Alcohol and Relationships

By March 19, 2024April 3rd, 2024Family therapy
alcohol addiction treatment

For many women, relationships are at the center of our lives. Partners, children, family, friends, and community are sources of meaning, joy, and purpose.

Being there for our loved ones, strengthening bonds of connection over time, playing, and even showing up for the hard stuff nourishes our hearts. The peaks and valleys of our lives – the reasons we have to laugh, be comforted, and try again – are almost always connected in one way or another to the loved ones in our lives.

Of course, women suffer in our relationships too. The lifelong balancing act between union with others and the need to be authentic generates a lot of rich, interesting tension. Boundaries are fertile ground for an alchemy of forces that meet with unpredictable results.

But overall, the relationship space is usually something we are willing to show up and struggle for. The value of connection, closeness, kinship, loyalty, and togetherness is something we cannot deny, so we try our best even when it’s hard.

What are the impacts of alcoholism on relationships?

alcoholism and relationships

Many kinds of harm can erode the bonds of affection through which we are linked to others. One key trouble that affects many women in their relationships is alcoholism.

Alcoholism, or any substance addiction, has a devastating impact on our ability to give and receive love. Addiction atrophies the fibers of connection between people, resulting in isolation. Worse, it tangles us up in knots of enmeshed, unhealthy dynamics.

The impacts of alcoholism and other addictions on relationships have been well documented. Since the start of the 12-step recovery movement almost a century ago, there have been healing groups offered both for the people who have the addiction and for their intimate partners and loved ones.

Why is it that a support group is needed not only for the people manifesting the physical symptoms of addiction but also for their loved ones? It’s because addiction affects everyone who has a relationship with the addicted person. In almost all cases, the people closest to the addict develop a kind of illness, called codependency.

What is alcohol addiction’s impact on family finances?

One impact that addiction has on a family is to be detrimental to finances. Alcohol and other drugs cost money, and the priority an addict places on procuring the substance over everything else can be a significant financial weight.

A person who should be a team player on the side of her family becomes a draw on the family resources. With time she is less able to contribute positively to the family abundance.

In addition to eating up an unfair amount of the family budget, addiction creates other costs, in the form of lost jobs, healthcare (including, but not only, treatment for their addiction), and legal fees.

Frequently, the addicted person makes poor financial decisions when under the influence, and may go on spending sprees or gamble. She may use savings set aside for children or other family members’ needs for addiction-related matters.

Addiction makes even the most kind-hearted person selfish and self-destructive, undermining our ability to delay gratification and act in ways that serve the interests of our family.

What is the connection between alcohol abuse and marital problems?

Substance abuse brings marital strife. Typically, the non-addicted partner in a marriage is understandably distressed to witness and be affected by their partner’s downward spiral.

When there are children involved, the non-addicted partner struggles to protect the children from the many negative impacts of the disease, as well.

A partner to an addict has to cope with addiction’s many trust-destroying, hurtful effects on the relationship. Things like broken promises and betrayals, dysfunctional ways of relating (such as denial of the truth and consequences of the addict’s behavior), and nasty, abusive treatment are commonplace.

Most partners get pulled into trying to manage or heal the behaviors of the person who is caught up in an addictive cycle. In some cases, the affected partner may make excuses for, and clean up after the addict, feel compelled to hide the truth from the outside world, and even ask their children to tolerate behavior or keep family secrets. In other words, the partner of an addict is pulled into a very difficult dance of shame and helplessness themselves.

What are the impacts of alcoholism on children?

The effects of alcoholism on children are tragic and long-lasting. Children are very vulnerable and whatever goes on in their home life during formative years necessarily sets the stage for the rest of their lives.

The presence of addiction in a family system, if untreated, all but guarantees that the psychological wounding that almost certainly underlies the parents’ use of substances in the first place will be passed on directly to the children as well.

Children who grow up in a family where one or more of the adults have substance abuse problems will sustain trauma of some kind.

Although in their hearts people with addiction love their children and mean no harm, it is impossible for people who are addicted to substances to provide the full spectrum of physical, emotional, and relational needs for children to grow up with a healthy sense of themselves and their place in the world.

Children who grew up in families where addiction was present struggle with lifelong low self-esteem, shame, feelings of guilt, over-responsibility, and tendencies to partner up with people who will further invalidate their emotional needs for safety and dignity. The lack of boundaries, attention, care, and appropriate emotional connection that they experienced in childhood will feel like “love” to them, and it can take a lot of emotional and psychological work to evolve beyond the glass ceiling set by the base reality they grew up with.

Adult children of alcoholics, or ACOAs, are at risk of becoming addicts themselves and also of marrying addicts when they grow up.

What is the connection between alcohol misuse and domestic violence?

There are many connections between alcohol abuse of other substances and domestic violence. Although alcoholism does not necessarily lead to domestic violence, in a majority of domestic violence situations, alcohol addiction or another substance addiction is involved.

Tendencies towards violence, abuse, and in general, uncontrolled impulses and displays of aggression are aggravated by substances and addiction. Alcohol can turn someone who might have otherwise been able to keep their aggression in check into a frightening abuser.

Treatment for families struggling with alcoholism

alcohol and relationship

It is highly supportive for families with addiction to receive some kind of support for everyone in the family.

Addiction is a family disease, so everyone in the family system needs help. It’s important to understand though, that non-addicted people in the family will have a hard time recognizing that they are involved in the addiction. It will seem to everyone in the family system as though it’s the addict who is the problem, and there may be a lot of understandable feelings of resentment in the beginning.

While it’s important that the addicted person is held accountable for the truth of their impact, it’s also important to understand that families can only heal when the other members of the family are supported to be responsible for holding boundaries of safety around themselves and to also stop participating in any enabling behavior which makes it easier for the addict to stay ill.

What is uncovered in family therapy is always a surprise, which ultimately leads to transformative healing all around. Family members are brought closer and made stronger than ever as a unit, as they are led to discover how each loved one has been holding a piece of the family’s heartache.

It’s also important to know that family therapy for addiction is probably the most powerful thing that can be done to combat addiction. The more family members can commit and show up for family therapy, the better. Family therapy can be shorter term, and a lot can be accomplished in a few sessions with some basic goodwill and love among the family members. However, it only works with a sincere desire to recover, all around.

Villa Kali Ma helps women with addiction and relationships

At Villa Kali Ma, women are our specialty. We know how important matters of the heart are, and how addiction hurts our hearts and the hearts of those we love most.

We at Villa Kali Ma are here to help teach paths of healing to women, the tried and true ways that nurse broken hearts back to health and reunite us in the relationships we’ve always valued, even when we didn’t know how to do it right.

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