Alcoholism is, obviously, damaging to your life in many ways. Aside from the physical and financial repercussions that come with any addiction, the effect of alcohol abuse on your personal relationships is severe, and can eventually lead to separation or even complete isolation from loved ones.
Research has found that, in marriages with domestic violence problems, alcohol dependency is a factor in around 60% of cases. Family members of an alcoholic often become complicit in the addiction, becoming codependent and inadvertently fuelling the addiction with their own coping mechanisms. With alcohol addiction, drinking becomes the alcoholic’s priority, on top of a physical dependence, and everything else in their life takes a back seat.
Some of the minor ways in which an alcoholic may affect their family, leading to bigger problems include:
- Neglect of responsibilities. An alcoholic puts most of their energy into drinking, and trying to obtain alcohol. This can lead to neglect of their work and home life, letting these important areas fall by the wayside.
- Financial problems. Alcoholics often skip work because of hangovers, or due to actively drinking during the day. This leads to them being unable to afford to keep up with bills and mortgage payments. On top of this, alcohol becomes a major expense over time, meaning that any cash that does come into the household is diverted into fuelling the addiction.
- Legal problems. An alcoholic often eventually gets into legal trouble, thanks to their behaviour when they drink alcohol. This could include driving under the influence, becoming violent or causing damage to property.
What problems do the partners of alcoholics face?
Spouses and partners of alcoholics often find their own lives completely taken over by their partner’s addiction. Issues that many partners report include:
- Feeling anxious all of the time
- Feeling ashamed of their partners and their family life
- Feeling frustrated
- Difficulty sleeping
- Ignoring their own physical and mental health
- Worrying about money
- Being physically harmed
- Isolation from friends and family
Common unhealthy coping strategies
Whilst trying to deal with the behaviour of an alcoholic, their partner and/or children will find themselves trying to minimise the problem or trying to ‘keep the peace’. Although this may work temporarily, the root cause of the problem – alcohol – is still a factor and the negative impact of drinking increases over time. Unhealthy coping strategies may include:
- Avoidance. In this case, the partner hopes that the situation will get better, believing the addict when they claim that they will never repeat certain behaviours again. Whilst withdrawing from the situation might ease the situation temporarily, the problem is still likely to get worse, whilst the serious financial and social implications of a drinking problem also take their toll.
- Supporting the alcoholic financially. To try to ease the situation, a partner may pay for alcohol and take on extra work to cover the money that the alcoholic is no longer bringing in. This is enabling behaviour which will actually make the situation worse over time, even if it gives the addict’s partner a slightly easier life in the short term.
- Displaying addictive behaviours of their own. In some couples, the spouse of the addict will begin to take part in the addiction, as it can seem easier to cope if they both drink heavily. Not only is this physically risky, it could make it far less likely that either partner will ever be able to get out of this cycle of addiction. This is also very dangerous for any children in the family.
How alcoholism affects children
Children are badly affected when one or both parents suffers from alcohol addiction or substance abuse issues. Because, as mentioned before, the addiction tends to take priority over everything else, the children are at risk of being seriously neglected, which can lead to a host of issues.
Alcohol abuse and alcoholism in the family can lead children to suffer from:
- Poor performance at school, or absenteeism
- Feeling pushed into the role of guardian for younger siblings
- Feeling isolated from their peers
- Mental health problems
- Becoming violent, stealing or other bad behaviour
- Abusing alcohol or drugs themselves.
How to help an alcoholic partner
If you are the spouse or partner of an alcoholic, it is critical that you get help as soon as possible, before the long term effects of alcoholism take their toll. The easiest way for an alcoholic to overcome their addiction is through rehab and therapy.
Cassiobury Court is a dedicated, residential rehab centre, which encourages addicts to get to the root cause of their addiction in order to prevent relapse. Patients are looked after from detox through to therapy, and are able to enjoy 12 months’ aftercare including a personalised recovery plan to help them to cope with cravings. Rehabilitation can take anything up to 90 days, depending on how serious the issue is, and there are support groups, and individual and family therapy sessions to help every member of the family come to terms with the problem.
Before you can get your partner into treatment services, though, you need to tackle the issue sensitively, so that they are open to it.
- Get other people involved. As much as you might want to keep this problem within the family, it is so much easier to deal with if you have the support of your friends and family. You can take a couple of close family members into your confidence and have them join you to speak to your partner, so that they will find it harder to talk you around.
- Be honest and loving. When approaching your partner, make sure that you don’t attack them, and focus on how the current situation is affecting yourself and your children. They are far more likely to listen if you are firm that you are coming from a place of love and affection than if you blame or shame them.
- Be prepared to make changes. It isn’t just your partner that needs to commit to making lifelong changes to heal their addiction. There will be things that have to change permanently for you as a family. Be clear with your partner and the rest of the family that this is something that you will undertake together.
- Be prepared to walk away. Be aware that, in some cases, people do not want to change and will not be prepared to make the steps needed to overcome their addiction. Before you approach this, have some plans put in place so that you can walk away if you need to.
If you are concerned about yourself of your partner’s alcohol consumption, Cassiobury Court can be reached on 01923 369 161 or you can text HELP to 83222.