Alcohol addiction is the excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages to the point that it interferes with physical, mental, and social health. About 7% of American adults suffer from an alcohol use disorder.
Alcohol Addiction, Who It Affects, and How (Image Credit Pexels)
The problem causes significant distress and interferes with work, school, and personal relationships. Sadly, it doesn’t only affect the person with the drinking problem. It also takes a toll on others close to them. They include:
The Immediate Family
Those living with an alcoholic often suffer the most. They witness the person they love turn into someone they no longer recognize. An alcoholic’s mood swings, violent outbursts, and neglect can destroy a family.
Spouses and children often feel helpless, confused, and scared. They require a family support group that understands what they’re going through and can offer guidance. Other ways addiction affects family members include:
When an addict is a primary breadwinner, the whole family suffers financially. In extreme cases, they may lose their home. Even when the other spouse steps up, the stress of running a household and being a parent is overwhelming. Addicts often use the money for bills and food, leaving the family struggling to make ends meet.
Addicts cheat, lie, and steal to get money for alcohol. The betrayal and hurt are devastating. In some cases, it destroys relationships beyond repair. When the issues are not adequately addressed, it can lead to long-term resentment and bitterness.
Low Self-Esteem in Children
The alcoholic’s behavior can cause their children to suffer from anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. They may struggle in school and have trouble forming relationships. Sometimes, they develop a drinking problem as adults or abuse drugs.
Children Suffer Neglect
An alcoholic parent often prioritizes drinking over their children. They may forget to pick them up from school or activities or leave them home alone for long periods. They may also neglect their basic needs, such as food and clothing.
Chronic neglect has a lasting impact on children. It causes them to have difficulty trusting people and forming attachments. They may also struggle with anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. In some cases, they develop behavioral problems.
The Extended Family
An alcoholic’s addiction doesn’t just impact immediate family members. It can also cause problems for extended family members, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Alcoholics often put their drinking before anything else, including family events and holidays. They may cancel plans at the last minute or show up drunk. Doing so causes hurt feelings and strained relationships. In some cases, it leads to estrangement.
In extreme cases, addicts result to lying or manipulation to get money from family members. It causes a rift that is difficult to repair. The addict’s behavior may also cause their children to be embarrassed or ashamed. They may distance themselves from the family or keep the addiction a secret.
An alcoholic’s drinking problem can also damage friendships. They may cancel plans, not attend important events, or misbehave when drunk. These actions make friends feel frustrated, hurt, and angry. In some cases, it leads to the end of the friendship.
An addict may also try to borrow money from friends or take advantage of them in other ways. It causes a lot of stress and strain on the relationship. In some cases, it leads to legal problems.
An alcoholic’s drinking problem impacts their career. They may call in sick, show up late, or not perform their job duties. It leads to poor work performance, absenteeism, and job loss.
In some cases, an addict’s behavior is so disruptive that it affects the whole workplace. It creates a hostile or dangerous environment. In extreme cases, it leads to lawsuits or criminal charges.
Other employees may feel like they have to pick up the slack or cover for the alcoholic. It leads to stress, resentment, conflict, or even violence.
An employer may also be held liable if an employee’s drinking problem results in injuries to themselves or someone else. They’re torn between helping the employee and protecting the business. In some cases, they may be forced to take legal action.
An alcoholic’s drinking problem can also hurt the community. They may drive while drunk, causing accidents or property damage. They can also be involved in crime, violence, or domestic abuse. It makes the community a less safe and enjoyable place to live.
Drunkenness also causes problems for businesses, schools, and organizations. They may have to deal with increased insecurity, absences, or property damage. A community with many alcohol-related problems lags in economic and social development.
The children become vulnerable, and the cycle of poverty and addiction continues. This eventually affects the entire community’s economy as it tries to cope with the social and economic problems. There’s little room for growth or development.
How to Help an Alcoholic
If you’re worried about someone’s drinking, talk to them about it. It’s not always easy to have this conversation but be honest and direct. Start by telling the addict that you’re worried about their drinking and why.
Get informed as much as you can about addiction and recovery. It will help you understand what the person is going through and how to support them best.
Most importantly, avoid enabling the person’s drinking. It means avoiding things that make it easier for them to drink, like buying them alcohol or covering for them. Let them experience the consequences of their drinking. It’s challenging but essential. Enabling makes the problem worse and prevents the person from getting help.
How To Protect Yourself
Whether you’re the spouse, child, a close friend, or coworker of an alcoholic, take care of yourself. This is a difficult situation that is emotionally and mentally draining. Have a support system, whether it’s family, friends, or a professional. Set boundaries as needed, and don’t be afraid to take a break from the situation if you need to.
As you will realize, it’s possible to love the addict and still care for yourself. You don’t have to choose between the two. Sometimes you’ll have to make critical and undesirable decisions such as leaving the addict or calling the police. It’s difficult, but remember that you’re doing it to protect yourself and your loved ones. Most importantly, don’t give up hope. Recovery is possible, and things can get better.
You Can Only Help When Emotionally And Mentally Healthy
Alcoholism is a serious problem that hurts every aspect of a person’s life. It can affect their health, relationships, work, and finances. It can also cause problems for the people around them. Get help if you’re worried about a loved one’s drinking. You’ll better help them when you’re emotionally and mentally healthy.