is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. We strive to provide evidenced-based material for those seeking information on Alcohol Dependence (Alcoholism) and a sense of community through our Discussion Forums.
Friends & Families This disease can take a toll on the alcohol-dependent person's loved ones as well.
Wanting to help but not knowing what to do can be a helpless feeling.

Font Size: Smaller Font Larger Font | Printer Icon Print

The Effects on the Family

By: Roger J. Gregoire, CAC

Alcohol dependence has been called a family disease, because the problem drinkers have families. Husbands, wives, brothers, sisters and parents, and children. All are affected when problem drinking behavior is present.

Affected directly, by actually consuming alcohol and being the center of chaos and denial. Or indirectly by just being present and subject to such behavior, which over a period of time begins to alter the personality of the family.

It is through these negative alterations that the family begins to adjust in unhealthy and nonproductive ways. It is these unhealthy coping methods – behavior patterns disregarded and untreated – that slowly undermine the resiliency of the family.

The threatening, passive-aggressive and enabling responses may appear to help, but even these begin to break down. Just as the alcohol-dependent family member deteriorates, the family structure and discipline begins to fail.1

It can be said that the alcohol-dependent person begins to form such a strong bond with alcohol, and s/he places this relationship above all others. Any question about one's drinking patterns could be met with defensiveness and denial. Alcoholic defensive patterns take on the form of an attack, ranging from aggressive and threatening to turning the tables and the placing the blame on everyone and everything else.

It is important to learn to identify enabling patterns that do not help the drinker to stop drinking.2

Enabling responses may develop into a condition called codependency. Over time by being subject to the alcohol-dependent family member's unstable and chaotic prescence, all energy is focused on him/her and the family becomes addicted to protecting and punishing him/her. So much energy is devoted that merely limits the damage left in the dependent's wake. There is then little or no time left for the other members of the family who may feel uncared for and unsafe. Their personal concerns and issues are left unresolved.

A family that has developed codependent relationships may be in need of counseling and/or treatment sometimes equal to the needs of the dependent family member. Families where alcohol abuse is present are often in need of "recovery". They may have a form of denial as deeply rooted and pernicious as the denial present in the alcohol dependent. Without effective and experienced assistance, the symptoms of codependency can span many generations in a family.

To actually seek to physically intervene between a dependent family member and his/her alcohol may be regarded by him/her as a personal threat. If it is clear that the alcohol abuser has a pattern of violence, it may be wise to seek professional guidance and education before undertaking such needed interventions.3


  1. Tetyana Parsons. Alcoholism and Its Effect on the Family. AllPsych Journal. AllPsych Online. December 14, 2003.
  2. Robert Thatcher. Coping With Alcoholism of a Loved One. Ezine Articles.
  3. Alcohol, Violence, and Aggression. he@lth

This page was last modified on : 10/28/2013

To add a locator tool
to your site click here.
New Brochure - Treatment Options for Alcohol Dependence - Click for more information
In case of Alcohol Withdrawals or Alcohol Poisoning call 911 or seek immediate medical attention.
Home | About Us | Terms | Privacy Policy | Education | Recognizing The Problem | Health Issues | Treatment Options | Alcohol Withdrawal
What can I do to help | Women's Issues | Peer Support | Psychosocial Therapy | Brief Interventions
How to Dispose of Unused Medicines | FAQ | Resources | Links | Downloads | Glossary | Enabling |Site Map | Donate
PO Box 333
Farmington, CT 06034