Why Alcoholism Is Called a Family Disease

A Family in Crisis

Weeping Woman
Alcoholism Can Affect the Entire Family. © Getty Images

Glenda was angry and didn't care who knew it. After all, she told him she was cooking a special meal – his favorite, he had promised to rent a video they wanted to see, and he had said, "Sounds like a great night!"

Glenda assumed he would come home right after work, but he didn't. By 7 p.m. she called his favorite hang-out and the barkeeper told her no, he hadn't seen David.

She knew the barkeeper was lying.

Back when she and David were still dating, she had seen the barkeeper do it the same way many times: answer the phone, point to one of the patrons, and after a quick shake of the head, tell another caller the same lie.

She wanted to see for herself. She wanted to drive to the bar to see if he was there. But she lives away from town and the only vehicle available is a straight-shift that she cannot drive. She is angry about that too: being isolated out in the sticks. She believes David keeps her isolated on purpose.

The 'Party' Ends

When they first met, Glenda was immediately attracted to fun-loving, "life of the party" David. It was an exciting time in her lives. There was never a dull moment around David and his wild friends. Life was a on-going party. She and David did everything together, went everywhere together. Glenda loved it.

It was after they got married that things began to change.

For awhile they had settled down into the routine of establishing and maintaining a house and home. Then David grew bored and restless. He started hanging out with his old friends again, and now she was not invited to come along. His disappearances, without excuse or explanation, became more frequent.

She was lonely, frustrated, and angry.

She had planned the romantic evening together for them down to the last detail, and now he had spoiled it. She had reminded him of the plans and he had ignored them, he had ignored her. He would rather be out drinking with his friends. She thinks, "He doesn't care about me anymore." As the hours pass, her anger builds.

When David finally arrives home shortly after midnight, he is feeling no pain. He's in his playful, "happy drunk" mood. He is primed and ready for a candle-lit dinner, a sexy movie, and a romantic evening. As he moves toward Glenda, she turns her head and pushes him away.

An Escalating Argument

She asks where he has been. Why didn't he come home after work like he promised? He tells her he made no such promise to her. He says the only thing he said was, "That sounds great." The anger in her voice masks her fears when she accuses him of not caring about her anymore. She tells him he cares more about his drinking buddies than his own wife.

"Come on, baby. I'm home now. Can't we have a nice dinner and watch that movie I rented?"

"Your dinner is the garbage pail," she replies, her anger growing more acute. How could he just pretend like the last seven whole, miserable hours had not even happened? How could he pretend that nothing was wrong?

"It 's where?" David shouts, his mood suddenly changing. Now HE is angry. The argument escalates. He curses her and calls her names. She screams back at him. In rage, Glenda curses him at back, and David slaps her face.

Sleep Doesn't Come

Stunned, shocked, that he would have the gall to hit her, she tries to hit him back with her tiny fist. David—now a raging, out-of-control drunk—is infuriated. Almost effortlessly, he blocks her punch and returns a fist to her face, knocking her to the floor.

Stinging from the blow, she scrambles to her feet, runs up the stairs, and locks herself behind the bedroom door. David considers going after her but decides negotiating the stairs is not worth his effort. He curses her again and grabs a beer from the refrigerator. Then grabs another. Soon he is asleep on the sofa.

Sleep doesn't come as easily for Glenda. She lies crying in the darkness, wondering how things had come to change so drastically. What was she doing wrong? Why was she failing? How could she provoke him to such anger? Why couldn't she just keep her mouth shut and walk away when she knew he was already drunk?

She blames herself for his violent outbursts. She's the one who lost her temper. She's the one who lost control and said things she did not mean. She knows what will happen if she does this when he is already angry; this was not the first time he had hit her when he was drinking.

It wouldn't be the last.

Next: The Cycle of Violence

Previously in 'A Family in Crisis'

Part 1: A Family in Crisis
Part 2: An Alcoholic in Denial

Has your relationship crossed the line to become an abusive one? Take the Abuse Screening Quiz.

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