WebMD Logo Icon
WebMD Connect to Care helps you find services to manage your health. When you purchase any of these services, WebMD may receive a fee. WebMD does not endorse any product, service or treatment referred to on this page. X

How Alcohol Destroys Families

Living with someone who abuses alcohol can take a toll on spouses, children, and other members of the family. Here is what you need to know if you're living with an alcoholic.

When a family member is struggling with alcohol-related issues, it not only takes a toll on their own well-being; it can also have a profound impact on their family. Living with alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence can take a toll on spouses, children, and other members of the family.

Children of alcoholics

Children of alcoholics are at a greater risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), experiencing mental health trauma, and have a greater possibility of developing a substance abuse disorder themselves, according to the Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization.

"A child may be forced to behave in ways that are beyond their years and take on responsibilities that may be mentally advanced for them, but do not have the option to decline,"  Lawrence Weinstein, MD, Chief Medical Officer at American Addiction Centers tells WebMD Connect to Care. "Anger, feelings of abandonment and general mistrust can develop during the parent's alcohol and/or substance use, and can affect them for the rest of their lives."

Alcohol and anger can lead to domestic violence, which can have an additional effect later on in the child's life. According to Weinstein, it can even shape the way the child becomes a parent, causing them to be overprotective or overbearing to their own children.

Spouses of alcoholics

Living with an alcoholic spouse produces another set of traumatic issues, as well. People whose life partner is struggling with alcohol use disorder may experience fear for their own safety, their future, or their family.

According to American Addiction Centers, someone who is dealing with an alcoholic spouse may:

  • Blame themselves for the problem.
  • Take drinking personally.
  • Attempt to control or cure it.
  • Cover up the problem to others.
  • Accept inappropriate behavior towards themselves, such as anger or domestic violence.

Alcohol destroys families in other ways, as well, especially if the alcoholic is struggling with finances and job instability related to their alcohol use.

Support for families of alcoholics

There are many treatment options available for alcoholics as individuals, but families have plenty of options for healing, as well.

Mutual Support Programs

Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) are mutual support programs for people whose lives have been affected by someone else's drinking. By sharing common experiences, families and friends can bring positive changes to their individual situations, whether or not the alcoholic is ready for change.

Behavioral Treatments

Alcohol counseling exists not just for the alcoholic, but for family members, as well. Marital and family counseling can help an alcoholic in the family maintain abstinence.

Formal Interventions

According to the Mayo Clinic, an intervention can help motivate someone to seek help for their substance issue. It involves bringing concerned friends, relatives, coworkers, and family together in an attempt to convince the person to seek treatment for their problem.