Some of the worst consequences of alcoholism are not the way alcoholics harm themselves, but rather the ways in which they harm the people they love, namely their families. Alcoholism can breed often unspoken anger and resentment that, when left unchecked and miscommunicated, can lead to drastic relational problems. For example, when an alcoholic enters treatment and quits drinking, family members may feel pressured not to drink around the recovering addict, which can cause resentment.
The Importance of Family Communication Regarding Alcoholism
The best way to handle this issue is the same way to handle every significant problem in a relationship: communicate. Talk about it. Addicts and family members have to be honest with themselves and with each other, often breaking out of comfort zones to reach the honest, hard, realistic truth that will pave the road to recovery, no matter how difficult it may seem. While it seems easy to ignore the proverbial elephant in the room, to sweep problems under the rug and to hope they will simply solve themselves, this only leads to the destruction of healthy family dynamics, and in all likelihood is the cause of the addiction in the first place.
Open, transparent conversations about addiction could possibly be the healthiest option for any family to address problems both past and present. When a family approaches conflict as a group, they can bond together and grow closer through the experience. Fundamental problems are often only addressed once they reach a state of crisis. Addiction is an example of this. It takes a drastic toll on family health, but is always caused by pre-existing unhealthy behavior.
Strangely enough, the process of recovering from addiction can make an addict the most honest and helpful person in the family for attacking familial issues head on. Addicts have had to be honest with themselves about their problems and what drives them to seek destructive tendencies in the first place. This outlook on life can help them to identify triggers for negative behavior in their families no one else may be able to see clearly.
Family therapy for alcoholism can unearth problems no one else ever knew existed. When faced with hard questions, parents or siblings or children could, in a moment of unexpected honesty, reveal something that has bothered them for years but that they never had the courage to realize.
Jealousy or abandonment are terrible problems that are often buried deep inside a scorned younger brother or estranged daughter, but may have never been addressed due to fears of honesty. These issues, however, very likely cause addiction to begin with and can only be resolved by acknowledging their existence and working together to find healthy solutions. When an addict realizes they may have caused these problems, it will put strain on their recovery, but it is more so an opportunity for the addict to dig even deeper into their treatment and to fix long broken relationships they’ve never fully engaged.
The distortion and pain of miscommunication leads to significant problems in family life, but, just like addiction, resolution can only be reached through honesty and acceptance.