Alcohol and the Family

Alcohol can have a major impact on family relationships. Partners may have arguments about excessive drinking or about the money being spent on alcohol. Children may feel confused about how a parent’s behaviour changes through drinking. Other family members may be reluctant to step in and offer help because they feel it is not their place to get involved.

Unfortunately the effects of problem-drinking are not restricted to the individual. Few of us live in isolation, and problem-drinking is bound to affect the whole family.


Some common issues for families

  • Money worries – resulting from the cost of alcohol or from the effect problem-drinking has on your job security and employability.
  • Physical abuse – following a drinking binge.
  • Psychological abuse – when the problem-drinker becomes unpredictable or irritable.
  • Resentment – because the problem-drinker seems to put drinking ahead of family matters. This puts pressure on other family members, who feel as though they are always left to pick up the pieces.
  • Anger – because family members, especially children, struggle to understand why the drinker is not doing something about the problem.
  • Shame and embarrassment – so family members try to hide the problem. Children may feel they cannot bring friends home, or become isolated or bullied.
  • Guilt – because family members may feel they have caused the problem. Often the problem-drinker will seek to blame others as a way of rationalizing or excusing their behaviour.

Families should remember that, no matter what has been said, they are not the cause of the drinking, and they may not be able to stop the problem.

The problem-drinker is responsible for their drinking, and only they can resolve to do something about it. However, there are things you can do to help …

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What can families do?

  • Face the problem as a family.
  • Talk together. Most children are aware that something is wrong and, in the absence of information, may become anxious and fearful.
  • Get information, support and help.
  • Refuse to let the problem-drinker blame you or others for the problem.
  • Encourage the problem-drinker to seek help, and support them to do this.
  • Decide on your own limits and boundaries, and put your own needs and the needs of other family members, especially children, first.
  • If the problem-drinker refuses to change, be prepared to make hard decisions about the future.
  • Do not isolate yourself from friends and other family: you may need their help and support.
  • Do not drink along with the problem-drinker: this only supports their behaviour.
  • Whenever possible, do not cover up for the problem-drinker. By doing this, you help them neglect their responsibilities and carry on drinking.

Do not be afraid to ask for help!

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