Alcoholism has been referred to as a family disease because a single person’s alcohol addiction can affect their whole family. Alcohol use disorder causes problems with your emotional and physical health, but the people close to you can also experience the emotional side effects of the addiction. Family members of people suffering from alcohol use disorder may experience shame, depression, and anxiety associated with their loved one’s addiction. Family members can also fall victim to physical and emotional outbursts from the affected individual. Someone who has an alcohol addiction might try to protect their loved ones from the effects of their condition by separating themselves from family and friends. However, isolating oneself does not do much to safeguard family members from the emotional and financial impact of alcoholism. Neglect can also affect loved ones negatively.
Effects of Alcohol on Family Relationships
Alcohol addiction can destroy families. Studies indicate that families affected by alcohol addiction have a higher chance of experiencing reduced independence, expressiveness, and emotional bonding. Couples with at least one person suffering from alcoholism have higher negative interactions than those unaffected by alcohol abuse. Trust is the main foundation of any relationship, but most people suffering from alcoholism blame others or lie to hide their drinking problem. They are usually in denial about the problem, so they try to minimize the issues that trigger their drinking. This damaging of trust harms relationships and leads to resentment among family members.
Staging an Intervention
If you are concerned about a family member showing signs of alcohol addiction, the first step would be to stage an intervention to help them realize their problem. The intervention can be informal, like a conversation among yourselves or formally led by a professional. It can be challenging for people suffering from alcohol addiction to talk about it with their loved ones. Here are some steps to follow when talking to individuals about their alcohol addiction.
- Make sure the person is ideally sober during the conversation.
- Everyone else participating in the intervention should be sober.
- Hold the intervention in a quiet and private place at an appropriate time for all parties to have a conversation.
- Whoever leads the conversation should point out that it is driven by concern, care, and love.
- Give a list of behaviors to the person showing their alcohol addiction while expressing concern about their drinking problem.
- Keep the conversation nonjudgmental and open.
- If the individual denies the problem or does not want to engage, ask if they can revisit the discussion another time.
Problems resulting from alcohol addiction usually do not clear up by themselves, and everyone affected in the family may need to chip in to come up with a solution. Family counseling is usually necessary to help the affected families determine the source of the problem and work out healthy solutions to sort them out. The leading solution typically includes the person suffering from the addiction getting alcoholism treatment.
Alcoholism treatment typically involves the affected individual quitting alcohol through supervised medical detox. This is followed up by different therapies and treatments developed to encourage a behavior change. Therapy usually consists in determining the hidden problems that resulted in alcohol abuse in the first place. Family counseling and therapy are also a significant part of addiction recovery.
Usually, a person’s relationships with certain family members or the entire family can become associated with their addictive behaviors. This is also not bad for the individual suffering from alcohol abuse. In fact, one of the protocols used in alcoholism treatment is to use one’s family strengths to help the individual cultivate tools and a strong support structure to promote long-term recovery and manage cravings and triggers. Family therapy is also beneficial because it helps to regulate family relationships to support all the family members during addiction recovery. Sometimes, slight differences in one’s family relationships can trigger or stress someone suffering from alcoholism. Sometimes even the behaviors by family members can unintentionally cause an individual’s addiction. Family therapy is an excellent tool for helping with all these problems and giving family members the means to improve their relationships.
Family therapy can give the family a perspective of life after the individual completes structured rehabilitation treatment. This also includes providing support to the affected individual in the form of post-treatment aftercare. The family can develop a plan to help the individual in recovery attend support group meetings (i.e., AA) if, for example, they cannot drive due to their alcoholism problem. Most importantly, therapy can allow families to work through the practical and emotional aspects of life during the treatment and afterward.
Post-Treatment Support from Family
Most rehab facilities also have family days, essentially social days involving main activities such as a barbecue. These events aim to help the family spend some quality time together and stay connected. Family participation can be crucial when one is attending an inpatient rehabilitation program. Continuous interaction with the family gives the recovering individual a vital connection to the world outside of rehabilitation treatment. Enhancing family relationships can help to smooth out the transition from rehab to home life. It also allows the family and the recovering individual to work out their underlying problems so they don’t resurface when they go back home. This is a time for the individual to feel secure and safe. Family members should know that alcohol addiction is a chronic disease that should be managed continuously even after completing the rehab treatment program. The family’s efforts can help an individual avoid relapse and build a fulfilling and stable life of sobriety. Alcoholism treatment focuses on the addiction and gives the recovering individual the tools and skills to develop a sober social network.