Alcoholism's Negative Effects on My Marriage and Family
What Is Alcoholism?
Alcoholism is a chronic health condition that develops through internal and external influences. Some of these influences include: the individual's genetics, family history, mentality, social environment, and the degree of stress in his or her life and how they cope with that stress. Alcoholism can have a detrimental impact on marriages and families. It has a severely destructive path with consequences that can potentially last a lifetime.
Alcoholism is defined as a dependence or strong craving for alcohol with continued use, despite the complications to one's health and the destructive behavior toward family and friends. Over a period of time, alcohol abuse can affect the brain and how it functions, causing serious harm to the organs in the body and the overall mental state of the person. The onset of withdrawal symptoms will occur with the decrease or absence of consumption of alcohol.
Alcoholism's Far Reach
It is estimated that over half of all adults have had to deal with some form of alcoholism in their lives. In the United States alone, over 17 million people are alcoholics, and studies show that 43% of these alcoholics have had one or more family members who were affected by this disease, as well.
Impact on Marriages
Alcoholism threatens the stability of marriages and breaks down the foundation of families. Some alcoholics may temporarily hide their addiction for a short while, functioning at a somewhat normal level as they continue to perform their duties and responsibilities in everyday life. However, the addiction will soon overcome the person as their alcohol level increases. His or her behavior patterns will eventually begin to disclose the severity of the disease. Some marriages will survive, although continued abuse of alcohol consumption often leads to the demise of the marriage and the downfall of the family.
It is easier in the beginning for the non-alcoholic partner to be supportive and show compassion with love and understanding. Though, as the disease progresses, the supportive partner can grow impatient and reach his or her limit of patience and forgiveness, just desperately wanting them to stop. The alcoholic will often make empty promises such as, "That was the last time," or "I can stop on my own, I promise." Satisfying their partner with these broken promises gives them more time so they do not have to deal with the problem. With the continued effects brought on by the alcoholic's behavior, it becomes increasingly difficult to be tolerant of his or her actions. Eventually fights worsen, communication is lost, trust is broken, and intimacy is gone. There is no way to have a healthy, functioning relationship with an alcoholic that refuses to seek help for the addiction.
Feeling the unfairness of the situation, the non-alcoholic partner may become resentful of his or her partner due to the actualization of what this has done to their on life. At this point, conflict is almost inevitable as the communication may start to fracture. Soon the marriage may begin to crumble under the pressure as each spouse starts pulling away from each other. This usually leads to the deterioration of emotional and sexual intimacy. The non- alcoholic partner may experience feelings of emptiness and an unsatisfying or unfulfilled relationship.
One of the negative side effects of too much alcohol consumption for men is the way in which it can hinder their ability to perform sexually.This can cause added stress on an already unsteady relationship. The non-alcoholic spouse may start to develop negative feeling toward the alcoholic due to his or her undesirable appearance or the smell of stale alcohol on their breath. One may feel repulsed or even disenchanted toward the spouse or partner. In addition, when there are feelings of resentment and anger toward the partner, the desire to be intimate may be lost and sexual attraction for them may gradually disappear. Unfortunately, this opens the door for infidelity in the marriage by one spouse or both. The non-alcoholic spouse may turn to someone else for comfort and to feel loved and wanted again. The alcoholic may betray the marriage for these same reasons or from the result of a wrong decision made while intoxicated and away from home. The hurt felt from this betrayal of trust in a marriage often times causes the end of the marriage.
Alcoholism can cause added financial worries. Money being used for alcohol takes away from the family and everyday expenses, which may cause bills to go unpaid. Additionally, the alcoholic may get arrested for DUI's and in turn have to pay substantial fines and a court cost. The alcoholic's mistakes cost the entire family, adding to the stress for the non-alcoholic spouse or partner. They may have to take on more financial responsibility to ensure the bills will be paid.
Children growing up in an alcoholic home may develop emotional problems, such as anxiety and behavioral outburst. Research shows that a child growing up with an alcoholic parent has a four times higher rate of developing an addiction to alcohol. They will often have low self-esteem, which can make it difficult for him or her to fit in with peers. This can make a child feel sad and lonely that can lead to chronic depression. Sometimes children of alcoholics develop fears of abandonment and feel helpless with a situation. Grades may drop in school because of the inability to concentrate on his or her school work at home under the circumstances. Also, because of his or her lack of social skills and surroundings, the behavior of the child may become inappropriate at times simply due to the fact that he or she does not know how to act suitably. A child of an alcoholic is forced to grow up and bear the stress and other consequences of the environment.
Alcoholism does not just affect the alcoholic. It affects the entire family. Those individuals that are sincere in reaching out for help and truly have the desire to end the abuse should be supported and treated with patience. Sometimes a marriage can be saved depending on the amount of damage that has been done. This journey will not be easy and will require much understanding to start the healing process and mend the hurt that has been caused. However, if the alcoholic refuses to receive any help and continues with harmful behavior towards themselves and his or her family, the non-alcoholic spouse or partner may be forced to make some very tough decisions in order to do what's best for the family.
My Personal Story
This subject is very personal for me. I lived with an alcoholic spouse for twenty-two years, and I went through years of sadness, physical and emotional pain, depression, disappointment, and helplessness.
I loved my husband very much and just wanted him to stop and be the husband and father to our children that he should be. Unfortunately, this did not happen. Many nights I sat up crying and waiting for him to come home. I was so unhappy, but I was too scared at that time to do anything. I felt as though I would not be able to have a life without him in it.
Thanks to faith and support, I found that I could. Because of this realization, I am happier than I have ever been in my life. Finally after two decades of enduring so much pain, I found the strength to make him leave.
I have been divorced now for almost five months, and I feel like I can breathe again without the worry and pain embedded in my stomach. Both my children and I have emotional scars that may never go away, but in time we will heal to a point where it can no longer affect us. I truly regret not leaving and taking my children out of that environment so many years ago but I am focused and steadfast on the future and what it has in store for my children and me.
I am blessed to have a strong support system from my loving family and friends. I thank God for my second chance in this life and the new beginning it brings each day.