Alcoholism & The Family

Alcoholism is a family disease.  Living with an alcoholic means constant stress, anxiety, and uncertainty for everyone in the family.

Families develop various strategies for coping with the alcoholic:

  • Denial: Everyone in the family denies that anything is wrong, yet no one feels right.
  • Adaptation: Making excuses for alcoholic behavior, lying to cover the drinking, becoming absorbed in other activities.
  • Verbal Strategies: such as lectures, threats, pleas of self-respect, or promises.
  • Behavioral Strategies: such as hiding for refusing to buy alcohol, marking bottles, avoiding the alcoholic, or staying away from home.
  • Disengagement: withdrawing socially from friends and community activities and emotional withdrawal characterized by emotional numbness.

28.6 million children have alcoholic parents.  They live in a state of constant tension and anxiety.  Each day, they worry about whether their parents will be drunk or sober.  They feel trapped in a hopeless situation, rarely bring friends home, and usually have no one to talk to about the chaos at home.  80%-90% of teenage suicides are related to alcoholism in the family.

Children receive conflicting messages from an alcoholic parent:  Leave me alone/I need you; I love you/Go away.  As a result, the primary trait of children of alcoholics is low self-esteem.

Children of alcoholics are 4 to 5 times more likely to become alcoholics than children of non-alcoholic parents.  They are also more likely to marry an alcoholic, even though they rarely know about the condition going into the marriage.

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