Alcoholism, also known as alcohol addiction or alcohol use disorder, can seriously harm an individual’s mental and physical health, social life, and work. However, the impact of addiction is felt much more widely, beyond just the person drinking.
As anyone living with a family member who struggles with alcohol abuse will know, alcohol addiction affects the entire family. It can lead to strained relationships, financial problems, and even child development.
Seeking treatment for alcohol use disorders is not only a potentially life-saving treatment for the individual but also essential to protect the well-being of family members and the family unit as a whole. Remember, you don’t have to do anything alone. At Feinberg, we’re here to guide you through the process, taking the weight off your shoulders and finding the best solutions for you and your loved ones. We’ll support you through the admissions process, treatment phase, and the journey of recovery that follows.
This blog offers some more information about the different ways that alcohol addiction affects the family and how substance abuse treatment can promote healing for the whole family and lasting recovery.
What Is An Alcohol Use Disorder?
Alcohol use disorder is a medical diagnosis that encompasses alcohol addiction, dependence, abuse, and colloquial terms such as alcoholism. It’s characterized by inhibited control over alcohol use, making it difficult for individuals to stop or reduce their drinking despite any negative consequences.
Some people prefer to use the term alcohol use disorder instead of the term alcoholism because of the stigma and misconceptions attached to the latter term.
How Does Alcohol Misuse Affect the Family?
Alcohol abuse can affect family members in many ways. Learning about how alcohol affects the family can help someone to understand the significance of their drinking problem and why it’s so important to seek treatment. It can also help family members to feel less alone and to understand their experiences and conflicting emotions.
Children’s Development and Wellbeing
Having a parent with a drinking problem can prevent the healthy emotional development of children, affecting their mental health, behaviors, and relationships later on in life. Children of alcoholics may:
- experience a lack of attention because their parent is preoccupied with drinking
- feel socially isolated if their parents don’t invite friends home
- experience physical or emotional abuse
- have to care for other siblings
- witness strained relationships between their parents
Experience of early life adversity, including child abuse or neglect, can affect the way a child’s brain develops, making them more vulnerable to mental health disorders later on in life. It also puts them at increased risk of developing a substance use disorder themselves.
Feelings of anger, mistrust, and abandonment that children experience can affect the way they form relationships and attach to others when they grow older. Fears of abandonment can stay with a child for the rest of their lives, making it more difficult for them to form trusting and stable relationships. Children of parents who drink alcohol excessively often require therapeutic support later in life to heal from the damage caused.
Damaged Relationships with Loved Ones
Research shows that couples where one partner struggles with alcohol addiction experience higher rates of relationship dissatisfaction, instability, and verbal and physical aggression.
Drinking problems can cause one partner to lie to the other or act secretively to downplay or hide the extent of their problem, leading to mistrust and breaking down communication. The partner may also neglect home and family responsibilities because of their drinking habits, preventing them from giving their loved ones the care they deserve. Financial troubles and legal issues caused by excessive alcohol consumption can exacerbate conflicts, stress, and anxiety.
While addiction can cause serious damage to relationships, it’s possible for couples to heal. Addiction treatment programs often include couples therapy or family therapy. This supports partners in resolving conflicts, rebuilding trust, and forming stable relationships of mutual care.
According to the World Health Organization, researchers have found strong links between alcohol abuse and intimate partner violence in many countries. Data suggests that alcohol consumption increases the frequency and severity of domestic violence and studies into intimate partner violence often identify that the perpetrator has consumed alcohol.
Remember, there is never a reason that you should tolerate emotional, verbal, or physical abuse, in intimate relationships or otherwise. Most people who abuse alcohol do not abuse their partners and drinking is not an excuse for any form of violence. If you are living with domestic violence, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline for free and confidential support.
Maintaining an alcohol addiction is expensive and often puts a strain on the family’s finances. It can lead to financial difficulties in paying rent, bills, and meeting the financial needs of other family members. In some cases, people may lie to or steal from others to fund their drinking habits, straining relationships even further.
Family Members’ Well-Being
Living with a family member who abuses alcohol can be exhausting, frustrating, and hurtful. Family members often experience conflicting emotions, caring for their loved ones while feeling angry and hurt by their actions. The stress of strained relationships, financial concerns, and neglected responsibilities can take its toll on the well-being and mental health of every family member.
Self-Care and Seeking Support
Alcohol addiction is known as a family disease because of its pervasive effects on the family. If you are affected by addiction, it’s important that you look after yourself.
Practicing Good Self-Care
Practicing good self-care can help you maintain good mental health and cope with your loved one’s addiction. Some self-care practices include:
- Eating healthy, balanced meals
- Taking regular exercise
- Maintaining regular sleeping patterns
- Spending time with friends
- Pursuing hobbies you enjoy
- Exploring creative outlets
- Practicing relaxation techniques
Emotional Support and Professional Help
It’s also a good idea to speak with friends that you trust about your experience. Sharing your problems with others can lessen the emotional burden and offer effective and stable support. You may also want to attend support groups like Al-Anon, specifically for the families of people living with addiction, or visit a professional therapist for expert support.
Alcohol Addiction Treatment
For most people living with alcoholism, addiction treatment is the only way to recover from the condition and begin the healing process for the whole family.
There are lots of different types of treatment available, from inpatient residential programs to community-based treatments, so you can find something to suit your needs. Addiction treatment programs tend to combine a variety of evidence-based options in individualized treatment plans, addressing the root causes of addiction and promoting long-lasting healing.
Feinberg Consulting – It’s In Our Hands
Feinberg consulting is a leading healthcare solutions company, specializing in interventions and case management. We stand by families facing healthcare challenges, supporting them to navigate the different options available and find the most effective solutions. We are established experts in the field, with unrivaled connections, experience, and knowledge.
We understand the stress that drug abuse and other health crises can cause a family. We’re here to take the weight off your shoulders, support you from the beginning to the end of the treatment process, and stay with you throughout the recovery journey that follows.
With Feinberg Consulting, you don’t have to do it alone. Contact us to get support today.