What Does Alcoholism Do To Your Family & Marriage?

Alcoholics family get hurt by alcoholism.

A person who struggles with alcoholism faces problems in nearly every area of life. Not only are alcoholics prone to serious health issues, but they may also find themselves unemployed after showing up to work intoxicated – or not showing up at all. Alcoholism is destructive to a person’s relationships as well. The people closest to an alcoholic typically feel the effects most profoundly, and may even follow their loved one in a downward spiral.

Effects of alcoholism on family and marriage

Alcoholism can quickly lead to a number of problems at home. The following are just a few of the most prominent issues that arise between spouses when one partner has a drinking problem:

  • Marital conflict
  • Domestic violence
  • Infidelity
  • Divorce
  • Economic hardship
  • Unplanned pregnancy
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

In addition to spousal issues, alcoholism in the family can have a negative impact on children. Kids with an alcoholic parent often develop low self-esteem, as well as feelings of loneliness and fear of abandonment. Additional effects of alcoholism on children include:

  • Poor performance at school
  • Difficulty establishing relationships with teachers and classmates
  • Behavioral problems such as lying, stealing, and fighting
  • Feelings of guilt and helplessness
  • Frequent nightmares, bedwetting, and crying
  • Chronic depression
  • High levels of tension and stress
  • Feeling afraid to go to school

The Four Phases of a Family Coping With Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism

Unfortunately, even the tightest family units aren’t immune to the devastating effects of alcoholism. When there is an alcoholic in the household, families typically cope by going through four distinct phases.

Concern for the family member who is abusing alcohol

When family members first notice a loved is abusing alcohol, they express genuine concern about the self-destructive behavior. At this stage, families typically don’t realize how much worse the situation will become.

Defense of the loved one's alcoholism and alcohol problem

As a loved one’s alcohol abuse gets worse, families begin to deny the reality of the situation. They may even defend or justify the alcoholic’s actions and go so far as to blame themselves for their spouse or parent’s downward spiral.

Adaption of the family members to the behavior of the alcoholic 

In the adaption phase, family members modify their behavior to compensate for the way their loved one is acting. A spouse may turn to drinking as a way to cope or identify with the alcoholic, while children may strive for perfection in hopes of inspiring their parent to change.

Exhaustion with the alcoholic's behavior

The final phase of coping is characterized by severe bouts of depression and anxiety. Relatives are completely exhausted by the destructive behavior of their loved one, and teens may develop their own dependencies on alcohol.

Support is available for spouses & children of alcoholics in San Diego

If someone you love suffers from alcoholism, it’s natural to want to help that person overcome his or her addiction. However, when offering your love and support during this difficult time, it’s important to remember that an alcoholic cannot be forced into recovery.

The best way to cope in the meantime is to focus on restoring your own sanity and wellbeing through enrolling in a support group or counseling. Then, when your family member is ready to admit he or she has an alcohol addiction, you’ll be in the right mindset to aid them in recovery.