Alcoholism & the Family By Margie Roop, LPCC-S; CEAP; SAP Regional Director, LifeServices EAP
About Margie…I…..• Have seen well over 3,000 clients in a clinical counseling setting since 1982 (detox, inpatient, outpatient, EAP).• Have visited hundreds of workplaces conducting supervisor trainings, employee educations, critical incident stress debriefings (CISD), & presented EAP Proposals, and management consultations.• Am passionate about what I do & am humbled by the incredible people I have met in the process.• Am compelled to share my insights with EVERYBODY. This disease is killing too many people & it can be prevented, intervened upon, & treated!
Forward• As I refer to “alcoholism”, I am referring to addiction to the DRUG alcohol . While, certainly, there are differences in terms of drugs besides alcohol which affect persons in many differing ways, a drug is a drug is a drug. Therefore, the information presented has everything to do with the drug addict as well as the alcoholic. All are addicted to a mood-altering drug and all experience, to varying degrees, the harmful affects of its use.
Alcoholism & the Family• One of the most debilitating diseases• It is a primary illness, not caused by another illness; it stands alone and must be treated FIRST before the treatment of any other “co- occurring illness.”• Families suffer the MOST from this disease
The Disease is Primary It came from where? But it’s just a beer!?• As a primary illness, no other condition “caused” the alcoholism to occur: not depression, anxiety, stress, the job, etc..• It is genetic: children of alcoholics have a four times higher chance of contracting this disease• It is also an addiction: one can, if one drinks enough, get addicted to alcohol.
The Disease is Progressive Progresses how? How is that so?• Once it takes hold, it • As Father Joseph P. progress (get worse). Even if Martin, critically acclaimed one quits drinking, then expert on alcoholism, says: continues drinking at a later “Only God knows and He date, they will pick up won’t tell.” where they would have left off if they HAD continued drinking……!
The Disease is Chronic Not acute? Forever?• It is a lifelong (“forever”) diagnosis: once you have it, you will always have it!• This is NOT a situational illness, that with acute treatment, will go away; it needs on-going treatment and a lifelong course of attention.
The Disease is Fatal Causes death? This will kill me?• If will cause incarceration, hospitalizations , and/or death if left untreated.• Unless the PRIMARY illness of alcoholism is correctly diagnosed & treated, all bets are off!
Alcoholism in our Society• Although recognized • Also, in our as a medical illness by society, persons over the American Medical 21 are legally allowed Association back in to consume alcohol 1956, it is still viewed & by & large, our by society as society thrives on something that the “feeling good” at all person caused costs, therefore to themselves & “overindulge” by thus, could have adults is not viewed prevented. all that negatively.
Alcoholism in our Homes• Problems, especially within the alcoholic’s family, are kept hidden & “hushed” so as to avoid negative scrutiny.• If the alcoholic is the breadwinner, all the more reason to prevent any negative impressions so the job is not in jeopardy (spouse calls off for them, makes excuses for their lateness, etc…).• What we do know UNEQUIVOCALLY, is that the job is the LAST THING TO GO in the life of the alcoholic: they will forsake their marriage, relationship with their kids, their savings, their reputation, but they will not forsake………….THEIR PAYCHECK!!
Why is the Paycheck so important?• It provides for their drinking • So, I guess (???) they are what and/or drugging habit! one would call a “functional”• They will live in alcoholic? Really? cars, shelters, on someone’s • Ask their families if they are couch, be estranged from “functional”, go on do it; their family, go bankrupt, & they will give you an earful, if be a loner, but they will still they are honest! say: “I SHOW UP AT WORK EVERY SINGLE DAY!”
Is this an alcoholic? Who knows?Is there love within the home of the alcoholic? Is there calm & peace? Are needs met? Are things normal? Do others know about “their” problem?
Equal Opportunity Illness• Alcoholism is not restricted to the lower echelon of society.• Alcoholism is not restricted to the unemployed.• Alcoholism is not restricted to adults only
Effects of Alcoholism on the Family It is the “distance-creator” in the family: the onlyknown substance to do that! It distances the alcoholic from their:husband, wife, son, daughter, other relatives, & reality, in general! The alcoholic is physically present but is emotionally unavailable.
What, exactly, IS an alcoholic?• According to Fr. • What kinds of Joseph Martin, an problems, say you? alcoholic is one who • The problems are usually drinks too endless: much..... divorce, domestic violence, financial• Geez….what is issues/bankruptcy, de TOO MUCH? That pression, anxiety, estra which causes nged from problems: brilliant! children, loss of• But, this is how the homes, cars, jobs, heal alcoholic lives. th, & loss of lives.
More ProblemsI never thought of that…. A whole person disease • It affects every fiber of a person’s being as it also affects all of his/her loved ones. • All decisions, all plans, all daily maneuverings are dependent on what the alcoholic will say, do, decide, or be on any particular day!
The three rules of the alcoholic homeDon’t TalkDon’t TrustDon’t Feel
Don’t Talk…about the “problem” Say what? I should’ve kept my mouth shut!• Because it will not be heard; it will fall on deaf ears, because of a thing called: DENIAL;• Those who dare to talk about it perceive that they will risk harm from the alcoholic at some level.
Don’t Trust• Because things change from day to day;• Promises are made and not kept;• The alcoholic, if having had a black-out, would NOT be able to recall what he/she may have promised the day before….!
Don’t Feel Really? Threatening?• To share true, honest feelings • The alcoholic is threatened with the alcoholic about their by true & honest expressions drinking would, again, be met of feelings as it is, simply: with denial; “Too close for comfort.”• Conversely, alcoholics are • The alcoholic does not want incapable of expressing to have to admit that it IS honest feelings because their DRINKING which is they’d have to ALSO get eliciting these true feelings. honest about their drinking!
Incarceration, bankruptcy, physical/ verbalfighting, emotion al scars. The list goes on!The price to be paid by the family not honestly addressing & effectively dealing with the alcoholic, will skyrocket! Yet, it is hard to do andENABLING becomes the easierway of coping with the alcoholic.
What IS that thing called enabling? “I thought I was helping”! “I was ashamed…”• Doing for the alcoholic what • Enabling actually helps the they could do for themselves. enabler NOT the alcoholic• Making excuses for them. because, after awhile, the• Cutting them slack……over enabler simply gets sick & & over. tired of dealing with the refusals/resistance of the• Hiding or covering up for alcoholic. their mistakes.
Children most affected ….or, they may:• Children of alcoholics learn • Act out & get into trouble that theirs is not a safe home for attention due to • Become a jokester who inconsistencies, chaos, unavai desperately seeks comedic relief & attention; lability of the alcoholic, stress of the enabler, physical • Ascends to the heights academically, socially, and/or violence, lack of stability, so athletically, again, for much- they simply keep to needed attention for themselves & become something POSITIVE ISOLATED. occurring in their home!
The family can get sicker than the alcoholic Because the alcoholic REQUIRES alcohol to live, they will stop at nothing to promote theirusing; therefore, the family feels as though they are going INSANE.
Alcoholics are slick!• They are expert at turning the blame onto others rather than own their problem;• Their troubles in life are all about everything else EXCEPT their drinking;• Your protestations are a threat and WILL be met by resistance: you ARE the enemy!
Remember….• Alcoholics need alcohol to live, especially once they have progressed beyond just abusive drinking.• The family of the alcoholic has developed its own “dysfunctional” homeostasis; after awhile, no one wishes to tip the apple cart!• It then becomes easier for all to simply enable the alcoholic by ignoring the problem all the while (and secretly) hoping that he/she would just quit drinking!
Crisis time….. Finally! A thirsty horse…?!• Typically the alcoholic’s • ….however, you can MAKE crisis involves an HIM THIRSTY! accident, jail, hospitalizatio • If the n, bankruptcy, divorce, ho intervention, treatment, & melessness, etc… incentives for getting well• “You can take a horse to are presented effectively, the water but you can’t make alcoholic WILL respond. him drink….
What can I do? There ARE resources “I am helpless”• Seek assistance via • You will see that you did not: Alanon, the sister self-help cause it, you cannot control group to Alcoholics it, nor can you cure it! Anonymous (AA) which • The more you learn about follows a 12-step Program of the disease of alcoholism, the recovery; more you will “see” the hope• Go to: www.alanon.org or of treatment for the “Google” Alanon to locate alcoholic & the family! meetings in your local area.
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Helpful Resources• Alanon (support group for loved ones of the alcoholic or drug addict): www.alanon.org;• Alcoholics Anonymous: (support group for the alcoholic or drug addict) www.aa.org• Narcotics Anonymous (support group for the narcotic addict) (NA): www.na.org• Nar-Anon (support group for the loved ones of the narcotic addict): www.nar-anon.org• Father joseph P. Martin (alcoholism & other chemical dependencies): www.hazelden.org• Claudia Black (children of alcoholics): www.claudiablack.com• Melody Beatty (co-dependency & self-care): www.melaniebeatty.com