Why Is Alcoholism Considered a Family Disease?

When we think about alcoholism, we often assume that the only person affected by this condition is the person addicted to alcohol. Since only one person may be drinking, you may wonder why alcoholism is considered a family disease. Addiction has far-reaching impacts on other family members – not just the alcoholic or problem drinker. Unfortunately, these impacts can often be overlooked when addressing addiction and alcohol use disorder. 

What Impacts Does an Alcoholic Have on Their Family?

As alcohol use increases and the person goes from drinking alcohol occasionally to heavy drinking, problem drinking, and addiction, the impacts will gradually become more noticeable. Some of the more common impacts an alcoholic has on their family include:

Preoccupied With Drinking

As a result of alcohol abuse, individuals no longer have the desire to dedicate their time and energy to spend with their family. Even though deep down they still care, their addiction has taken over their life. They get to the point where they become more concerned over where they are getting their next drink and when. As such, they are no longer concerned about eating dinner with the family, being present for family game nights, and spending quality time as a family unit.

Changes In Behavior

The more a person drinks, the more alcohol gradually starts affecting various behaviors. Initial changes include:

  • Slowed response times
  • A willingness to take risks
  • Slurred speech
  • Balance and mobility issues
  • Difficulties with reasoning and rationalizing
  • Engaging in other forms of drug use

Eventually, other irregular behaviors can start to emerge, such as violence, aggression, anger, and dishonesty. This can lead to uncomfortable situations for family members when attempting to coexist with the alcoholic.

Jeapordizing Employment Status

Alcohol addiction can get to the point where the alcoholic needs to drink to get through their day, even while at work. Eventually, this will catch up with them, and they could lose their job. Without a job to support themselves or their family, everyone suffers.

Compromising One’s Education

In families with teenagers and young adults who develop alcohol addiction, their substance abuse problem can affect their educational opportunities. Their disease can prevent them from wanting to do well in school. 

They may quit sports and other extracurricular activities. People with substance abuse disorder may even quit school. Their addiction leads to conflict in the family between the alcoholic, their parents, and their siblings. 

How Siblings are Affected

Parents and guardians are not the only people affected by their child’s alcoholism. Siblings often get caught in the whirlwind of addiction, too. Younger siblings may not have their needs met because parents are focused on their older addicted child. Younger children may not understand why their older brother is acting strangely or isn’t spending time with them. Because younger siblings often look up to their older siblings, the younger child may believe that drinking is a way to fit in.

Mental Health Implications

As a family disease, alcoholism can also have significant mental health implications for the entire family. The wide range of emotional, psychological, and relational challenges throughout addiction can contribute to mental health problems for both parties. Here are some examples:

  • Stress and Anxiety: Living with a family member who is struggling with alcoholism can create a stressful and unpredictable environment. The uncertainty of the person’s behavior and the potential for crisis situations can contribute to symptoms of mental illness and heightened stress and anxiety among family members.
  • Codependency: Family members may develop codependent behaviors, where they excessively focus on the alcoholic’s needs and neglect their own well-being. This pattern can lead to feelings of frustration, resentment, and a sense of being trapped.
  • Guilt and Shame: Family members may experience feelings of guilt and shame, believing that they are somehow responsible for the alcoholic’s behavior. They may internalize the stigma associated with alcoholism, leading to a negative impact on their self-esteem.
  • Denial and Enabling Behaviors: Family members may engage in denial or enable the alcoholic’s behavior, perpetuating the cycle of addiction. This can lead to feelings of frustration, resentment, and a sense of powerlessness.

Why Treatment Needs to Include the Whole Family

There are several reasons why alcoholism is a family disease. Simply treating the alcohol consumption does not address the other impacts their drinking has had on their family. Including the family in addiction treatment allows everyone the opportunity to heal and rebuild damaged relationships. Doing so further helps create a supportive sober living environment for the entire family when the recovering alcoholic is ready to reintegrate back into society. Additionally, through family therapy, the family can resolve issues that arise, like the impacts the alcoholic’s change in behavior has had on the family. 

Furthermore, if there is a family history of addiction, addressing the problem as a family will provide the groundwork that the young adult needs to begin their recovery journey. If there are environmental factors, such as one or both parents suffering from alcoholism, sobriety plans for after rehab can be made to support the young person’s continued recovery.

Seek Treatment

Witnessing a loved one’s addiction can have dramatic effects on the entire family for years. In the darkest times, change seems impossible. New Life House exists to provide hope for problem drinkers and their families. Our facilities and addiction treatment programs help support young men and their families through the recovery process. We provide a supportive and safe environment for recovery, free from distractions that allows you to form bonds with other peers for a life-long support system. If you or a loved one can’t stop drinking, contact New Life House to learn more about our sober living for men in Los Angeles. Together, we can help you and your family achieve long-lasting success in recovery.

Last Updated on December 20, 2023


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