I was raised by parents who met in treatment. I saw firsthand how alcohol changes people, and, moreover, how the family dynamic seemed to adapt around the addicted individuals. My parents were fairly healthy in coping with addiction. They never hid it from me and have been open to sharing their struggles along the way. This openness made me aware at a young age of the persuasion and power of drugs like alcohol.
One family member in particular highlighted how significantly a single addiction within the family can alter the course of many lives. This close family member abused alcohol beginning in college, then moved on to harder drugs like heroin. I watched his mother make excuses for him, hide him away when she felt he was in legal danger, and later suffer from guilt, anxiety, and depression after he died at 48. This ongoing suffering led her to begin abusing drugs, including alcohol, to cope. She eventually overdosed. She was my grandmother.
This man, my uncle, had suffered, too. I watched as relationships dissolved around him. He lost his job, lost his only daughter, went to jail, and later to prison, returning again and again for offenses all related to the addiction. Some of the crimes committed were terrible, but I could not ignore the fact that my uncle was possessed by a force more powerful than his ability to reason. Alcoholism had a firm grip on him and nearly every family member left in the wake of the drug’s destructive forces.
Alcohol And Codependency
What made the experience of coping with addiction worse, was how quickly unhealthy relationships based on coping strategies within the family and by friends developed. These codependent relationships allowed behaviors to continue unheeded. People addicted to alcohol are changed. They are capable of great manipulation and deceit while under the influence of the drug. This is a force that is damaging to those closest to the alcohol-addicted individual. After all, how do you turn your own son away when he is pleading for money, help, to be hidden from police? What an unfair choice for anyone to have to make.
Codependency involves an enabling of behaviors that would otherwise not be tolerated. It is common within families with underlying issues that permit a more passive approach to handling the alcohol-addicted family member. Codependent family members tend to protect the image of the family, hiding the addiction. They fail to ask for help or address the addiction in protecting their image. They hide their own feelings and behave as if everything is normal. They attack the character of anyone who attempts to speak up about the addiction. In the end, they perpetuate addictive behaviors so that they do not have to address their own fears or doubts about the reality of their situation.
And yet, it is making this choice to voice the reality of how addiction has altered your life that will help end the cycle of codependency, at least as far as you are concerned. Not every family member will be ready to change, just as the alcohol-addicted person may not be ready to seek treatment. The fact that not everyone is ready to make a healthy decision in moving forward and addressing the issue of alcohol addiction, may ignite friction among families in which codependency is rampant. Failing to do so, however, can mean the kind of stress, guilt, complacency, and despondency that leads to addiction or manifests in other health and mental conditions.
Children Of Alcohol-Addicted Parents
Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of alcoholism within the family. They are more likely to become entangled in codependent coping strategies, and internalize the dysfunction. Children of alcohol-addicted parents are more likely to engage in underage drinking, suffer from low sense of self-worth, do poorly in school, have trouble making friends due to instability at home, suffer from anxiety, stress, depression and associated physical ailments, and are more likely to partake in high-risk behaviors than their peers.
Alcoholism And Domestic Violence
Spousal homicides and cases of domestic violence involve alcohol consumption in the majority of cases. Divorce rates are significantly higher than the national average when one person is addicted to alcohol. Generally, alcohol leads to a breakdown in the lines of communication between partners. Additionally, the alcohol-addicted individual may lose his or her job, irresponsibly spend money on alcohol or drugs, behave aggressively to his or her spouse and children, and in general, increase levels of stress and anxiety for his or her family.
And Alcohol In The Family
When someone is addicted to alcohol, they may engage in high-risk behaviors that lead to significant life events including unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, auto accidents, and health issues related to their addiction, not to mention the loss of a job or career due to the use of alcohol. Families are typically left in the wake of these events, attempting to pick up the pieces, loaning out money, paying legal fees, supporting a child, etc. One person’s addiction can generate serious financial implications for a family.
Alcoholism Loves Company
When one person within the family is addicted to alcohol, consequences are far-reaching, and often the alcoholism is perpetuated as a means to cope. Genetic factors aside, if someone raised by or closely associated with an alcohol-addicted person within the family, being exposed to the rituals of drinking, they will consume alcohol. Children of alcohol-addicted individuals are far more likely to become addicted later in life. And a spouse or other loved one may turn to alcohol to cope with the aftermath of addiction.
Whether alcoholism causes depression or depression is the root of alcoholism, one thing is clear, humans turn to coping strategies when under duress. My father turned to alcohol when both of his parents were killed by a drunk driver. It seems backwards on the surface, but alcohol is widely available, does not require a prescription, and it impacts glutamate receptors within the body, producing a sedative response. In short, habitual alcohol use is a widely accepted form of self-medicating.
A Path To Co-recovery From Alcoholism Within The Family
Alcoholism is a family disease. The same people who not only suffer the negative physical, emotional, and financial strains when someone is addicted to alcohol within the family, can be key components to a person’s recovery.
Learning to communicate openly and honestly about the addiction, working with other family members to form a support team and develop an intervention strategy, ending codependent behaviors, becoming educated on what to expect during, before, and after addiction treatment, and creating a support system for yourself, are all key ways to keep your family healthy and aware in the midst of addiction. You cannot control the outcome, but you can survive the addiction.
AlcoholTreatment.net can connect you and your family with resources and treatment support services in your area to meet your needs as a family. Contact us and speak with someone in confidence about options that will get you and your loved one on a path to co-recovery today.