehab, health care, entertainment, technology and advocate of clear communication, positivity and humanity at its best.