Understanding Alcoholism: Families & Marriage

Robert Gerchalk

Robert is our health care professional reviewer of this website. He worked for many years in mental health and substance abuse facilities in Florida, as well as in home health (medical and psychiatric), and took care of people with medical and addictions problems at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He has a nursing and business/technology degrees from The Johns Hopkins University.

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Alcoholism and Families

Alcoholism isn’t just the drunk uncle who makes people uncomfortable on Thanksgiving, nor is it the sad dad you avoid talking to at family gatherings. Alcoholism can affect anyone, anywhere, anytime.

If you are concerned about someone you love who seems to have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, this guide on understanding alcoholism for families today will help you in your quest to find solutions and get your loved one the help they need.

Impact Of Alcoholism on Marriages

Alcoholism impacts the person struggling with addiction and everyone around them. Alcoholics may spend more money on alcohol than on bills, or they may neglect their responsibilities at home. Marriages are often hit hard by alcoholism.

This can lead to arguments and tension in the marriage. Sometimes, one spouse may enable the alcoholic by covering for them or making excuses. Over time, this can take a toll on the relationship and lead to divorce.

Impact Of Alcoholism on the Family

The impact of alcoholism on the family is far-reaching. Not only does it take a toll on the individual struggling with addiction, but it also affects the lives of those closest to them. Here are some ways that alcoholism can impact the family.

  • Excessive drinking has been linked to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.
  • Drinking alcohol excessively can lead to life-threatening consequences like accidents or death from acute intoxication or an overdose of alcohol poisoning.
  • A person who drinks heavily will often have memory lapses and blackouts, which may cause problems in their relationships due to a lack of communication between members of the family unit.
  • Alcohol abuse can create financial problems by causing a loss of income or inability to provide adequate financial support for themselves and others in the household.
  • When someone is addicted to alcohol, they might start using other drugs to try and self-medicate feelings such as anger, sadness, boredom, guilt, etc.
  • Alcohol abuse may affect other family members by leading them into substance abuse.

When To Seek Help

If you think you or a loved one may be struggling with alcoholism, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. The sooner you get help, the better the chances are for recovery. There are a few key signs that indicate it’s time to seek professional help, which include:

  • Drinking more alcohol or for longer periods than intended.
  • Not being able to cut back on drinking despite wanting to.
  • Spending a lot of time drinking or recovering from hangovers.
  • Letting work or hobbies suffer because of drinking.
  • Drinking in dangerous situations, such as while pregnant or driving.
  • Experiencing blackouts or memory loss due to drinking.

Support And Resources for Families with Alcoholism

It can be difficult to understand and come to terms with a family member’s alcoholism. You are not alone.

Here’s a list of resources to support you through difficult times caused by alcoholism. They include activities, books, and communities.


Children in families impacted by alcoholism need an outlet. The activities below are designed for both children and other family members. They are free and are available in both English and Spanish.


Many families affected by alcoholism need a reminder that there is always a way out. This reminder can be in the form of newsletters. If you or someone you know needs something to point them in the right direction, you might consider the following newsletters.

Community Resources

Like other aspects of your life, you need help to beat alcoholism. This help is available through community resources. Most of these resources are free, and those that cost money are fairly priced. The most popular resources for families curbed with alcoholism include:

  • Al-anon and Alateen, Teen Corner, Alateen chat, and literature for teens.
  • Al-Anon Information Services, 1-888-425-2666
  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • NACOA: Only the Just 4 Kids and Just 4 Teens sections have videos, information on Alateen, the 12 Steps for Kids, and the 7 Cs.
  • Narcotics Anonymous
  • National Drug Abuse Hotline, 1-800-662-4357
  • Sesame Street in Communities: You will find help on the topic page of Parental Addiction. Here you can go through the available activities and pick the ones you like. Hazelden Betty Ford Organization created the activities in conjunction with Sesame Workshop for children ages 4-10.
  • Youth Crisis Line, 1-800-448-4663


Books are a great resource for those suffering from alcohol addiction and facing the brunt of the addiction. Some popular books include:

Porterfield, K.; New York, NY: Rosen Publishing Group, 1985.

Gurze Books, Carlsbad, CA, 1988. By Lindsey Hall and Cohn Leigh 

Hornik-Beer, E.; Authors Guild Backinprint.com edition, 2001.

MAC Publishing, Bainbridge Island, WA, 1996. By Claudia Black

Glenn, S., Nelson, J.; Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1988.

Rising Star Studios, LLC, Minneapolis, MN, 2011. By Elaine Mitchell Palmore

Brown, S., Lewis, V., and Liotta, A.; New Harbinger Publications, 2000.

It is Not Too Late to Seek Help

Alcoholism is a serious problem that can have a profound effect on a family. However, families can help their loved ones recover and lead healthy, productive lives with understanding and support.

If you think someone in your family may be struggling with alcoholism, don’t hesitate to seek help.