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Alcoholism not only affects the user, but those around them as well. It can cause more emotional, psychological and physical consequences on the family than other influences, both external and internal. The short term impact and long term implications affect each family member differently. A child may suffer a stunt in cognitive development; whereas a spouse may experience extreme anxiety or depression.
A spouse, partner, sibling, parent or child will be affected in some way when they spend a considerable amount of time around a person with an alcohol addiction. Over time as the addiction progresses the personalities of each family member will begin to alter. It is these alterations which cause the family of an alcoholic to adjust to unhealthy and unproductive lifestyles. These changes can be a result of a conscious or unconscious decision. In any case, when these destructive coping methods take place and are untreated, the family unit starts to break down.
Recent studies out of the U.K. show that alcohol is the most destructive drug according to the harm it causes the abuser and their loved ones (crack cocaine and heroin follow). One of the primary reasons for this is alcohol is considerably accepted by a majority of adults and society in general. In the U.S. the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports at least one in four children are exposed to a family member with an addiction to alcohol.
Children of alcoholic parents are particularly affected because the substance typically becomes the number one thing in the drinkers’ life. Basic parental responsibilities like preparing meals and cleaning the house become neglected. Helping the child out with homework, encouraging imaginative activities or showing vital affection and attention is pushed aside. A child may begin to compensate for deficiencies their parent has developed; they may become a surrogate “parent” to other younger siblings or as a coping method for their self.
They may feel like their parents alcoholism is their fault; especially if the parent is blaming the child for their addictive behavior. Younger children may have nightmares, cry frequently or withdrawal from friends and teachers. As they grow older, they may become a perfectionist, develop phobias or engage in risky behavior.
A child of an alcoholic parent may feel alone and isolated. They may have a hard time talking to sober adults about what is going on at home in fear of being punished. They may suffer from low self esteem or self image which can carry on well into adulthood.
At school, the child may struggle. They may be distracted with life at home and therefore neglect activities, studies or homework. On the other hand, the child may do exceedingly well at school and want to spend as much time as possible in this type of environment. They may tell teachers they don’t want to go home or participate in as many after school activities as possible.
Unfortunately, alcoholic parents have a high risk of abusing their child. This can be physical assault, emotional or sexual abuse. In many cases, these things go undetected. In serious cases, the child may go out of his or her way to ensure no one finds out about it. This is another way of coping with the situation at hand and not wanting to make it any worse than it already may be.
Once a child of an alcoholic reaches adulthood, the alcoholism in the family could continue to impact their life. They may have relationship or trust issues and continued low self esteem. Depression, stress, anxiety, impulsive behavior and PTSD could all be an issue. With these feelings, it is not uncommon for a person to engage in risky behavior including drug or alcohol abuse. Keep in mind that substance abuse is not always the go to outlet; for example, sometimes the individual will become very work oriented and withdrawal from social life.
Alcoholism can have a profound effect on the spouse or partner of the addict. Mental and physical health problems can quickly arise as the stress of the addiction starts to weight in. As the alcoholic continues their abuse, the spouse may subconsciously begin to take on a caretaking role. They may get a second job to pay the bills because the alcoholic lost his or her job. They may carry out all the household chores or cover up for the addict when they cannot show up for work or an obligatory task. This is not only a coping method, but also a form of enabling. All these things can lead to resentment, lack of self worth and both mental and physical exhaustion.
The marriage or partnership may begin to suffer. Communication may become nonexistence and there may be a reduction in intimacy and desire. Money may be spent on alcohol or alcohol related activities leading to anger, distress or even abuse. Divorce may be imminent if the alcoholic does not get treatment at a rehab center.
The effects of alcohol often extend beyond the immediate family. Uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents may feel abandoned by the person they love. As they watch alcohol destroy the person’s life as well as, their family, they may be faced with emotions such as anger, anxiety, fear, guilt, concern and embarrassment. With these feelings, they may ignore or cut ties with the alcohol abuser.
Treating an addiction to alcohol is complex and takes time. Moreover, as a general rule, the alcoholic must want to change. While it may seem like pleas of desperation from their loved ones may be the solution, it doesn’t always work. Alcohol is a powerful drug which can take a deep hold of the person. They must at least be able to recognize that there is a problem and as soon as they do, treatment can be a real option.
In the meantime, it is important that family members of an alcoholic help themselves. With the right approach and support, positive steps can be made to improve their own life.
f you or someone you know is a family member of an alcoholic and would like to get help, the following links may be useful.
If these are not what you are looking for, you may also want to consider group or individual counselling and specialized therapies like writing or art. It’s also important to educate yourself about alcohol addiction, rehab treatment and recovery. By understanding what these things entail, you will be able to answer any and all the addicts concerns or questions should they arise. Don’t forget to educate yourself on enabling or codependent behaviors and make an effort to stop these if you are actively engaging in them.
If your loved one is ready to get the help they need for an addiction to alcohol, consider going to rehab in Thailand. Serenity Chiang Rai Rehab is a private, affordable center in the North of Thailand. It’s small capacity and integrated program offers the best possible outcomes to overcome alcoholism and repair a family unit. Contact us today to find out more on our alcohol rehab treatment programs.