Miles of books have been written on this subject so if you are an alcoholic or addict or have an alcoholic/addict in your life, I suggest you do some extended research on this topic. It is serious and needs serious attention.
A family with an active alcoholic or addict is a family in trouble. There are so many ramifications on every member, starting with Fetal Alcohol and Fetal Drug Syndromes. Women who choose to drink, smoke or take drugs during pregnancy put their unborn children at risk for lifelong health problems, starting with babies who are born addicted to drugs and alcohol.
The social effects are also great. Isolation and shame are the result of living with an addict. Kids don’t invite friends over to their homes because of the addict and sometimes because of the physical chaos in the home when the addict does not attend to the cleanliness and safety of the home. Shame is the result of inappropriate behavior exhibited in public by the addict which results in isolation by the other family members. Secrets develop “Don’t tell anyone what goes on here. It’s our business, not theirs” and keeping secrets means putting up walls that block sources of support.
Poor boundaries result from addiction. Whether the boundary crossings are physical (hitting, destroying, hurting, reckless driving and speeding), sexual (aggression, abuse of minors or reluctant others), or emotional (verbal abuse, aggression or isolation, infidelity) they can also lead to the development of other addictions in support of the original addiction (drugs, sex, gambling, food, pornography, lies, spending money) as well as to a general decline of function and too often, loss of employment and the stability that the income afforded.
Sometimes, as a defense, addicts develop a kind of grandiosity as if all the “cool people” are doing what they are doing and if there is a problem, it is your problem, not theirs because, obviously, they are the cool people and you are the jerk. This stance is easy to take in our country and culture where addictions can be seen as being cool. Alcohol is legal and pervasive, drugs are very common in this area due to being located in a drug corridor from Portsmouth, NH to Fitchburg/Leominster.
Luckily, there are resources for families with drug and alcohol problems. Starting with hospitals, community health centers, mental health centers, private therapists and clinics, an abundance of Anonymous programs, and new efforts at in-home detox treatments, there are ways for addicts to get the help they need and for the family members to get help, too. Group therapy is the method of choice for families of addicts, to decrease the shame and increase the support that is often missing in addicted families.
There is too much to say on this topic. Please educate yourself and seek the help you need to deal with this powerful problem.