The Impact of Alcoholism and Addiction On the Family

It’s estimated that about 14.4 million people have alcohol abuse disorder, meaning millions of families are affected by this challenging illness. In addition to impacting the addict, alcoholism and addiction also impact families, especially if it's prolonged addiction. 

Children, spouses, and other loved ones can experience shame, depression, and anxiety due to alcoholism and addiction. Living with an addict can cause disruptive behavior, strained relationships, and tension, inflicting significant stress on the family unit. While it's possible for families living with alcoholics and addicts to seek support, it can have dire effects when ignored. Here's how alcoholism and addiction impact a family.

  1. Impact on child development

Children who grow up in families battling alcoholism and addiction may experience complex, lifelong effects. It affects their opinion about themselves and relationships with families and friends. Children may have conflicting and complicated emotions like guilt, depression, anxiety, anger issues, embarrassment, confusion, distrust, and detachment. Teachers, friends, and other adults may notice personality and behavior changes, including constantly seeking praise and attention, being sensitive to criticism and feeling inadequate, impulsive or risk-taking behavior, and more.

Since children may have difficulties expressing how addiction impacts their lives, they may start looking for ways to cope, such as assuming parental figures for their siblings and taking on more responsibility. If these issues remain unresolved, they might manifest in their adulthood. Consider admitting the addicted loved one to a Substance Abuse Recovery center for treatment, then take the children for counseling.

  1. Domestic abuse

Due to the behavioral effects of alcoholism, an addicted loved one may turn violent, especially to their children and spouses. People fighting addiction may result in emotional abuse, including insulting them, humiliating, and manipulating them. Alcohol abuse affects physical and cognitive functions, lowering self-control levels and behaving violently when frustrated.

  1. Family finances problems

Alcohol isn't free, and when it becomes an addiction, people tend to spend more than they should. As the problem escalates, they begin spending all their income on alcohol and even start borrowing. Alcohol lowers inhibitions, causing addicts to act impulsively with their finances without minding the consequences.

Heavy drinking can affect work productivity, causing your loved ones to lose their jobs. With nowhere to get money to finance their addiction, they may steal, lie to get money or start drinking on credit. This can strain family finances, especially if the addict was the primary breadwinner.

  1. Impact on spouses

Alcoholics often harm the ones they love. Living with an alcoholic spouse impacts physical well-being, social health and may also cause domestic violence. If the drinking partner isn’t satisfied in the relationship, they may assault the other. Infidelity accusations can also act as a violence trigger. The spouse living with the addicted partner may result in unhealthy coping methods, causing further harm to themselves. Some spouses may turn to substance abuse, overspending on shopping sprees, taking their frustrations out on the kids, or becoming promiscuous, causing even more harm to the kids and the entire family unit.

Alcoholism may also have lasting effects like trauma, the potential breakup of the relationship, estrangement between parents and children, separation, and divorce. Living with an alcoholic spouse may cause lasting effects like long-term financial issues, home or car loss, physical injuries, social isolation, poor physical health resulting from neglect, or feeling withdrawn.

  1. Strained family relationships

Alcoholism destroys family relationships, with family members finding it difficult to create robust emotional bonds, express themselves, and be independent. It leads to more negative interactions compared to families not affected by addiction and alcoholism. The family of the addicted person may also feel neglected, leading to emotional and mental distress, especially for the kids and spouses.

  1. Chances of increased addiction in the family

Living with an addicted or alcoholic family member can be mentally and emotionally draining. To cope with the situation at home, other family members may turn to substance abuse. Children who grow up in a family of alcohol and drug addicts are most likely to indulge in it, creating a generational pattern. This creates an intergenerational cycle of alcoholism, destroying the home.

  1. Legal problems

When alcoholics result in stealing to finance their addiction or accumulate debts in the name of alcoholism, the family may be dragged into legal tussles. This not causes shame on the family members but also distress.


Living with an alcoholic or addict requires courage, patience, and the knowledge to handle them. Talking to a professional, setting boundaries for the person battling alcoholism, caring for yourself, learning about addiction, and finding ways to help them recover can help you cope.

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