Alcoholism and The Family: What Happens When One Glass Leads to Another…and Another

As human beings, we like to think that we are in control of things. The irony of it is – we never realise that we’ve lost control of things…. until we’ve lost control altogether. The same can be said for alcoholism. The starting point of alcoholism is always a glass of alcohol…which leads to another glass, and another before things spirals out of control into the dark abyss of alcoholism.

Dr. James Royce, the author of the book Alcohol Problems and Alcoholism, defines alcoholism as a ‘ chronic illness or disorder characterised by some loss of control over drinking, with habituation or addiction to the drug alcohol, or causing interference in any major life function such as health, job, family, friends, or the law.’

The four phases of typical alcoholism progression are (i) social drinking, (ii) seeking the mood change, (iii) constantly seeking the mood change, and (iv) addiction.  According to the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2019, one out of ten Malaysians practice ‘Heavy Episodic Drinking (HED), which involves consuming 6 or more standard alcoholic drinks at one sitting weekly.

However, it is important to note that there are differences between the terms ‘alcohol abuse’ and ‘alcoholism’. Alcohol abuse takes place when someone drinks too much on occasion, leading to risky behaviour and poor judgement. However, they are not dependent on alcohol. In contrast, those who have sunk into alcoholism, need alcohol simply to get through their day. If you’re interested, you can click here to take an alcoholism assessment test for yourself or a loved one.

Whether it’s alcohol abuse or alcoholism, alcohol brings a list of negative consequences to a person. Among the long-term health risks to a person include high blood pressure, heart, and liver disease. However, I believe that there is nothing more tragic than the devastating impact that alcoholism brings to the family unit.

Destroying Family Relationships

Alcoholism puts a strain on family relationships because a person struggling with alcoholism will have difficulties developing strong emotional bonds and even increase the risk of negative interactions. Furthermore, a person experiencing a sense of shame and guilt will tend to withdraw from loved ones. This can cause confusion and even sadness in the family.

If a person is forced to lie about the alcoholism and is somehow found out later, it can subsequently lead to broken trust within the family relationship, adding more stress to an already vulnerable relationship. As the person continues to battle with the perils of alcoholism, it may even lead to a physical and emotional outburst that could shatter the already fragmented relationship. It is truly a tragedy in every sense of the word.

Draining of Finances

As one glass leads to another glass and yet another, it will eventually take its toll on the finances of the family. The situation can be exacerbated if the person loses his or her job due to alcoholism, and even worse if the main income of the family is dependent on this job. Finances can also be drained if more money has to spend to treat health problems as a result of alcoholism.  As finances are impacted, it will only add to the stress that the family is already facing and can eventually lead to the breakdown of the family unit altogether.

Domestic Abuse or Violence

According to the World Health Organisation, evidence suggests that alcohol use increases the occurrence and severity of domestic violence, especially since alcohol use directly affects cognitive and physical function. This can lead to a reduction in self-control and causing individuals to be less capable of resorting to non-violent conflicts within relationships.

However, domestic abuse is not limited to physical abuse. It can also include emotional abuse such as intimidating, humiliating, and demeaning comments.  Although it is not physical in nature, emotional abuse can also really hurt a person and among the effects of emotional abuse include anxiety disorders, damage of self-esteem, and depression. More importantly, victims of abuse will be left to deal with the trauma of broken trust, and this can eventually lead to an even more serious breakdown in the family unit.  

Source: Photo by Susan Wilkinson on Unsplash

Developmental Issues in Children

The worst consequence of alcoholism in a family unit is possibly the impact on innocent children.  If one or both parents battle with alcoholism, the physical and emotional needs of these children may be neglected. It can then lead to problems such as anxiety and depression, poor emotional development, and academic problems. Additionally, they are also 3 to 4 times more likely to develop alcohol use disorder than those without alcoholic parents. How incredibly tragic is it that these innocent children end up suffering through no fault of their own.

The Family Unit: Society’s Basic Building Block

As human beings, we like to think that we are in control of things. The irony of it is – we never realise that we’ve lost control of things…. until we’ve lost control altogether. So, don’t let it be too late when it comes to our families. Don’t open the door to alcoholism at the risk of destroying your family relationship. After all, the family unit is the basic building block of any society, and if this fundamental component of our society falls apart, what then is left?

Source: Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

Hannah Becca is a content writer under Headliner by Newswav, a programme where content creators get to tell their unique stories through articles and at the same time monetize their content within the Newswav app.
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Hannah Becca
Author: Hannah Becca

A writer with a love for coffee and a passion for humanitarian works.