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How Does Drinking And Alcoholism Affect A Family 

It’s no secret that alcoholism is a serious addiction that often threatens to ruin a victim’s life. From the risk of health issues and accidents to the inevitable loss of jobs and opportunities, excessive drinking has messed up the lives of many addicts. 

But despite harming the individual struggling with the addiction, alcoholism also takes a toll on the abuser’s loved ones, more specifically their immediate family. 

Spouses experience the full brunt of the addiction, albeit emotionally and financially, while children also get affected in more ways than one. 

In this read, we’ll take a deeper look at the various ways drinking and alcoholism affects families, and recommend ways to minimize the damage and eventually solve the problem. 

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The Relation Between Alcohol and Family Issues 

Almost everyone struggling with alcoholism will admit that the condition started as a casual behavior. Occasional drinking sessions with buddies usually morph into binge drinking sessions before they eventually transform into daily ‘one for the roads.’ 

After a couple of months or even years, an individual who could comfortably go a month without consuming alcohol finds trouble spending hours let alone a day, without downing a drink.

Sadly, the effects of alcohol addiction are rarely felt at the onset of the abuse. Instead, the consequences of alcohol abuse take their precious time before manifesting one by one.

The worst part? Everything tends to crumble all at once, leaving an addict with nowhere to run or hide!

Unfortunately, the family is usually the most affected by alcohol abuse since, after all, things are only bound to get worse when a provider is no longer able to actively sustain a household. 

When chronic addiction kicks in, you’ll find that the abuser struggles to maintain a balance in life. This means that they will no longer be emotionally, physically, and even financially present in their families, instead turning into liabilities. 

After months or even years of patience, everything starts to crumble as spouses reach their limits and threaten to leave.

Children, too, are usually affected not only by their parent’s separation but also by the trauma of experiencing a gradual downfall of a parental figure. 

And in some extreme situations, parents struggling with drinking and alcoholism tend to become emotionally and physically abusive, which usually has lasting effects on the children as they grow older. 

How Drinking and Alcoholism Affects A Spouse

Alcoholism has several negative effects on a spouse, exactly why most people struggling with alcohol use disorder end up separated from their spouses. 

Below are some of the main ways excessive alcohol consumption can affect a spouse. 


As the claws of addiction tighten, an individual becomes increasingly incapable of balancing between leisure and family roles. Over time, the spouse will see less and less of the alcoholic, which eventually results in loneliness and even feelings of abandonment. 

While most spouses term loneliness as the least bit of their worries, it can negatively affect a once blossoming relationship, setting the stage for more toxicity further along the line. 


Spouses tend to become increasingly stressed as their loved ones sink deeper into the pit of addiction. For some, the stress levels become severe to the extent of depression, especially once the addicted partner starts prioritizing alcohol over everything else. 

The stress levels even worsen in case the alcohol problem gets out of hand, and the addict is laid off at work. Loss of work translates to financial strains, which more often than not reduces the quality of life a family was initially used to. 

Some spouses struggle to find positive coping mechanisms and might even start abusing drugs to cope with the excess stress brought about by their addicted partners. 


It’s only natural that a spouse will become angry toward an irresponsible partner that prioritizes alcohol over everything else. Unfortunately, the anger might evolve into resentment if not well-managed, which can breed toxicity in the household and eventually result in domestic violence. 

Fear and Anxiety

After months or even years of repeated alcohol abuse, spouses tend to develop fears that more often than not progress to anxiety. Some spouses fear that their partners might get involved in accidents as a result of driving under the influence, while others fear the loss of jobs or failed businesses. 

And as the relationship becomes increasingly strained, the fear of a broken marriage starts to loom, especially if the addict isn’t open to the idea of professional assistance. 

Some spouses also become fearful of their spouses if constantly subjected to emotional and physical abuse. This not only affects their mental health but also increases the risk of developing negative coping mechanisms. 

How Drinking and Alcoholism Affects Children

Alcoholism affects children in several ways that, if not addressed early enough, can lead to unwanted outcomes such as depression and even suicidal behavior, as explained below. 

Feelings of Abandonment 

Children are likely to feel abandoned and unloved if their once loving parents switch their attention to drinking. Instead of spending time with their children, parents struggling with alcohol use disorder spend more time drinking and recovering from the effects of excessive drinking.

As the drinking behavior continues to get out of hand, the parent is likely to become detached from his family. On most occasions, parents with alcohol use disorder will fail to attend family or school events in favor of drinking.

The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry states that a worrying 79% of addicted parents fail to attend their children’s school activities, which often leaves their children embarrassed and, on some occasions, disinterested in school activities.  

Social Difficulties 

Most children with parents who chronically abuse alcohol are likely to develop social difficulties like anxiety, low self-esteem, and anger. 

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reveals that nearly 55% of children develop either anxiety or low self-esteem due to neglect and abuse resulting from alcohol abuse. 

A drunk parent might abuse a child emotionally and even physically, which can lead to lifelong resentment, especially if the child does not receive mental support. 

Besides emotional and physical abuse, a parent’s socially irresponsible behavior when drunk can also affect a child’s development. Children can become socially withdrawn, especially if a parent publicly misbehaves or frequently causes scenes when drunk. 

Attachment Issues 

A recent study on children of alcoholics revealed that daughters are more likely to develop attachment issues in their dating years, which can also affect marriages in the long term. 

The constant fear of a spouse becoming an alcoholic (just like a parent) has negatively affected the quality of several relationships. 

Increased Risk of Drug or Alcohol Addiction

Although not all children of alcoholics are inclined to consume alcohol and drugs, a worrying number often turn to substances as coping or escape mechanisms. The risk of alcohol abuse is even higher for children whose parents store alcohol at home. 

Moreover, studies indicate that children of alcoholics are more likely to develop alcohol use disorder compared to those without a history of alcohol addiction in their families. 

Reduced Academic Performance 

A healthy home environment plays a massive role in a child’s academic performance. Children from toxic households usually struggle to balance between family life and school work, which often results in reduced, if not poor academic performance. 

Increased Responsibilities 

If the sole provider has a chronic addiction, the eldest children are often forced to step up and care for the younger children or even the entire family.

While the child might not be in a position to provide financially, they usually find themselves taking up more household tasks to cover their parent’s absence. This can severely affect a child’s academic performance and social relationships with peers. 

Fear of Separation

On most occasions, children start to fear separation, especially when one parent’s drinking behavior gets out of hand. 

Some of the signs of a looming divorce can distract a child and even interfere with their academic performance. Additionally, a child might fear being separated from their only parent if he or she is struggling with chronic addiction and therefore can’t take care of the household. 

How to Help A Spouse Struggling With Alcoholism

Without proper care and assistance, it’s easy for a family unit that was once solid to disintegrate due to the effect of alcoholism. If you’re dealing with a loved one struggling with alcoholism, it might be best to try out the following. 

Seek Professional Assistance 

The best way to overcome drug and alcohol addiction is by seeking professional assistance. While a loved one might be skeptical about the idea of enrolling in a rehab facility, receiving treatment from the best drug rehab centers is the only sustainable way to break the chains of addiction. 

If the addiction is yet to get out of hand, you can consider outpatient treatment, which is less intense and therefore more suitable for ‘functional alcoholics.’ A loved one can join an outpatient rehab facility licensed to provide medication-assisted treatment (MAT). 

And while outpatient treatment is often used as a step down from inpatient treatment, it can work well for loved ones that want to quit drinking before the addiction becomes chronic.

Enrolling a loved one in an inpatient treatment facility is arguably the best way to address drinking and alcoholism problems. Most inpatient rehabs treat a wide range of addictions and also co-occurring disorders, effectively increasing the chances of lifelong sobriety. 

The good thing with rehab facilities is that there are tons of inpatient treatment facilities sprinkled throughout the country that have been treating citizens for several years. 

Therefore, you won’t be short of options when looking to enroll a loved one in a rehab for professional treatment. 

Provide Consistent Support 

Recovery from alcoholism is a lifelong process that requires support from both professionals and loved ones. Therefore, for your loved one to stand a genuine shot at overcoming addiction, they must receive consistent support, especially from immediate family members. 

Fortunately, there are several rehab centers that provide family therapy programs. These programs are designed to help family members heal and recover from the effects of addiction, which ensures patients return home to a conducive and highly supportive environment. 

Support Groups

While a rehab might help treat addiction and co-occurring disorders, support groups will help your loved one maintain sobriety long after completing treatment. 

As your loved one nears the end of his or her addiction treatment program, the rehab will recommend relevant support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, LifeRing and even a nearby SMART program. 

Additionally, it would help to encourage your loved one to attend the rehab’s alumni events as they provide a much-needed community of like-minded people looking to abstain from drugs and alcohol. 

Should An Alcoholic Loved One Detox At Home?

It might be tempting to allow a loved one to detox at home, especially if you want to cut down on costs after feeling the brunt of long-term alcoholism. 

However, one thing you should never do is allow someone struggling with long-term alcohol use disorder to detox without professional medical supervision

The withdrawal effects of alcohol are usually intense and can easily prove fatal if not medically managed. This explains why it is always important to take a loved one to a professional rehab facility for detox services. 

Although not all rehabs offer professional detox services, most will recommend you to their partners or refer you to other facilities where your loved one can get started on addiction treatment. 

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Don't go through the process of recovery alone. There are people who can help you with the struggle you're facing. Get in touch with one today.

Make a Call

Although often taken lightly, alcohol use disorder is a serious condition that can break a family if not controlled early enough. 

Treating alcoholism at the onset of the condition is a lot easier than after it has progressed–exactly why you should take action immediately after you spot the red flags of alcohol addiction. 

If you’re looking for outpatient rehab, we’d recommend looking for a strategically located campus that’ll be easy for your loved one to access while balancing treatment with work or other day-to-day responsibilities. 

Similarly, you should also choose an inpatient rehab wisely. Some consider out-of-state rehabs to help addicts detach from triggers and otherwise toxic environments. 

Whichever rehab you choose, we strongly recommend checking on factors such as cost, success rates, and even aftercare. 

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