Families of Addicts: Why You Deserve Help Too!
by Eve Pearce
If a person is struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction, the main focus is rightfully on treatment and care to try and get them back on track, recovered and leading happy and productive lives.
Health professionals and friends may sometimes forget that the families of those affected by alcohol can be negatively impacted too. Some of the problems faced by families of an alcohol abuser include:
Increased household responsibilities
Your loved one may become pre-occupied by alcohol or frequently sleepy, hung-over or disinterested in the home. Previous responsibilities or chores that they had could be neglected as the alcohol takes over their life, leaving you with all the extra duties. You might feel overwhelmed or taken for granted.
Spoiled Family Occasions
You and your children or other relatives might suffer when your addicted family member begins to forget special occasions like your birthday, wedding anniversary or a school play, leading to hurt feelings all around. He or she might also forget parental responsibilities like doctor’s appointments, parent-teacher meetings or other important events in the child’s life.
He might avoid socializing to try and disguise his drink problem or to avoid temptation so you could find yourself attending functions alone or just not going out at all, detaching you from friendships that could be a vital source of emotional support. If he does agree to go, you might be worried about him becoming drunk and hostile in front of others, making you tense and unable to enjoy yourself.
Communication Problems and Arguments
Sometimes alcohol brings out aggression in people who would otherwise be calm, diplomatic and relaxed so you may find your relative vying for an argument for no apparent reason or suddenly exploding in anger over the smallest of comments. Walking on eggshells all the time can be draining and even cause physical illnesses like tension headaches, upset stomach and migraine.
Alternatively, he or she might not engage in much conversation at all and become distant as the alcohol makes them overly passive. They might give up hobbies that they once enjoyed or that you shared together. Trying to discuss the issue or address the alcohol problem could be met with denial, flat out refusal to talk about it or be the trigger for another argument.
If your partner takes medication like Xanax or another central nervous system depressant, you will have the added worry that he might experience life-threatening side-effects He may frequently miss work and expect you to make excuses for him, only adding to the strain.
If you are in a relationship and your partner is addicted to alcohol, you could be experiencing strain on your relationship and problems with intimacy. Some people find that alcohol reduces their inhibitions, giving them a greater appetite for sex (many unplanned pregnancies are caused by alcohol intoxication resulting in risk taking behavior).
Others find that although they may be in the mood for love, they don’t have the ability. Men who drink heavily could suffer from erectile dysfunction and sometimes people of either gender lose their libido and just don’t want to anymore. If your partner is drinking too much, being argumentative or distant and is neglecting his or her family, you may not want to be intimate with them either. Ultimately, alcoholism puts marriages at risk.
Violence, Abuse and Neglect
Alcoholism increases violent behavior in men and women and puts both genders at risk of assault. An Arizona State University study found that when men drank excessively at bars or parties and women drank in public places and parks, women were at increased risk of violence from their partner.
If they drank excessively at home, both could be on the receiving end of violence. Alcohol misuse increases the frequency and severity of domestic violence as all the problems caused by it bubble over in the relationship. It also affects the drinker’s cognitive abilities, making them less able to resolve issues peacefully.
Children who witness an intoxicated parent being abusive to their other parent will not only be emotionally scarred but also more likely to misuse alcohol in later life. Children in families with an alcoholic parent are at greater risk of being abused or neglected.
A 1990’S estimate found that more than one million American children experience abuse every year, whether that be physical, mental or sexual abuse. When looking at judicial system child abuse cases, 35% of all US cases involved a parent who was abusing drugs or alcohol at the time.
Turn Your Life Around with Al-Anon
Every person in a family that is experiencing alcohol abuse counts as it can have far reaching consequences for everyone involved and thankfully the help doesn’t just extend to the addict. If you need help dealing with a loved one’s behavior or any issue caused by alcoholism, Al-Anon is an organization dedicated to assisting you.
It is similar to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) but instead of helping you quit drinking, it can support you in your quest for recovery from the effects of someone else’s drinking, from abuse you may have endured as a result or simply from the everyday stresses of living with someone who misuses alcohol.
Al-Anon holds group meetings where you can meet others who are going through similar situations to you and form friendships with people who truly understand what you are going through. They offer a confidential arena where it is safe to talk about the issues you are facing without fear of judgment and if you don’t feel like talking at meetings, it’s okay to go along just to listen if it helps you to feel supported.
Al-Anon works on the principle of the Twelve Steps developed by Alcoholics Anonymous - a form of motivational therapy that encourages people to recognize the problems that alcohol has caused, make amends with the people at the root of the problem (where possible) and make a conscious decision to change their life for the better.
Al-Anon believes that alcoholism is a symptom of problems within the entire family and that altered behaviors and believes can help the alcoholic to recover. Al-Anon isn’t affiliated to any particular religion, although its twelve steps are spiritual in nature and if you’re drowning under the weight of financial hardship caused by your loved one’s alcohol misuse, you can be reassured to know that Al-Anon meetings are always free of charge.