Here’s an alarming statistic: around 14.5 million Americans have an alcohol use disorder. What’s even more worrisome is that alcohol dependence not only affects the individuals with the addiction; it also affects their families. No wonder alcoholism is sometimes referred to as a family disease.
Without alcohol treatment, the condition not only affects individuals’ physical, mental, and emotional well-being, it can also lead to other problems. These problems can include estranged relatives, financial issues, failed marriages, and neglected children.
Alcohol Abuse and Financial Problems
Without prompt intervention, alcohol dependence can lead to financial strain. Many alcoholics spend an average of $1,000 a month on alcohol. This can impact the average family’s ability to pay the bills, make home repairs, and take family trips. As the addiction progresses, it can lead to mounting debts and, in some cases, even homelessness.
Other possible financial problems can include:
- Reduced income due to missed work
- Inability to pay credit card bills
- Massive hospital bills due to alcohol-related health issues
- Increased credit card charges to pay for living expenses
- Court and legal expenses due to alcohol-related arrests
- Late penalties and fees due to late credit card payments
- Increased expenses due to drinking-related activities such as gambling and clubbing
Alcohol use disorders can also have a significant impact on individuals’ earning potential. If the alcohol addiction starts in college, it can negatively impact their salary potential and employment prospects. It can also affect their work as they are often less productive, late, or absent due to binges and hangovers.
Alcohol Abuse and Family Relationships
While unfortunate to note, alcohol can impact the lives of the family members as much as the drinkers themselves. Ultimately, family members can suffer the repercussions of alcohol dependence from living in an environment filled with dishonesty, tension, stress, and disruptions.
The impact of alcohol dependence on family relationships can also result in:
- Marital problems (and eventually divorce)
- Financial issues
- Codependency in partners
- Behavioral issues in children
- Dysfunctional relationships
- Intimate partner violence (verbal and physical abuse)
Alcohol Abuse and Children
Many kids living with a parent with alcohol problems develop socialization, conduct, and development issues. Alcohol dependence can have a lifelong impact on children and dramatically change their perceptions of themselves and the world.
Other emotional experiences children of alcoholics go through include:
- Embarrassment: They can end up believing that alcohol abuse is a shameful secret they should keep. The shame and embarrassment can keep them from asking for help.
- Anger: Children of alcoholics often feel irritated and agitated.
- Distrust: They can develop the belief that they can’t trust anyone based on their disappointing relationships with an alcoholic parent or guardian.
- Anxiety: They can get anxious, stressed, and filled with worry that the alcoholic parent can become injured, sick, or violent.
- Detachment: Children of alcoholics can become dissociative or emotionally numb.
- Confusion: Children can become confused in an unpredictable, dysfunctional, and unpredictable environment.
Children of alcoholics can also experience physical, developmental, and social issues, including:
- Failing or poor grades
- Suicidal attempts or thoughts
- School truancy or avoidance
- Overachieving or perfectionism
- Alcohol and drug use
- Engaging in risky behaviors
- Violent or aggressive behavior
- Inability to bond with friends or make new ones
- Physical illnesses
Alcohol Abuse and Domestic Violence
Many victims of domestic violence reported alcohol dependency as a part of the abuse. Alcohol can affect the brain by blocking the chemical signals between neurons. When the signals are blocked, slower reflexes, poor memory, and impulsive behavior can result.
Alcohol abuse can also impact the individuals’ physical and cognitive functioning, leading to poor self-control and acts of violence. Some families of alcohol dependents report increased manipulation, verbal insults, and physical or emotional abuse.
Finding Support for Affected Families
One of the first steps toward healing is finding treatment and support for family members. Fortunately, the family’s recovery can begin even if the alcoholic has not quit. To heal, family members need to determine their needs first, and from there, they can decide on the best approach to healing.
It is also crucial that all impacted family members talk to a professional about how they are affected and what support they need. Mental health professionals such as clinical social workers, psychiatrists, and counselors can offer guidance on the best recovery approach and answer any questions they may have.
If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.
About the Author: Lauren Kunis is the Content Marketing Strategist for Stonewall Institute, an outpatient alcohol and drug treatment center in Phoenix, Arizona that offers online DUI classes, DUI screenings, and a holistic, individualized approach to addiction recovery. She loves reading books, traveling, and going on hiking adventures with her dog, Max.
Photo by Ethan Sykes on Unsplash
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