Family conflict alcohol abuse is a problem. Alcohol abuse affects everyone. Alcohol misuse costs the economy an estimated $249 billion. An estimated 88,000 deaths each year occur as a result of alcohol-related causes, making it the third leading cause of preventable death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who reports on causes of death, also estimates that alcohol costs 2.5 million years of potential life lost, “shortening the lives of those who died by an average of 30 years.”
Yet those numbers say nothing of the quality of life when an alcohol addict lives in your household, the direct impact on so many lives. It’s a double-edged sword often neglected: the alcohol addiction problems themselves, and the turmoil and conflict which may sit beneath the alcohol abuse.
Alcoholism and alcohol abuse are two different things. Alcohol abuse is the excessive or illicit use of alcohol. A person below the legal drinking age is abusing alcohol, but may not see it that way if he or she does not engage in binge drinking. Above the legal drinking age, alcohol abuse and binge drinking are one in the same. Binge drinking is defined as drinking 5 or more drinks in a single occasion for men, 4 or more drinks for most women.
26.9% of adults age 18 and older, when surveyed, reported binge drinking within the past month.
Heavy drinking, while not necessarily in one sitting, is defined based on how many drinks one consumes in a week. For male heavy drinkers that number is 15 or more drinks per week, and for women is 8 or more drinks per week (an average of more than one per day for women and an average of more than two per day for men). Binge drinking and heavy drinking are risk factors in developing a drinking addiction.
Alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD) involves disturbance in life quality, activities, or ability to perform one’s responsibilities to work and/or family as a result of alcohol use.
Binge drinking or heavy alcohol use carry many negative consequences to physical health and the well-being of self and others. Alcohol use has been linked to increased criminal activity and incidents of domestic violence or domestic partner abuse. The World Health Organization published data regarding the impact of alcohol as it relates to intimate partner violence, for use in health guidance and policy around the globe. It included these observations:
The younger someone is when he or she starts drinking, the more likely to develop dependence upon alcohol, which is an additional risk factor from early exposure to alcohol use and alcohol abuse.
In addition to such psychological and familial impacts, unhealthy drinking habits have health consequences. Short-term effects of alcohol include:
Long-term effects of excessive alcohol intake include:
The longer someone abuses alcohol, the increased risk of these consequences. When someone stops abusing alcohol, these risk factors do start to reduce and may even return to the levels of those who have never abused alcohol.
Alcohol dependency can also come as a result of a dual diagnosis (also known as a co-occurring disorder). A dual diagnosis is when someone has both an addiction and a mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety or an eating disorder. They can be difficult to identify, since alcohol abuse may lead to depression, but depression may also lead one to abusing alcohol.
Identifying that both an addiction to alcohol and a mental health condition are occurring can help treatment address both, improving long-term recovery rates. An individual with a dual diagnosis will need to develop healthy coping skills for future triggers for both (or multiple), to maintain wellness.
Similarly, as pointed out by the World Health Organization, family conflict plays a complicated, double role in alcohol abuse: those who experience conflict in the home may be more likely to abuse alcohol, and those who abuse alcohol may cause more conflict in the home.
Like so many other behaviors, alcohol dependency can be difficult to spot in oneself, or even in those close to us. Identifying alcohol dependency involves examining both one’s choices and the impact of those choices on others, including:
As stressful as alcohol addiction in a household can be, family can also provide an important part in recovery. The stressors of family and relationship difficulties can provide motivation to quit. When there is a great deal of contention and conflict in the home, however, which leads to self-medicating behaviors, such as the consumption of alcohol or drugs, it can make family part of the problem instead of part of the solution.
Similarly, loneliness can play such a role in addiction–becoming lonely and isolated because of drinking, or seeking solace in a bottle for loneliness.
The solutions to conflict and loneliness, then, are to treat such emotional connections to alcohol use as part of the recovery process. Only by addressing both the behavior, and the underlying reasons/motivations for use, can one really uproot and change a condition.
At Serenity we understand the layers, complexities and conflict of alcohol abuse–the internal conflict, the conflict with family, the conflict that leads to abuse.
Let us help you resolve that strife and break the cycle of addiction.