How alcohol affects the family

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Updated: 4/11/2007 2:48 pm
Since alcoholism progresses slowly, family members are often unable to fully recognize the severity of the situation. They become used to living in an alcoholic's household, and tend to lose sight of what constitutes a healthy family environment. When spouses and children of alcoholics are unable to acknowledge the existence of a problem, they're said to be in denial. Family members who are in denial usually develop a number of behaviors to help them maintain the illusion that the alcoholic's drinking isn't affecting the family. Children of alcoholics sometimes experience a strange form of role reversal, and may assume traditional parenting responsibilities such as cooking meals for the family, cleaning the house, or taking care of a younger sibling. Spouses may lie or make excuses for certain alcoholic behaviors, such as missing work or an appointment because of a hangover. Unfortunately, by attempting to compensate for alcoholic behavior, both spouses and children are likely to develop a great deal of resentment and anger towards the alcoholic. Children usually have a difficult time dealing with their embarrassment and anger, and it may cause them to withdraw from friends, do poorly in school, or even engage in criminal activities. This is why it's important for family members to learn to admit that alcohol is disrupting their lives, and begin taking steps to improve the situation. Family counseling or support groups like Al-Anon can educate family members about alcoholism, and help them learn to cope with the disease. For more information, consult a healthcare provider in your area.
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