How Alcoholism Destroys the Family

Depression and AlcoholWhat Does Alcoholism Do To Your Family

“If you grow up as a child of two alcoholic parents, you have seen a lot and struggled a great deal in life,” Nicole D. writes in her Heroes In Recovery story. Nicole knew about the alcoholism of her parents since eight years of age. This experience scared her away from abusing drugs or alcohol.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the “lived happily ever after” testimony that many children, spouses, or parents can declare from years of living with an alcoholic in the family. Alcohol addiction is an insidious disease. It is one that can slowly and painfully unravel the very fabric of a family. It might create a mess that could take many years to fix.1

The concerns involved may vary, in part by who in the family has the addiction. When a spouse is addicted to alcohol, it can break down the marriage. It can cause trust issues and communication problems. When a parent is an alcoholic, the children may feel unsafe. They are frequently neglected. They may go it on their own to make decisions about their future. Often, those choices are bad ones. And when a teenager is addicted to alcohol, conflicts often occur between parents, between parents and teens, and among other siblings. This can wreak havoc in the family.2

If someone in your family is struggling with alcohol addiction, contact us at Michael’s House today for more information about our alcohol rehab program. A brighter future awaits you!

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What if a Spouse is an Alcoholic?

When one spouse is drinking heavily, every joint endeavor may come to a halt. For one thing, it’s tough to maintain a budget. Daily binges can take a huge toll on finances. The sober spouse may have feelings of anger or self-pity, may avoid social contacts, may suffer from exhaustion and might become physically or mentally ill from living with an alcoholic.3

The non-addicted spouse often ends up unwittingly becoming codependent (unconscious addiction to another person’s abnormal behavior)or enabling the addicted partner. He or she will try to “clean up” after the spouse’s miscues or offenses against extended family, neighbors or coworkers at the office. What such enabling behavior does is to make it more comfortable for the addicted spouse to continue drinking without seeking alcohol addiction treatment.4

What if a Parent Is an Alcoholic?

Communicating or planning family outings can become very challenging, if not painful, when one of the parents is regularly intoxicated or doesn’t show up. Rather than the parents focusing on each other or on their children, the sober spouse and children’s attention is on the alcohol addiction. There can be so many difficulties surrounding it. These may include legal and debt/bankruptcy, as well as marital, issues.

Neglect and abuse of children are often the side effects of addiction when left untreated by the parent(s). Children who grow up in homes where one or both parents are alcoholics often end up struggling with issues that follow them for the rest of their life.

The kids end up fending for themselves. They feel emotionally abandoned.

Self-esteem issues often develop. This leads them into making those poor choices referred to earlier. This may play out as skipping school. They may have unprotected sex at an early age. Naturally, they might also join their parents in seeing alcohol and other drugs as a way to cope with all the chaos in their lives.

In addition, the tension, fear and shame felt by such children are more likely to produce anxiety, depression, antisocial behavior, relationship difficulties and general behavioral problems.2

What if a Teen in the Family Is an Alcoholic?

When a child begins to drink excessively and develops a teen alcohol addiction, the dynamics between everyone in the house can turn upside down. Parents will often argue, blaming each other for their teen’s alcoholism. They will also likely disagree about how best to help their child.

The addicted teen might shut down completely. This makes it even more difficult for parents to figure out what is going on and why.

The other siblings may resent the fact that so much attention is given to the “trouble maker” in the family. This could lead to the younger kids following in the alcoholic sibling’s footsteps. In general, little occurs in the way of healthy family bonding, functionality, or unity when one member is an alcoholic.5

What Happens to the Fetus of an Alcoholic Mother?

Alcohol is carried to all of a mother’s organs and tissues. This includes the placenta. There, it easily crosses through the membrane separating the maternal and fetal blood systems. When she drinks, the concentration of alcohol in her unborn baby’s bloodstream is the same level as her own. A pregnant woman who consumes alcohol during her pregnancy may give birth to a baby with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). This condition is one of the three most common causes of birth defects.3

Begin to “Put the Pieces Back Together” in the Family with Expert, Evidence-based Treatment

Following detox, family therapy and alcohol addiction treatment for your addicted family member can kick-start the process of building a whole new future for yourself and those you love. Contact us today at Michael’s House to find out how we can help. It’s not easy, but recovery from alcoholism is possible.


1 “Drug Use Hurts Families.” Easy-to-Read Drug Facts, National Institute on Drug Abuse. Web. Accessed 23 July 2017.

2 “Children of Alcoholics.” American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Web. Accessed 23 July 2017.

Heffner, Christopher, M.D., Ph.D., “Alcoholism and Its Affect on the Family.” AllPsych, Psych Central’s virtual psychology classroom, December 14, 2003. Web. Accessed 23 July 2017.

Spouse Enabling of Alcohol Abuse.” Journal on Substance Abuse, Volume 8, Number 1, Pages 61-80, 1996. Web. Accessed 23 July 2017.

5Impact of Substance Abuse on Families.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Web. Accessed 23 July 2017.

addiction can effect many people surrounding the addicts relationships. from siblings, parents, to grandparents, uncles and aunts. in addition, a person struggle with addiction can have a huge impact one their significant others, friends and peers, as well as their coworkers.