In The Family

There are many statistics on alcoholism but let us look more closely at alcoholism in the family.

Alcoholism is a disease characterized by the excessive use of alcohol by an individual, to the point that it interferes with family or social life. A person who is an alcoholic will often face legal issues as well in relation to his or her drinking: DUI’s, public intoxication and in some cases assault or public affray charges are not uncommon.

What are the causes and effects of this situation?

The very first thing you must realize if you are dealing with an alcoholic is that it is not your fault. Children and even spouses will mistakenly think that a loved one drinks because of something they did or did not do. That is not the case. Alcoholics have a compulsion to drink and nothing you do can cause them to become alcoholic. No matter what, the responsibility for the damage that excessive drinking causes rests solely with the drinker.

There is a belief that alcoholism is genetic and passed down through families generation to generation. As of yet this has not been proven. I have to say that from my own experience I had a large number of alcoholic relatives in my family. Of course it could be argued that in my case learned behavior could have been the cause. I personally believe that both are true, I was born with a predisposition toward addiction due to heredity and was influenced by negative role models.

Alcoholism in the family can begin before a child is even born. When a woman is carrying a child, and is also an alcoholic, the fetus can develop fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effects. During pregnancy, alcohol easily passes through the placenta and into the fetus that is less able to metabolize it. This means the alcohol will stay in the baby’s system longer and at higher concentrations than it will in the mother.

The best idea for a woman who is pregnant is to abstain totally from drinking alcohol. In the case of a woman who is addicted, she may want to seek medical help to do so. When a child is born with the affects of the mothers alcohol consumption, a myriad of problems can be present, and in varying degrees.

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Some symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome include but are not limited to:

  • Low birth weight
  • Failure to thrive
  • Small head circumference
  • Developmental delays
  • Poor coordination or fine motor skills
  • Epilepsy
  • Behavioral problems such as ADD/ADHD in varying degrees

Not all children will develop ill effects from alcohol consumed during pregnancy especially if the mother seeks help to curtail her drinking. However, there are still issues for children dealing with alcoholism in the home. Children may become withdrawn socially, not inviting friends, over due to embarrassment. This isolation and resulting depression can follow them into adulthood where they may compensate for these feelings by self-medicating through alcohol or illegal drugs.

There are far reaching effects of alcoholism in the family. Some are seen and felt right away and others may lay dormant for years before visiting a new generation. The important thing for sufferers and family members to remember is: there is hope.

For the alcoholic who wants help there are programs and support networks available. I have helped guide many people through the minefield of recovery. With the right help and guidance, a bigger, brighter and far more fulfilling family future is a real possibility.