June 2022 | The Bread of Life

Impact of Addiction on Family
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Impact of Addiction on Family

Dr. James George Venmoney

Addiction is a broad term that includes substance-related, which is chemical and behavioral problems, that is non-chemical in nature. Sandra Rasmussen remarks the five characteristics of all addiction which are worth to be remarked to get a ground in the discussion of impact of addiction on families. These characteristic are: “(a) tolerance, (b) preoccupation with obtaining and using the substance or engaging in the behaviour (c) use of the substance or engaging in the behaviour despite actual or potential adverse biopsychosocial consequences, (d) repeated efforts to cut down or control the use of behaviour, and (e) withdrawal symptoms when the substance or behaviour is removed.”1  This article primarily discusses the impact of alcoholism on family. 

Alcohol addiction brings an enormous impact upon the individual as well as the people around them. It has been identified that, addiction jeopardizes the holistic development of an individual, families and communities in many ways. Primarily it challenges the person’s well-being causing damage to the physical health and professional life. In addition the relational, spiritual, financial realm is at the risk of challenge in diverse ways. As addiction is a form of disease and it produces series of negative consequences to an individual. Addiction brings devastating impact on the physical, psychological, social, spiritual and relational spheres of an individual at different levels. 

The devastating impact of addiction on these different areas is significant to be addressed. Alcohol is related to sixty types of disease and its crucial impact on individual’s physical well-being at the risk of threat. The organ damage, hormone imbalance, gastrointestinal disease and prenatal and fertility issues are few among them. Secondly the emotional health is being challenged as addiction prompts chemical alterations in the brain function.  As it generates number of mental health problems often a conscious decision turn into compulsive actions an individual memory and behavior patterns are challenged. They also experience many mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety, memory loss, aggression, mood sings etc. In addition, the prolonged use of substance depletes the financial resources of any stable family.  The healthy relationship is hampered or at the risk of threat. 

The biopschosocial model gives light to understand the different causative factors behind the perpetuation of alcohol consumption. There are different forms of addiction.  These are psychological gambling, compulsive shopping, sexual addictions, eating disorders, internet addictions and so on. Each of them leaves distinctive risks to the addict as well as to the people around him. In the present context the increasing addiction and its devastating impact in social media and internet cannot be ignored. It is true that in etiology and in expression the non-chemical addictions also manifest the character of the substance related disorder. The scope of this study is limited to the impacts of alcohol addiction, therefore the pertinent areas of non-chemical addiction are not addressed. 

Though the addict is the prime sufferer of this tyranny, its enormous impact upon the family is significant concern to be discussed. Addiction as the repeated alcohol intake leads to catastrophic life-events, including spiritual disorders and moral degradation not only to the alcoholic but to those who stay in the immediate circle of the alcoholic. When their aspirations are thus driven by the addiction, shalom loses its meaning among alcoholic and in their family. Family members become the co-dependent of alcoholic by denying their priorities and life aspirations. Through the repeated administration of the substance, alcoholics reach a point where the substance is more important than anything else; hence wife, children and other family members are neglected. They are suffering with the victim and often the alcoholic could not understand the devastating impact of this tyranny upon the family members.  “Alcohol is thought to be a risk factor in the victimization of women and it is known that women are the victims in a large proportion of violent crimes.”2  The marital satisfaction is disrupted when the alcohol becomes the villain in the family. Verbal and physical abuses are the common experiences in such families. As the alcohol hampers the dynamic function the family responsibility reaches in the shoulder of the non-alcoholic spouse. 

The children of alcoholic parents encounter multiple challenges due to this situation which deserves adequate attention from health professionals and care givers. Children of alcoholic experience emotional deprivation, abandonment and they are deprived safe childhood and many of their basic emotional needs. The excess drinking pattern contributes shame and embarrassment to the children.  Such children witness the inconsistent and unpredictable behaviour patterns from their alcoholic parents. The emotional outburst due to the public drinking leaves wound and scar to their children. Often the children are compelled to move according to the mood swings of the alcoholic parents by denying their own interests and wishes.  

In addition as the children learn “don’t talk, don’t trust and don’t feel” they are compelled to repress or wrap-up their real feelings. This inhibits the development of personal and social competence of children in many ways. Studies show that children of alcoholic parents have a host of academic problems such as “learning and reading difficulties, conduct and aggressive behaviour, poor school performance and general loss of concentration.”3  In alcoholic family, parental perceptions are shaped “through an alcoholic fog; then this cloudy, distorted image is reflected to the children. This lack of clarity hinders adolescents from emerging as separate, fully defined individuals.”4 The distorted parent-children relationship is common characteristics in many alcoholic families. The academic excellence of children of alcoholics is comparatively lower than the children of non-alcoholic parents. 

I have seen the harsh realities of the children of alcoholic parents during my study conducted in the state of Kerala. I have identified one hundred and fifty samples from the fourteen districts for the study. The major findings of the study shows that the relationship patterns, the emotional health, the academic performance and the skills of managing troubled situations of adolescents of alcoholic parents are low compared with their control group from similar demographic background. This study has further found that, adolescents of alcoholic parents are exposed to more parental conflict, undergo economic challenges, lack emotional support from their alcoholic fathers, and witnessing inconsistent and unpredictable behaviour from their parents. They have dysfunctional family environment and lack positive factors which make their life healthier at home, and parental alcoholism produces dysfunctions to the entire family system and they are at risk to withstand in such situations. The results of the present study resembles with the findings of the previous studies that undertake in the west and India on the enormous family burden on with substance addiction. 

At this situation the crucial impact of alcohol addiction on wife and children cannot be ignored by any care givers. Church being a therapeutic community must respond towards this harsh reality by realizing the multiple impact of alcoholism on family. More than the disciplinary action and mere criticism, the addicts must be loved, cared, accepted and treated. The disease model of addiction shed light to the need for the treatments to the victims. The vulnerable family situations have to be taken care by the church, as the church is the light of the world and salt of the earth. 

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