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How Alcoholism Affects the Family

What most people who have no experience of addiction do not seem to understand is that addiction is an illness that those affected have no control over. Nobody actually makes the decision to become an addict. Ignorance of this illness can lead people to believe that those affected choose to continue drinking alcohol or taking drugs even though doing so will cause themselves and others serious consequences. This is simply not the case.

Addictions like alcoholism are progressive illnesses that gradually worsen over time. The person with alcoholism does not choose to continue drinking; he or she loses all control over his/her actions and cannot stop drinking even if he/she wanted to. The reason for this is that alcoholism changes the way the brain functions. The more a person drinks, the more his or her body becomes tolerant to the effects and begins to crave alcohol. Once addiction sets in, the affected individual will start to suffer withdrawal symptoms when not drinking and the only way to make these symptoms subside is to have another drink; it is a vicious cycle.

How Alcoholism Affects the Family

In many cases, the person suffering from alcoholism may not even realise he or she has a problem. The individual will gradually increase his/her alcohol intake without even realising, or he/she may assume that his/her problem is not so bad because someone else they know drinks more than they do. Others are unaware that their drinking is a problem because they have never tried to quit. However, in most cases, it is family members who notice that a loved one’s drinking is becoming an issue.

One family member’s alcoholism can often have a devastating effect on the other members of the family. Addiction, in general, is considered to be a family illness, and alcoholism can be far-reaching in its consequences.

Living with an alcoholic can be stressful and frustrating. Alcoholics are often unable to see that their behaviour is abusive or unfair. They often cannot take other people’s feelings into consideration and are unable to be objective. Alcohol affects judgement and leads to damaged relationships. Children of addicts tend to struggle with feelings of shame, embarrassment, guilt, blame, and low self-esteem.

Alcoholism is associated with domestic violence, financial hardship, divorce, adultery, and foetal alcohol syndrome. Babies born to alcoholic mothers can be negatively affected, which can lead to long-term developmental problems.

How Family Members Cope with Alcoholism

Family members tend to cope with one individual’s alcoholism in different ways. In the early stages, most will feel concern for their loved one and will want to help. They are usually of the opinion that they can ‘fix’ their loved one just by talking to him/her and reasoning with the person. This is rarely the case and the illness will get worse. If an alcoholic fails to see that he/she has a problem, he/she will be unlikely to listen to, or even understand, the concerns of other family members. The person may think that his/her loved ones are being overly dramatic and making a mountain out of a molehill.

Some family members may take a different approach and could be in denial themselves. They may not want to believe their loved one could be classed as an addict and will deny all suggestions of this. They will defend the actions of the alcoholic in order to protect this person and out of a sense of duty.

Other members will be resentful and angry because of the behaviour of their addicted loved one. They may fail to understand that alcoholism is an illness that requires treatment. They are often of the opinion that their loved one is choosing to put the family through this heartache and so are unable to forgive this individual for that.

If your loved one is struggling with alcoholism, we can help. Rehab Helper is a free service providing advice and information to those affected by addiction. Call today to find out more.

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