Alcoholic in the Family

When one person’s drinking affects the family, everybody hurts. This is why alcoholism is often called a “family disease.” The family circle becomes dysfunctional and discordant. Before the bottle tears you and your spouse, children, or parents apart, it helps to learn more about this disease and the options for recovery.

How to Spot Alcoholism in the Family

When someone has a substance abuse problem, they will likely try to hide it from those around them. Since alcohol is a legal drug, it may take longer to realize someone is a problem drinker or an alcoholic. People tend to make excuses when someone drinks too much, because it hits home. Many of us have had an occasion (or more than one) where we over imbibed. How do you know if your loved one’s drinking has crossed the line into abuse? Here are some signs to look for:

  • Your loved one’s behavior has changed. They may become more irritable or argumentative or even violent.
  • They perform poorly or neglect responsibilities such as school or work.
  • They attempt to hide their drinking, either going out to drink or hiding bottles somewhere in your home.
  • Most of us recognize when someone is drunk. The slurred speech, lack of coordination, and alcohol on the breath are signs, but just because you don’t witness these symptoms doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem. A high-functioning alcoholic can hide many of the signs of abuse.
  • Look for signs in the morning when the alcoholic may be going through withdrawal and needs a drink. They may have the shakes, be perspiring, and have no appetite.
  • There are many more signs to look for. You know your loved one, and any changes in their appearance or personality can be a clue that their drinking is out of control.

How Alcoholism Affects a Family

Living with an alcoholic can cause trauma throughout the family. You may avoid bringing up the subject of their drinking to avoid arguments. Repressing your feelings can lead to resentment. Eventually those negative emotions take a toll on you and the rest of the family. Children of alcoholics growing up in such chaos may act out, perform poorly in school, or start abusing substances as well. They can grow up to have emotional problems that impact them well into adulthood.

Trying to protect the alcoholic can lead to codependency. Examine your own feelings and behavior. Are you being codependent? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have drinks with the alcoholic even though you know this is allowing him or her to fall further into addiction?
  • Do you make excuses for their behavior, such as calling into work and telling the boss that your spouse has the flu when it’s really a hangover? Do you tell yourself that they are going through a hard time and will get over it?

These tactics serve only to continue the addictive behavior.

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Recovery for the Family

The people surrounding a loved one with alcoholism need care, too. Even if your loved one isn’t ready to seek help, it can be a positive experience for you and your family to attend a support group for the family:

  • Al-Anon Family Groups provide peer support for those who love the alcoholic.
  • Alateen is for teens affected by their parent’s or other family member’s or friend’s drinking.
  • Adult Children of Alcoholics: If you were raised by an alcoholic parent, you probably grew up in a dysfunctional household and it is affecting you negatively.

These groups can help you learn the best ways to approach your loved one and support them in seeking recovery. You may consider an intervention if your loved one isn’t willing to listen to you one-on-one and their drinking is impacting your family in a negative way. Some alcoholics have co-occurring disorders such as depression or may be children of alcoholics themselves.

If you are the alcoholic in the center of this family, a recovery program that helps you through a medically supervised detox and a recovery program can help you to get sober, especially one that is led by compassionate people who understand the family dynamics of alcoholism. You’ve probably already lost time with your loved ones; don’t let another day of missed opportunity keep you from experiencing the love they have to offer.

Please contact us today to learn more about alcohol addiction treatment and how we can help you or your family come together in sobriety.