How Alcoholism Affects Families

There have been many studies done on how alcoholism affects families, and there are probably as many outcomes as there are families in the studies. To write about how alcoholism affects families, I can only go by what I learned growing up with an alcoholic father.

I know that not every alcoholic man is violent, but a lot of them are, and that included my father. When he drank, he got mean; or at least meaner than he normally was. He wasn’t violent in the traditional ways though, in that he never punched anybody; instead he found things for which he could punish his kids using a belt. And because it made him feel guilty afterwards beating his daughters, he came to mostly focus on his three sons.

In our family there developed a sense of camaraderie; us against him, meaning us kids against our father. Our mother wasn’t in the mix because he never hit her, he just said ugly things that made her cry. I suspect this is common in families with an alcoholic; it becomes them against everyone else because drinking tends to make people feel isolated and alone. I’m sure my father felt that way, though I never really cared, because growing up, I hated him.

I would guess that’s another way that families are affected by alcoholism; learning to hate a mother or father, or even one of your kids because of how they act when they’ve been drinking is about as destructive as it gets. I’ve always felt that I’ve been struggling with the repercussions of growing up hating my father, as I imagine others have as well. It’s not healthy, nor is it productive when you go about trying to build a life of your own after leave home. I suppose that is one of the other hallmarks of families that have to live with an alcoholic; there are things they have to live with the rest of their life; which in a lot of cases, makes them miserable.

For me it’s difficult to separate alcohol abuse, and physical abuse, because for me the two always went hand in hand; one always meant the other. I know this is not the same for everyone else, but I suspect it is for a lot of them.

Something else that occurred to me after I was older was that I must be different in some ways from other people in that I never really was raised by my father because he was always drunk and angry. He was someone I avoided as much as possible. It’s difficult for me to imagine growing up being close with a father, or loving him. I suspect this is something else that others have gone through as well.

I think I would be a very different person today had my father sought help, so, yeah, I think alcoholism affects families, and then extended families and beyond as the sons and daughters of alcoholics try to figure out how life is supposed to be lived.