How Alcoholism Can Impact Household Family Dynamics

How Alcoholism Can Impact Household Family Dynamics

 

Alcoholism––a cunning, baffling, and powerful disease, so the saying goes in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous on page 58 of the 4th edition. While the disease, in and of itself, directly affects the alcoholic on multiple levels, what’s often overlooked is how alcoholism can impact entire families. In order to truly understand how alcoholism damages lives, and not just the lives of alcoholics themselves, it’s useful to examine the far-reaching impacts this disease can have on family members as well.

 

If you or someone you know has experienced life in a household where one or more active alcoholics is present, then you’re probably aware of how powerful the disease is. Not only can it lead to a significant amount of dysfunction at home, but it can literally tear families apart. With that said, becoming aware of common patterns that arise when alcoholism is present within families can help you and your family move towards a solution.

 

Codependence. In short, codependency is an unhealthy reliance on a person or partner, particularly in cases where alcoholism or addiction exists in the relationship. Codependent relationships generally form in romantic partnerships but can also occur between a parent and child, a friendship, or any family members. Where alcoholism is concerned, partners, spouses, or parents of the alcoholic will often put the alcoholic’s needs before their own in order to avoid rocking the boat or in hopes of making the alcoholic love them more. The problem with this type of relationship dynamic is that it’s not only taxing on the enabler’s self-esteem, but it exacerbates the problem. Establishing healthy boundaries with the alcoholic is a good place for family members or significant others to begin if they want to start helping. From here, however, the alcoholic himself or herself will need to decide whether or not he or she wants to get sober.

 

Control Issues. Alcoholics often place unreasonable demands on spouses, children, and other family members. They can be prone to fits of rage and it’s important to remember in these instances that it’s essentially the alcohol that’s controlling everything. This doesn’t make it any easier to deal with, nor does it mean that the behavior should be accepted as normal. If the alcoholic’s control issues don’t involve physical violence, then this is another instance where healthy boundaries need to be established. The alcoholic needs to know that this type of behavior will no longer be tolerated. If, however, the alcoholic is prone to fits of violence and rage, then it might be time to consider leaving the relationship or taking a break (if you’re dealing with a spouse or partner). If the alcoholic is a child or a parent, then it could be time to intervene, either by bringing in the authorities if your safety is threatened or an interventionist.

 

Dealing with Emotions. Feelings are often hidden in alcoholic families. This is usually in an effort to keep the peace within the household as tensions tend to run high in alcoholic families. Nevertheless, this type of avoidant behavior is very much in alignment with codependent behavior and families should avoid allowing it to become routine. Family counseling can be a great way to address the issue. A good addiction counselor will know how to help family members and alcoholics communicate their emotions more effectively. Active alcoholics aren’t always going to be receptive to healthy communication, but oftentimes they do internalize what’s being communicated. This is particularly true if the bond between the alcoholic and family members is strong, whether this be a parental, spousal, or any other family-type relationship. Good communication can help build trust and, ultimately, might be the catalyst the alcoholic needs to enter into recovery.

 

Child Custody Issues. Child custody is a heavy topic in alcoholic relationships, and it’s a scenario that often doesn’t end well for the alcoholic, particularly if the alcoholic is still actively drinking. If the courts become involved in a family situation where a child’s safety or wellbeing is at stake due to a parent’s alcoholic behavior, then in almost every case, the alcoholic will need to demonstrate good behavior to maintain or regain custody. For a die-hard, true alcoholic, this usually involves getting sober and remaining sober for a period of time before family courts will even consider partial custody. If the alcoholic finds themselves at risk of losing custody entirely or has already lost custody and is looking to win it back, a good place to start is for the alcoholic to get help. Help is available through inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation, recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, addiction counseling, or all of the above.

 

 

When it comes to alcoholism and its impact on the family, problems that arise aren’t always entirely black and white. It can affect so many areas of family life that it’s difficult to predict what its impact will be and just how out of hand things can get. Early intervention is a great way to address problems in the beginning before they escalate, but this doesn’t always happen. Nevertheless, alcoholics can and do get sober all the time, regardless of how far things have gotten out of hand. Sometimes, it simply takes them hitting rock bottom to recognize that they need help.

 

If and when the alcoholic does decide to face his or her drinking issue, remote alcohol monitoring is a great way to incorporate accountability into the household. It can also help an alcoholic parent who’s facing legal issues, particularly where things like child custody are concerned. Personal devices like BACtrack View allow users to share photo-verified records of their sobriety in real-time to family members, counselors, and courts directly from their smartphone. It’s a great way to maintain trust, stay on track with recovery programs, and it can help rebuild lives. Learn more and find the BACtrack product that best fits your needs here.

 

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