Although only one person may be drinking, the entire family suffers the consequences of the alcoholic’s choices. Life in an alcoholic family is a life of turmoil, shame, anger and bitterness. Unless you have lived in a family affected by alcohol, you never really understand the chaos that exists.
When you are a part of an alcoholic family, the natural roles of mother, father, son, daughter, and spouse take on different meaning. Each of these people take turns being a caretaker, a law enforcement officer, a nurse, and a con artist. It is a never ending juggling act with each person pretending to have a normal life while trying to keep a house of cards from collapsing.
The caretaker – Usually the spouse of the alcoholic assumes this role, but as children get older they begin to take care of the alcoholic as well. As the caretaker, they make sure the addicted person never has to worry about the consequences of their behavior. If the alcoholic makes a mess, the caretaker cleans it up. They also make excuses for them when they miss work or family functions. They pay the bills, care for the house, and try to make everything perfect. The caretaker thinks they are doing what is best for the alcoholic, but are they really? Perhaps they are trying to save themselves from facing reality.
The law enforcer – This is the person who searches for the stashes of alcohol. They will destroy what they find, never realizing that the alcoholic is very cleaver. Addicts and alcoholics are masters at deception. They will find the most unusual places to hide liquor. That anti-freeze bottle in the garage could really be hiding a gallon of vodka. The extra bottle of spray gel in the bathroom is really an emergency stash of gin. No matter how hard the law enforcer tries, the alcoholic will be a step ahead.
The nurse – When the alcoholic drinks too much and gets sick, this is the person who cleans them up and tucks them safely into bed. They try to get the alcoholic to go to the doctor or help them build up their health with vitamins, etc. This person cares about the addicts health more than the addict themself does.
The con artist – Every member of the family plays this part at one time or another. They put on an act that they hope will convince people that their family is normal and everything is fine. By pretending that everything is okay, it somehow will become okay -right?
Does this sound like your family? Life in an alcoholic family is hard to maintain. There is undo stress and sadness that is caused both by the addict’s behavior and the family’s response to it. These responses are normal and can even be considered noble, but they aren’t healthy. You can break free from the cycle of addiction and codependency. There are many programs that can help like Al-Anon and Ala-Teen.
To be able to truly help the alcoholic in your life, you must first learn to break free from codependency and love yourself. There is hope for families stuck in the cycle of addiction. You just need to decide it is time to break free.