Alcoholism: Effect on your Family

It’s not easy to find the right words to say to a family member who is obviously struggling with alcohol addiction. Concerns for their well-being can be tempered by the desire to avoid upsetting them, and often family members will ignore the problem before acknowledging and confronting the person with the issue.  When a loved one is dealing with alcoholism everyone feels the burden of the sickness.

Feelings of shame and guilt often surround the battle with alcoholism.  This is perhaps why many families ignore the problem for a long period of time.  These feelings are present because a spouse or parent may feel responsible, at least in part, for not being able to prevent or protect the child and/or the person with the problem from the effects of the addiction.  These feelings of responsibility can often lead to behaviors that may condone the actions of the family member with the problem.

Starting the process

The first step is realizing the person who is abusing alcohol needs to be confronted.  Instead of ignoring the problem, make the choice to verbalize it.  Gathering other family members as support and deciding on a spokesperson is generally a good plan.

Once the decision has been made to say something, a conversation that doesn’t point fingers and place blame but instead impress upon the person the inherent dangers to their health and well-being is generally best.

It might be helpful to try to discuss the full scope of the addiction in terms of its impact on every aspect of the person’s life.  Creating a visual picture of how alcohol is destroying the life of the person with the sickness is necessary for terms of building a platform to encourage them to get help.

What to expect

According to Bay Area Recovery (, regardless of what a family may say to try to encourage sobriety and the possibility of getting professional help, the opposition should be expected. Frequently, a person with a substance abuse problem has turned to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism.

According to Bay Area Recovery (, although the behavior is the target in terms of change, there is always an underlying reason that a person will reach for the bottle.  More often than not valuable clues lay hidden in a person’s lifestyle in terms of how they respond to the pressures that they are forced to deal with.  As a family unit, tough love is in order.  Although it’s easy to ignore the problem or walk around on eggshells, so as not to offend the person, it’s not beneficial to the family or the person wrestling with the disease.

When family intervention fails

Unfortunately, even the best efforts made by family members may yield little in terms of results. Professional help may be the only avenue available. This perhaps is the most difficult conclusion a family may be faced with. However, in order to help the sick family member, they may have to make that a necessary process.

It is natural for a family to have feelings of remorse, responsibility, and shame when trying to figure out how to help a family member battle the disease of alcoholism. Seeking professional intervention may be required if efforts by family members are unsuccessful.  Regardless of the methods, it is important that the addiction is addressed and handled in a way that is proactive for all members of the family.

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