Alcoholism in your family

16-22 November 2015 is Alcohol Awareness Week

If you have someone who drinks heavily in your family, how do you feel? Have you told anyone? Do you feel able to cope today?

If even reading that hit such a raw nerve that you don’t want to go on, just pick up the phone to us now. We understand and we can help you.

Dealing with someone else’s drink problem can seem like an impossible challenge. You may feel you have to face it alone. You may feel ashamed and confused. You may feel as if your life is out of control. You may fear others will think it’s your fault. Maybe you think it is your fault. You may fear the harm being done to your family. You may want to protect the person you love, even as they hurt you.

Every family is different, and you may live with the alcoholic or you may not. You may be their partner, their sibling, their child or their parent. But whatever your relationship to them, their alcoholism will affect you because it distorts and destroys relationships and trust.

Alcoholism hurts the whole family

“I remember sitting in the group family therapy session with all these other families and their alcoholics. My mum was on one side, and my brother on the other, and he hadn’t spoken to her since the day he was admitted to the clinic. I was the only person he’d speak to. I sat there listening to these families having to accept that they couldn’t help this person they loved. That they might have to watch them drink themselves to death, because there was nothing they could do. And then I took my mum home, and went home to my own two children and wondered if they too might become alcoholics. It was ten years ago, and he’s sober and he talks to my mum, but it still hurts. I know it’s an illness, but because of the alcoholism he really hurt us all.”

The sister of an alcoholic

You can’t cure the alcoholic in your life

Alcoholism is an illness, and one of the hardest things for the family of an alcoholic to accept is that you cannot make them better, no matter how hard you try. Only if an alcoholic wants to stop, for their own reasons, will they seek treatment and move towards recovery.

The alcoholism is never your fault. Just as you can’t cure it, you didn’t cause it. Even if you haven’t always behaved like an angel, you still didn’t cause it.

But you can look after yourself

If you have someone in your family who depends on alcohol, your life can feel as if it’s not your own – you are simply covering up, picking up the pieces and trying to keep going.

Dealing with someone else’s alcohol problem causes immense stress that can damage your health so it’s really important to seek help.

No matter how difficult things get in your family, you can regain control of your own life. You can learn ways of coping with the inevitable challenges that alcoholism in your family will throw at you.

Talk to someone, whether a close friend, your GP, or us at Private Psychiatry. You are far from alone.


More sources of help

Al-Anon: support for anyone affected deeply by someone else’s drinking. Information, anonymous meetings, phonelines.

Adfam: support for families affected by drugs and alcohol.

Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcohol Concern: campaigning organisation with straightforward information about excessive drinking and its effects.



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