It is an unfortunate reality that many homes in the U.S. deal with the disease of alcoholism in the family. There is also a reason why they call alcoholism a “family disease.” This is because it does not just affect the individual struggling; it reverberates throughout the entire home causing distress and despair to those who it touches. The good news is that there are many ways that a family can heal from alcoholism in the home and cope with its aftereffects.
Understanding Alcoholism in the Family
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), “Approximately 10.5% (7.5 million) of U.S. children ages 17 and younger live with a parent who has alcohol use disorder [AUD].” Now, these numbers are based on a study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) pre-COVID-19 pandemic. Many people within the addiction and recovery industry anticipate that these numbers may be significantly higher today.
Alcoholism in the family can cause serious trauma to those who are affected. This is especially true for children who live in the home of a parent who is struggling with alcoholism. For these individuals, the trauma that they incur due to witnessing disruptive and damaging behaviors, or potentially experiencing violence as a result of alcoholism, can stick with them their entire lives.
If untreated, these traumas can manifest in mental illnesses. These are mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression, personality disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, there are many ways to cope with a family member with alcoholism, both while they are in active addiction and when they are in recovery. This is “healing the family afterward,” as they often say in 12-Step recovery.
How to Deal With an Alcoholic Family Member
While it may seem daunting at times, there are many ways to cope with a family member who is actively engaging in alcohol abuse. One way to cope is to understand that no one is at fault for their alcoholism. This can be remembered as the “7 Cs.” These are “I didn’t cause the alcoholism, I cannot control it, and I cannot cure it. But, I can help take care of myself by communicating how I feel, by making healthier choices, and by celebrating what it means to be me.”
Another way to cope with a family member with alcoholism is to set boundaries and consequences and, most importantly, stick to them. For example, if a boundary is that there is no drinking or alcohol in the home and a family member comes home intoxicated, they should be asked to leave. Yes, this might seem harsh, but perhaps it will be the message that they need to seek and accept help.
Yet, another very helpful way of coping with alcoholism in the family is by joining support groups of other people having the same experiences. This reliability can help remind the family that they are not unique in what they are going through. Perhaps the most well-known support group of this kind is Al-Anon, as it focuses directly on the struggles of families dealing with alcoholism.
Alcoholism in the Family: How to Heal
Now, hopefully, the individual who is struggling will eventually accept help. However, if they do not, that does not mean that the family cannot take care of themselves. Perhaps the best way to do this is via therapy.
Three types of therapy can be particularly helpful when there is alcoholism in the family. First, individual therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), can be helpful because it allows the individual to focus solely on their own needs.
The next type of therapy is group therapy. This is similar to community groups, as there is a sense of “shared experience.” However, it tends to be more structured and there is a professional therapist there to offer feedback to the group.
The last type of therapy is family therapy. This can happen with or without the individual who is struggling with alcoholism. Meanwhile, this therapy can be highly effective in getting the family to open up and build healthy lines of communication again.
How to Navigate Relapse With a Family Member in Recovery
Sometimes a family member will relapse. The key is not to get too discouraged but also to stay the course and stick with consequences and boundaries.
If a relapse happens, it is important to get them back on their recovery plan right away. Similarly, if this happens, there is no reason why a relapse has to spell the end for family healing and recovery.
Long-Term Family Healing at The Phoenix Recovery Center
Here at The Phoenix Recovery Center, we believe in healing the entire family. When the family and the individual heal together, there is a good chance for lasting recovery.
Home is a sacred place, and for some people, alcohol tries to disrupt that. Yet, even when disrupted, that sacred status can withstand anything, as long as the family sticks together, holds onto hope, and takes action.
If you feel like you or other family members may be struggling with issues of addiction in the home, please know that you are not alone. We can help everyone get on the right track toward successful long-term recovery. For more information on how to help a family member overcome alcoholism, reach out to The Phoenix Recovery Center today at (801) 438-3185.