We talk an awful lot about the effects of alcohol on the mind and body, and rightfully so. Excessive drinking over long periods of time does significant damage to both mind and body, to the extent that some of that damage cannot be reversed. Along with that damage, however, is also damage done to family members and the fabric of the relationships that once held them together. To say that alcohol has a devastating effect on families is to state the obvious.
Families are the core of society. They always have been. So when families are broken up due to alcohol abuse and misuse, the impacts of those breakups are felt by the entire community. The more prevalent alcohol misuse becomes, the more all of us suffer right alongside the victims of alcohol.
Alcohol affects the family in multiple ways:
- It destroys trust and confidence
- It changes roles within the family
- It leads to verbal and physical abuse
- It harms financial stability
- It eventually leads to break up.
Alcohol Destroys Trust and Confidence
In order for family relationships to remain solid, especially between spouses and partners, a certain amount of trust and confidence must be maintained between members. The husband must know he can trust his wife; he must have confidence that she will maintain her responsibilities within the family. Likewise, a wife must be able to trust her husband in every aspect of their marriage. She must be confident that his loyalties will always be to her and the family first. Children must obviously have trust and confidence in their parents as caregivers.
Excessive alcohol consumption destroys the trust and confidence by altering the behaviour of the drinker. A drinking parent starts to lose that trust and confidence the first time the other family members notice a lack of responsibility. An appointment is missed here, a bill is not paid there, and the drinker arrives home from work late nearly every night. All of these things start to add up.
By the time alcohol takes its full course, family members can no longer trust the drinker at all. His or her word is meaningless because it is never held to. Promises are worthless because they are regularly broken. Family members know that alcohol is in control, not the drinker.
Alcohol Changes Family Roles
Every functional family finds a way to assign roles to different members so that everything stays under control. For example, one parent may be the primary financial provider while the other works part-time and raises the kids. Alcohol can disrupt these kinds of arrangements quite easily.
Consider a family in which both parents work full-time and share household responsibilities and childcare. If one of them begins abusing alcohol, the other one will have to assume a greater role to pick up the slack. That partner may find him or herself eventually providing all of the financial support, handling all of the household responsibilities, and making sure the kids are cared for while the other partner does nothing but drink.
Sometimes drinking gets so bad that the roles between parents and children are reversed. In other words, children become the caretakers for their drinking parents because the adults cannot care for themselves.
Alcohol and Verbal and Physical Abuse
It is no secret that alcohol consumption causes a reduction in self-control and natural inhibitions. While some drinkers can be classified as ‘pleasant’ or ‘funny’ drunks, others become verbally and physically abusive. We see this far too often in families. The alcohol abuser, consumed both by alcohol and the guilt that comes with it, takes out his/her anger and rage on family members. It is never a good situation to be in.
Alcohol Harms Financial Stability
Excessive alcohol consumption damages family finances in two ways. First, the alcoholic who continues to work funnels more and more of his/her income to his/her drinking habit. The more he/she drinks, the more he/she spends to do so. Eventually, the drinker does not have enough money to pay the other bills.
Things can quickly and substantially worsen should the alcoholic lose his or her job – which is not all that unusual, by the way. This creates a ‘double-edged sword’ scenario in which the individual starts drinking more to cover-up the misery of losing a job, which, in turn, requires more money the individual no longer has because there is no income.
It is normal within families dealing with alcoholism to see financial problems so significant that homes are lost and bankruptcies are declared. It is also not unusual to see alcoholics turn to crime to support themselves and their drinking.
Alcohol Eventually Leads to Break Up
Alcohol abuse left unchecked can ultimately result in the breakup of the family. It starts out small, with the family reducing social interactions and spending less time together even at home. But things escalate as trust and confidence wanes and family roles begin to change. The stress increases along with financial stress and the verbal and physical abuse some families suffer. Eventually, the damage is so severe there is nothing left to hold the family together.
There is no way to paint a comfortable and rosy picture of alcohol’s effects on the family. We cannot tell you that your family will be okay if you just cut down a little bit. The reality of the matter is that the effects of alcohol on the family are just as profound and damaging as the effects it has on the mind and body. Alcohol abusers can continue to ignore those effects, but the damage will not go away by itself.
If you are misusing or abusing alcohol, rest assured that it is negatively affecting your family. We encourage you to seek help by contacting us through our website or using our freephone number. We can help find treatment for you and family addiction support as you work through this together. Do not let the effects of alcohol on your family ruin everything. It’s not worth it for a little bit of drinking pleasure.