Alcoholism: Keeping It in the Family

Alcoholism: Keeping It in the Family

By Lakeview Health
Lakeview Health
Published: March 26, 2013

Family Unity Can Keep Alcohol Addiction Alive

Think back to holidays, weddings or reunions when the entire family got together. There always seems to be that one family member who drinks just a bit too much. You can always find that person with a beer, glass of wine or whatever the drink of choice is. Perhaps it’s your grandfather, aunt, cousin, uncle or father who always got stupid drunk and had to be carried out at the end of the night. You have accepted that this is just the way this person is, but there is something wrong with that thinking. The reality is that this person is an alcoholic. No one dares says it aloud and the very thought of it seems unbelievable. However, it makes it difficult to deny if your family member:

  • Drinks large amounts of alcohol very quickly
  • Passes out from drinking or has memory blackouts
  • Always has a supply of alcohol in the house
  • Becomes angry, aggressive or out of control when drinking
  • Drinks to help relax or come out of his or her shell
  • Doesn’t eat or eats very little while drinking
  • Has been arrested for drunk driving
  • Is known to get sick or have the shakes without drinking

Alcoholism and Denial

Now that you have established that this family member has a problem, what are you supposed to do? You probably don’t know where to start or perhaps you don’t want to ruffle any feathers. However, it’s important to know that denying that there is a problem is harmful to everyone, especially the alcoholic. Denial is common when it comes to the disease of addiction. It’s what keeps it going and is a challenge during treatment and recovery. If this powerful entity is strong within the alcoholic, imagine how powerful it is when an entire family is in denial. The alcoholic is living consequence-free in a distorted reality, with the help of the entire family. No one wins in that situation.

Treating the Family Disease

Changing an entire family is difficult, especially if denial has been a part of the family for a long time. It would be great if things were easy: The alcoholic person willingly goes to alcohol rehab, enters recovery and everyone lives happily ever after.  That’s not reality. Although you can’t force anyone to get treatment for alcoholism, there are things you can do to cope with addiction in the family.

  • Admit there is a problem.
  • Realize your role and your family’s role in the alcoholic’s addiction.
  • Educate yourself and your family on the disease of addiction.
  • Attend family therapy.
  • Attend individual therapy.
  • Attend support groups (Al-Anon).
  • Set healthy boundaries.
  • Keep open lines of communication.

The addicted family member should realize he or she doesn’t have a hall pass for drinking when you treat the family and learn to cope with addiction. It might seem cruel, but not supporting the addictive behavior is the healthiest thing to do.

The Family That Treats Together, Heals Together

Healing occurs when your family sticks together and continues their treatment, even if nothing seems to change right away. You can all take an honest look at the destructive habit, the effect it has on the family and recognize the need to get treatment at an alcohol rehab center. The alcoholic’s life become unmanageable without help from you and your family. Lakeview Health helps alcoholics and their families start the healing process. The alcoholic and the family get the help they need to start the road to recovery.