The typical alcoholic family that I encounter in my psychiatric practice is when there is an alcoholic wife or alcoholic husband who have children. Sometimes both parents are alcoholic which is a nightmare for their kids.
Here are the most common characteristics of an alcoholic family:
Chaotic and full of drama- For example: the alcoholic parent may pass out on the front lawn. There is a lot of yelling and screaming on a daily basis. An alcoholic spouse may become violent when drunk.
The non-addict spouse or the children get blamed by the alcoholic parent, “I wouldn’t drink so much if you didn’t nag me”, “I wouldn’t drink so much if you were a better kid”…
The alcoholic parent cannot be relied on. They do not always pick their children up from activities or keep their employment. There is financial stress. They do not participate regularly in family activities.
The child or the partner of the alcoholic spouse plays a caretaker role: helps the alcoholic parent to bed, lies for them, covers up for them such as calling the boss that they are sick (when they are hungover etc.)
Children of an alcoholic parent feel resentful toward their alcoholic parent. They are ashamed of them. The non-addict parent feels the same way about their alcoholic spouse.
The child may try to excel in school to compensate for the family dydfunction. Growing up in this toxic environment has life long effects on children.
Alcoholism is a family disease and affects every member of the family. Sometimes an alcohol intervention needs to be arranged to help someone into alcoholism recovery. Attending Al-Anon or Families Anonymous can be the first step toward family healing.
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