There are many different aspects of alcoholism that can be damaging but one of its strongest impacts is on family life. When someone in a family is addicted to alcohol it can break down family dynamics in a way that harms everyone involved. It can cause marital issues and create complicated problems with a child’s upbringing and development.
Alcoholism within families is devastating because it can negatively affect the way each relationship functions. It is well known among researchers that not only does alcoholism hurt family dynamics, it also creates more vulnerability for addiction in family members. Children of alcoholics are not only psychologically damaged from the experience but they are also more likely to become addicted to alcohol themselves.
There can be complex issues that develop when a person in the family is addicted to alcohol. Everyone in the family may react differently and have their own problems that develop as a result of the alcoholic’s behavior. It is important for each person in the family to be aware of how the addiction is affecting them and what they can do about it.
Family Dynamics and Alcoholism
There are many ways that addiction can disrupt family life and cause dysfunction in every relationship. There is no longer a normal, healthy family dynamic when someone is an alcoholic. Everyone will find a way to cope with the person’s behavior that may either cause more problems or enable the alcoholic.
Sometimes spouses or children become enablers without realizing that they are helping the alcoholic continue to abuse. When someone is an enabler they usually mean well and are trying to create harmony in the family but they are really allowing the alcoholic to keep drinking. Enabling means that the person is removing the natural consequences of the addict’s behavior.
An enabler might lie for the addict, make excuses for them, clean up after them or find other ways to prevent them from fully experiencing the consequences of their actions. An enabler may start out with the intention to help out but they may build up resentment and start to dislike the situation that they always find themselves in. The addict may come to rely on the enabler and are no longer solving their own problems or facing up to responsibilities.
While some family members fall into the role of the enabler, others may become more rebellious, angry and defiant of the alcoholic. Some children can turn into the troubled family scapegoat while others might become sensitive and withdrawn. Each child will begin to react in their own way to their parent’s behavior as they try to cope with a difficult and often traumatic childhood.
Mental Health and Family Addiction
When someone in the family has an addiction, the mental health of everyone living with them is likely to suffer. For children of alcoholics, this can mean developing issues with depression, anxiety or having behavioral problems. Kids who grow up with an addict tend to struggle more with relationships and normal functioning as they become an adult.
Children of alcoholics are more likely to struggle in school and tend to score lower on academic tests. They might also have trouble with finding a steady job and career later on in life because of the effects on their development. Children of addicts tend to feel more instability and uncertainty as they grow up which can affect their self-esteem.
Some kids can internalize an alcoholic’s behavior and blame themselves for things that have gone wrong at home. They might think that their parent drinks because of their own mistakes or bad grades in school. It is important for children of alcoholics to get professional help from a counselor so that they can make sense of the situation and not internalize the experience.
Alcoholism can also destroy marriages and cause a rift between spouses that is difficult to repair. The spouse of an alcoholic will usually see their own mental health suffer as they try to cope with their partner’s actions. They might become an enabler or be in denial themselves about the situation yet they will still feel the abuse take its toll on them.
The spouse of an alcoholic might feel their anger and resentment build to the point where they can no longer remain in the marriage. Communication can break down and lead to issues that the alcoholic is not equipped to fix in their addicted state. Unfortunately many marriages end when one partner is dealing with an addiction.
Family dynamics can be very complex when a family member abuses alcohol. However, with treatment and family therapy it is possible to repair those relationships as long as the alcoholic is quitting their abuse. A treatment center for addiction can help the alcoholic as well as their family to become healthier and more connected.