A Family With An Alcohol Problem
A family with an alcohol problem is considered to be a family in which at least one person is drinking in a harmful way. A person addicted to alcohol introduces destruction into his immediate environment because the damage (including health, social, emotional and psychological damage) that arises as a result of addiction does not only concern the person who drinks in an uncontrolled manner.
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The addiction of one person suffers from all the relatives with whom the addicted person forms a bond. The highest costs are incurred by immediate family members: spouses, partners, parents and children. The more frequent the contact and the stronger the emotional bond, the more severe the damage to the family. People who live in the shadow of an alcoholic experience constant stress, feelings of insecurity, chaos, loneliness and are unable to derive satisfaction from life.
Rules In An Alcoholic Family
An addicted person, in order to be able to continue drinking comfortably (i.e. without consequences), creates a number of rules that all household members are obliged to observe. These rules make it possible to hide the alcohol problem from outsiders, transfer the responsibility for drinking to other household members, postpone the emergence and build-up of family crises, which delays the commencement of treatment and therapy.
The Most Commonly Used Rules Include:
Drinking by an addict is the most important thing in the life of the family around which the rest of the household goes. The addicted person strives to drink at all costs, the family makes every effort and devotes their time (neglecting themselves) to prevent this drinking – everything revolves around the alcoholic and his drinking.
- The family does not go out together, avoids social gatherings and family events in the belief that if they do not go, they will avoid drinking.
- Regularly searching the apartment in order to find and pour out the alcoholic hidden during the “rainy day”.
- Continually accompanying the alcoholic outside the home to keep an eye on whether or not he drinks.
Alcohol does not cause family problems. Both the addict and his family deny that alcohol is the cause of their problems and crises. Denial allows the family to avoid the painful confrontation of being a family with an alcohol problem. Denial is reinforced by a sense of shame and a fear of being stigmatized and judged by other people.
The alcoholic is not responsible for his drinking. Everyone around is to blame for the alcoholic reaching for alcohol. The person most often blamed for drinking is their spouse or partner (who, no matter how hard they try, is always not good enough in the eyes of the alcoholic). The alcoholic shifts the responsibility of drinking to the “scapegoat.” The scapegoat accepts this responsibility overwhelmed by a sense of responsibility and his own worthlessness.
It is necessary to maintain the balance in the family at all costs and to prevent the crisis from building up, most often at the expense of all family members. The longer the addiction lasts, the higher the costs of maintaining equilibrium. The balance can be maintained thanks to the fact that each of the household members unconsciously plays their role, in addition, each household member, including an addicted person, is afraid of changes.
Everyone in the family must be a “partner”. All family members must undertake the protection and drinking of the addict. The closest ones create an alibi for the drinker, lie telling the employer why the addict is absent from work, hide the consequences of drinking – generally speaking, the family takes responsibility for the drinker’s behavior. Family behaviors that protect the drinker prevent the drinker from being confronted with the consequences of drinking and delay treatment.
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It is forbidden to talk about what is happening in the family. This rule greatly delays the initiation of therapy and the exit from the vicious circle. Everyone in the alcoholic’s family is convinced that they are alone with their problem. There is a gradual isolation of the household by the alcoholic. Contacts with outsiders and extended family are forbidden, the feeling of loneliness, isolation and helplessness grows. An isolated person does not have access to knowledge about the problem his family is struggling with and to the forms of help and support he can use. Breaking taboos, opening up to other people and going beyond the addiction cycle can lead to a process of change.
You can’t say what you really feel. The alcoholic cannot cope with his own emotions, the only thing he can do is deny them and suppress them, he requires the same from every loved one. The communication process in the family is disturbed and shallow.
An addicted person has a great influence on family life and enforces everyone in the family to follow the rules he sets. The influence of the alcoholic on family members is strong through emotional blackmail, manipulation, underestimating the household members’ self-esteem, and maintaining a critical level of stress and insecurity in the family.