If you are the spouse of a person suffering from alcoholism, then you will be all too familiar with the pain and suffering this inflicts on the entire family, not least yourself.
Alcoholism is capable of slowly but surely destroying family bonds that may have existed for decades or even a lifetime.
Alcoholism damages family life in many ways. Some of these ways are subtler than others. Examples include child neglect, financial troubles, domestic abuse between spouses and an overall poor mental health for all those involved.
It’s believed more than 60% of physical altercations between spouses involve alcohol in some way or another. It’s also common for the non-alcoholic spouse to develop symptoms of co-dependency. This is when a spouse acts in a way that enables the other spouse’s alcoholism. This way of behaving is often inadvertent.
How alcohol impacts loved ones
Below, we list a number of common ways alcoholism is capable of negatively impacting those directly suffering from alcoholism and their loved ones:
- Neglecting important responsibilities: when you are suffering from alcoholism, your cognitive abilities begin to deteriorate. This deterioration of cognitive abilities causes a range of negative consequences. For instance, you are likely to forget to carry out important responsibilities that otherwise allow you and your loved ones to function in a way that means your basic needs are being met
- A deterioration in your mental and physical health: because alcohol is a toxin, it is corrosive to major organs of the body. Alcohol also serves to sap you of your energy. You will require more and more time in order to nurse hangovers. When you suffer from alcoholism, you are also likely to fail to live a healthy lifestyle
- Encountering legal problems: your alcoholism is highly likely to mean you act irrationally and erratically. This behaviour could cause you to break the law. For instance, those suffering from alcoholism are much more likely to drive a vehicle whilst under the influence. When suffering from alcoholism, you are, unfortunately, much more likely to commit domestic abuse against your loved ones
It’s almost impossible to carry out life-sustaining activities when you are suffering from alcoholism. The term ‘functioning-alcoholic’ is a myth. It’s simply impossible to correctly function whilst you are suffering from alcoholism. Alcoholism negatively impacts most areas of your life. This means you will lack the resources, time and effort needed to tend to your own and your family’s needs.
You may begin to drink alcohol because you believe it helps you to reduce stress or reduce the symptoms of anxiety or depression. In time, alcohol abuse will only serve to create more stress in your life and to aggravate the symptoms of any mental health problems you may be experiencing. Reliance on alcohol turns into a dependency. Your alcoholism will have a ripple effect because it will negatively affect close family members and even friends and colleagues.
How alcoholism negatively affects your finances
Alcoholism directly affects your finances in many ways. Firstly, alcohol is often expensive. If you are earning a low wage, spending money on alcohol invariably means you and your family will have to sacrifice spending on more important items, such as food.
Secondly, drinking alcohol will mean you do not have enough energy to perform correctly at work. You are likely to miss work because of your alcoholism. It’s also conceivable that your alcoholism could directly cause you to lose your job entirely. If you are self-employed or a business owner, your alcoholism is likely to negatively impact your business in a variety of ways, all of which invariably impact your finances negatively.
Because alcoholism significantly disrupts your productivity, your ability to realise future earnings are significantly reduced because of your alcoholism. The opportunity cost of alcoholism is significant for this reason.
Your alcoholism could also cause you to exit from your career prematurely due to growing health problems directly attributed to your drinking.
Thirdly, your alcoholism could mean you are more susceptible to impulsive buying. This means you could spend more money at a restaurant or a bar than you initially planned. Alcoholism and impulsivity are particularly a problem when you are known to gamble. Your alcoholism could mean you begin to spend more and more money on gambling that could lead to financial catastrophe. For this reason, we strongly advise that you avoid spending money whilst under the influence of alcohol.
Fourthly, alcoholism is believed to increase debt, particularly credit card debt. Those experiencing alcoholism have been known to rely on credit card funding to cover the shortfall caused by a reduction in wages. These people are then unable to repay credit card repayments. This, in turn, causes increased credit card charges and late fees.
Lastly, your alcoholism is likely to impact your finances when you seek out treatment. Going to rehab is rarely free, particularly for alcoholism. Unlike addiction to illicit drugs, public funding for alcoholism treatment is rarely available from publicly-funded sources. The average cost of alcohol rehab is around £6,000-£12,000 for a 28-day inpatient treatment programme. Your private health insurance premiums are also likely to increase as a result of your alcoholism.
The above financial problems caused by alcoholism are particularly great for those who must rely on a low-to-moderate income. A base income is required to meet basic needs to in our capitalist-based economy. When this base income is not met, those affected will struggle to pay for food, accommodation and other basics.
How alcoholism impacts marital relationships
Alcoholism causes strain across the family unit no matter who in the family it affects. However, this strain is particularly apparent when the person who is experiencing alcoholism is your spouse. Your spouse’s alcoholism is indeed likely to constitute unreasonable behaviour that is undoubtedly grounds for divorce. However, alcoholism is a disease, so it’s unfair to say that your spouse is drinking alcohol purely out of choice.
If you observe one of the World’s major religions, then it’s likely you adhere to the unconditionality of the love between you and your spouse. Also, your marriage is a legal bond that can only be overturned by divorce. However, the financial pains and mental strains caused by alcoholism could leave you questioning the viability of your marriage.
Below, we list some of the most common problems that arise between spouses when one partner is experiencing alcoholism:
- Financial instability
- The development of mental disorders
- Domestic abuse including violence
- Co-dependency caused by negative emotions
Co-dependency: When Helping is Hurting
Co-dependency arises in the spouse who is not suffering from alcoholism. This person may develop co-dependency due to experiencing negative emotions such as self-blame, guilt, feelings of abandonment and unworthiness. This spouse then enables their loved one’s alcoholism by being over-caring.
This maladjustment is often difficult to recognise and requires the help of a professional addiction counsellor in order to overcome. After all, the non-alcoholic spouse will view his or her actions as helping, not hindering the situation. An addiction counsellor will help this person realise that this ‘rescuer and provider’ role is actually hurting rather than helping in many ways.
In practical terms, it is never healthy to equate the role of a spouse with that of a caregiver. The provision of unconditional care almost always translates to enabling your loved one’s alcoholism. It’s thus not surprising that spouses are often termed ‘co-alcoholics’ despite the fact they are not drinking any alcohol at all.
You can learn more about co-dependency treatment here.
How alcoholism impacts children
The effects of alcoholism are particularly cruel when it comes to the way it impacts children.
Witnessing a caregiver’s alcoholism emotionally impacts children in many different ways. These children are likely to experience emotional troubles for the rest of their lives because of this. Early exposure to witnessing a parent’s alcoholism means children are four times more likely to abuse alcohol themselves once they reach adulthood. This is why alcoholism is often described as a vicious circle, affecting generation after generation of those who it impacts.
You can learn about teen addiction treatment here.
If you abuse alcohol in your child’s vicinity, your child is likely to experience confusion. If your child is very young, he or she is probably unable to express an opinion about your drinking. However, you can be sure the experience will serve as a traumatic one for many years to come. It’s often frustrating for older children to express any sort of opinion because those affected by alcoholism are well-known for denying a problem even exists in the first place.
Typically, it is not the alcoholism per se that is so emotionally corrosive for children to witness. Rather, it’s the behavioural changes caused by alcoholism that are to blame. When you experience alcoholism, you are likely to experience mood swings that could see you behaving abusively towards your loved ones. As your child attempts to process what he or she is witnessing, negative emotions such as self-blame, anger and guilt are likely to arise.
We list many ways alcoholism may negatively impact children below:
- Poor school performance
- Poor attendance record at school
- Taking on the role of caregiver for younger siblings
- Engaging in dangerous/risky behaviour
- Isolated from peers of the same age
- Stealing/becoming violent/aggressive behaviour
- Engaging in a sexual relationship with older children
- Abusing alcohol/drugs themselves
- Severe mental health problems
It’s likely your child’s school will pick up on the above signs and this could result in you being investigated by social services. If social services are not satisfied this situation is likely to improve, you risk losing custody of your children. Your children may then become subject to the care system, which is, unfortunately, further detrimental to your child’s comfort and well-being.
Support for Loved Ones of Alcoholics
Since your loved one’s alcoholism has likely negatively impacted you on a mental level, it’s important for you to seek out some sort of treatment. Fortunately, many alcohol rehab clinics offer family therapy. Here, you will benefit from both group and individual therapy sessions. You may also benefit by joining a mutual support group such as Al-Anon.
Al-Anon is a sister organisation of Alcoholics Anonymous set up to specifically assist those who have been affected by a loved one’s alcoholism.
It is likely your loved one’s alcoholism has negatively affected by mental health. In some cases, coping with a loved one’s alcoholism may cause you to experience severe mental problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Know that you don’t have to carry these mental scars alone and structured treatment exists to help you overcome this profoundly negative chapter of your life.
Alcoholism and domestic abuse
Alcoholism is known to give rise to many negative events, not least domestic abuse, including child abuse. A report by the Journal of the American Medical Association claims in 92 per cent of domestic violence incidence, those responsible had consumed drugs or alcohol when the crime was committed. Whilst this may not prove alcohol caused these crimes to be committed, it does provide evidence that alcohol consumption was potentially a causal factor.
It’s likely these perpetrators to domestic violence witnessed violence in their own childhood and drinking alcohol acted as a stimulus, encouraging these people to act on their emotions in ways that allow domestic abuse to occur.
If you are the victim of domestic violence, ensure you contact a domestic abuse helpline without delay. It’s not unknown for domestic abuse to lead to manslaughter or murder, so to delay seeking help could mean you are taking the ultimate risk.
Helping your spouse get the treatment they need
If your spouse is suffering from alcoholism, then the logical next step is to seek out alcohol rehab treatment. With our help, we shall locate suitable treatment in your local area. Don’t hesitate to get in touch. Know that alcoholism is a progressive disorder and one that’s highly unlikely to go away without the necessary treatment.
We typically recommend a 28-day inpatient treatment programme. There are many publicly-funded and private treatment options available. Your spouse’s treatment will begin with a medically assisted detox. Your spouse will then receive evidence-based treatments that allow the emotional healing process to take place.
Before treatment begins, it’s vitally important for your spouse to accept a problem exists. if your spouse is experiencing denial, then we are able to offer you an intervention service. A professional interventionist will help your spouse accept the need for professional addiction treatment. Once this is achieved, we will then be able to help you and your spouse locate a suitable treatment provider.
To contact our team today, call us on 0800 140 4690 or you may also contact us through our online contact form.