What Effects Does Alcoholism Have on a Family

  • Alcoholism is a chronic condition with genetic, environmental and life experience components. Alcoholics continue with their compulsive behaviors despite the negative consequences on themself and their family.
  • The lives of family, friends and other loved ones are affected with adverse effects on the overall health and well-being.
  • If you are a friend or family member of someone who has an alcohol use disorder (AUD), you are likely left trying to figure out how to help them and change their behaviors. People with alcoholism frequently fail to see the negative effects of their behavior on friends and family. 
  • It is beneficial for family members to learn about alcohol use disorder and ways to improve their reactions and interactions with their loved one. Maybe this means setting boundaries or joining a support group like Al-Anon which offers support to you.
  • It’s important to remember that addiction is a family disease and all members are affected by its destruction. 

Definition of Alcoholism 

Alcoholism is a chronic and progressive disease characterized by physical, psychological, and social dependence on alcohol. It is characterized by compulsive drinking, impaired control over drinking, and preoccupation with the drug despite its negative consequences.

Alcoholism can cause serious medical, psychological, and social problems, and can lead to death if left untreated.

Overview of How Alcohol Affects Family Relationships

The effects of alcoholism on families can be detrimental due to the serious negative effects on relationships. Alcoholics tend to withdraw from loved ones and display behaviors that are out of character which can include getting angry when the topic of their issues is brought up. 

Even more than it does for the drinker, alcoholism has a profound impact on every family member’s life, outlook and way of thinking.

Family Problems Caused by Alcohol

Drinking alcohol increases the risk of family breakdown and violence. Here are some of the ways that families are affected:

1. Anger, irritability and defensiveness are commonly used when people are in denial about their drinking problem and see family members as a type of threat. They feel they are being attacked when anyone attempts to speak to them about the drinking. The result is a lot of stress within the household due to the fighting and toxic behaviors. 

2. Negative emotions are experienced by loved ones as a response to the drinking. There is an increase in feelings of frustration, anger, guilt, fear, sadness and isolation. 

3. Financial problems are common among people with alcohol use disorder. Financial strains result from spending too much money on alcohol, and also as a result of job loss, excessive spending. This obviously impacts the entire family unit. 

4. Legal problems often result from alcoholism due to drinking and driving and domestic violence. 

5. Abuse and violence are common among families affected by alcoholism. 

The Impact on Children of Alcoholics

Families affected by alcohol use have high levels of stress. Growing up in an environment like this makes children more prone to developing addiction issues and making poor life choices later in life.

Children are also at increased risk of mental health issues including:

  • trauma
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • anger
  • confusion
  • low self esteem
  • relationships issues

Children of alcoholics often experience social withdrawal, engage in risk-taking behaviors and have academic issues.

Emotional Effects 

  1. Feelings of guilt, shame and isolation within the family unit
  2. Disruption to interpersonal elationships
  3. Low self-esteem, depression and anxiety from living in a home with an alcoholic
  4. Difficulty trusting others and establishing healthy relationships
  5. Lack of coping skills and resiliency 

Setting Boundaries

While being supportive is important, it is also crucial to put boundaries in place. While setting boundaries can be difficult, it is crucial to ensure your emotional and physical safety.

First and foremost, it is important to be clear and direct with your family members about what behaviors are unacceptable and why. Explain that their drinking is detrimental to their health and well-being and that it is not acceptable for them to drink in your presence any longer.

Establishing clear boundaries and consequences for violating them can help ensure that your family members understand and respect them. This is not going to be easy but you must act on the consequences otherwise the boundaries hold no power as they will be seen merely as threats.

You should not accept a loved one’s toxic behaviors and actions. For example, make it clear that you will no longer tolerate drinking within the home and follow through on the consequences when these boundaries are crossed. 

It is important to take care of yourself. Make sure to take breaks when needed and to find healthy ways to cope with the stress of having an alcoholic family member.

Reach out to friends and family for support and to talk about your feelings. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help and support through groups like Al-Anon.

Be patient and understanding with yourself and your family members. Addiction is a complex issue and is difficult to overcome. Showing compassion and understanding will help them to feel safe and supported in their recovery journey.

What is Enabling and How Does it Affect Alcoholism?

Enablers are usually unaware of the negative impact their behaviors are having on their loved one. They have good intentions but nothing good comes from enabling actions.

They actually prevent their loved ones from getting help as they refuse to stand by and let their loved one hit rock bottom – they continually pick them up and brush them off. 

For alcoholism, an enabling relationship makes it possible for the drinking to continue. Enabling is highly destructive but most enablers mean well, believing their actions are helping even when time after time there are negative consequences. 

For the enabler, the very thought of letting the person they care about hurt themselves is too much to handle.

They don’t realize that their kindness and protection is contributing to their loved ones problems. Enabling is a very toxic relationship that requires help to get through. The enabler needs to regain their self esteem and sense of self to be able to offer the help their loved one needs.

Enabling family members should seek help through counseling and support groups. This can offer them education, skills and tools to change their behaviors and strategies for supporting their loved one through recovery. 

Treatment Options for Families of Alcoholics 

Alcohol abuse can have a detrimental impact on the health and well-being of the individual and family members. Getting help is crucial to helping people start their journey of recovery. It can improve family functioning and strengthen relationships that have been negatively affected. 

Support from family and friends is essential, but the people who make up one’s support system also need to care for themselves. Joining a support group or talking to professional can be helpful.


Support Groups

Family members benefit from educational and support programs such as Alateen and Al-Anon. The benefits include:

  • reducing the risk of children developing alcohol or substance use problems
  • help identify if children or family members are in need of treatment for things like depression or anxiety
  • providing education and support to help family members understand alcoholism and that they are not responsible
  • helping family members feel understood and less isolated by providing peer support from people experiencing the same issues

Support groups can offer stability, support and offer a sense of belonging to loved ones who have experienced feelings isolated and alone with their family member’s addiction. 

Family Therapy

  • Family therapy is an effective treatment for alcoholism, as it helps to address underlying psychological issues that may have contributed to the development of the disorder.
  • It provides a safe and supportive environment for the alcoholic to express their feelings and struggles, while also helping family members to better understand and support them.
  • Family therapy can help to identify and address any family dynamics that have contributed to the problem, such as enabling behaviors or lack of communication.
  • It also helps to break down any walls of denial or resentment that can keep the alcoholic from getting help. 

Get Help for Alcohol-Related Issues

If you or your loved one are having issues related to alcohol addiction, there is help.

The warm and friendly staff at Luxe Recovery can help by discussing what treatment options are available based on your individual situation. Please do reach out today and let us help you on your family’s journey towards recovery. 

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