How Alcoholism Affects Family Dynamics

Life with an alcoholic can be pretty chaotic. It is stressful to live with someone who is unpredictable, and there may be constant conflict. Children of alcoholics will suffer emotional problems that can often last for a long time and which can affect their ability to have healthy relationships in the future. Family life with an alcoholic is often erratic and dysfunctional. There are many ways in which family life that includes an alcoholic is completely different to other families where no one is suffering from addiction.

Making Decisions
Decision making is often affected in a home in which an alcoholic lives. In a healthy family, decisions are often made after a calm discussion, with everybody’s opinion taken into consideration. This is entirely different in a home with an alcoholic, where decisions are typically made in the heat of the moment. It is often during a shouting match, and where the person who shouts loudest is the one who makes the final decision.

Sadly, those who feel they have no say within the family unit may learn to become manipulative and might have to resort to other means to have their needs met.

Controlling Others
In an alcohol-affected family, there are frequently issues with controlling behaviour. Alcoholics often try to control other family members and will attempt to bend them to his or her will. An alcoholic parent will want his or her spouse as well as any children to follow a set of rules, even if these rules do not make much sense. It could be that children have to have their shower at a particular time every day or may be allowed to play with specific friends only. Spouses might be expected to have the dinner ready at a certain time and deviating from this by just minutes could cause the alcoholic to explode with rage.

The worst part about this is that many family members fail to see that it is the alcohol controlling everything.

Dealing with Emotions
In most families where alcohol addiction is an issue, emotions are kept buried very deep. Family members do not talk about their feelings, and the actual addiction may never be discussed. It is very common for family members to act as if there is nothing amiss, both with each other and with people outside the family unit.

Family members of alcoholics are often guilty of making excuses for their loved one to others, and some will go so far as to deny the problem exists. The reality, however, is that every family member will be dealing with built up feelings of shame, anger, loneliness and neglect.

Damaged Relationships
One of the biggest casualties of alcoholism is the family unit. Family members deal with addiction in a variety of ways. Some will believe that they can ‘fix’ the addict and will become obsessed with doing so. These people are said to be co-dependent when their obsession with helping their addicted loved one begins to have a negative impact on their own life.

Other family members find it extremely difficult to deal with the idea of someone they love being labelled an addict. They cannot understand why their loved one would continue to drink when doing so is causing such harm. They will become frustrated and resentful of the addicted individual and may find it hard to be around them. Some will break all contact with the alcoholic or will issue an ultimatum telling them they do not want to see them until they quit drinking.

Family relationships will no doubt be affected by one member’s alcohol addiction, and unfortunately, some relationships cannot be repaired. However, with early intervention and the right help and support, alcoholism is an illness that can be overcome.

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