The List of Victims Grows in the Alcoholic Family

A Family in Crisis

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Alcoholism Affects Everyone in the Family. &copy Getty Images

When alcohol begins to take more and more control of their lives, many alcoholics find themselves making promises that they cannot keep, buying things they can't afford, and signing contracts they won't possibly fulfill.

When David finally agreed that his presence in Glenda's home was indeed disrupting the life of her young daughter, he decided to move out the next morning. As I watched his car pull out of the driveway, somehow I knew it was not the end of the story.

About a month later, I had to travel to the area again on another matter, and David and Glenda drove over to where I was staying for a visit. Yes, they were back together again. When they spoke of their future plans, they said "we" are going to do this, or "we" plan to do that. It was obvious that they had decided to become a couple again.

Apparently, what happened was Glenda's daughter Susie decided to spend her spring break vacation with her Dad and David had used that 10 days as a window of opportunity to move back into Glenda's home and into her life.

There was something about their late-afternoon visit that was even more disturbing. This time, they were both drinking, and judging from their behavior drinking was not all they were doing; they were apparently under the influence of some other substance too.

Down the Drain

For Glenda, this meant that ten years of being clean and sober had been washed down the drain.

When she says that she blames cocaine for the break-up of their marriage in the first place, she is not referring to David's use of the drug, but her own.

She thinks that if she had not been under the influence of the drug's effects when David became abusive in their previous relationship, she would never have sought comfort in the arms of another man -- another alcoholic -- a move that she admits was a huge mistake.

That was more than 20 years ago. She was much younger then and didn't have a business to run or a daughter to raise. If David and Glenda's journey leads back into a downward spiral of alcohol and drug abuse, there are many others now who will be affected.

No matter what happens next with David, his son Andy already is at extremely high risk for becoming an alcoholic or substance abuser himself. Statistics show that the large majority of sons of alcoholics grow up to be alcoholics themselves, especially if their fathers are the alcoholics in their lives.

Given the fact that Andy, at age 11, is already exhibiting mood-altering behavior with food, as well as showing signs of rebelliousness, chances are he is well along his way toward early-onset alcoholism and/or drug abuse. Research shows that education and early intervention may delay the inevitable, but he has already "learned it that way" when he comes to self-medicating away stress and pain.

Many More Victims

If David and Glenda do remain together, and Susie remains in the household, her chances of adopting dysfunctional thinking and behaviors will increase dramatically also, studies suggests.

Not only will her attitude about drinking and drugging be influenced, but also her ideas of love, sex, and relationships in general.

Chances are she will become "lost" in the dynamics of the family relationships and her self-image will be affected. She may have to guess at what "normal" behavior is; she may confuse love with pity and sex with love. If she stays in the household long enough, the probabilities will increase dramatically of her becoming an alcoholic, marrying an alcoholic, or both.

But the chances of her remaining in the household are uncertain. Her Dad has already threatened to seek custody of her if David stays around and Glenda's mother has also let it be known that she will not tolerate her granddaughter being around the drinking and drugging.

When David and Glenda's first marriage broke up their behavior at the time primarily affected only themselves. There were no children in the picture, much less grandparents, and ex-spouses. This situation is very different.

More Pain to Come?

If their relationship again begins to spiral downward into chaos, insanity, and abuse, many more people will be hurt. This time, their behavior can affect many others - directly and indirectly - and consequently, become potentially more destructive to themselves.

This time, they have much more to lose.

I would like to have a happy ending to write here -- one in which someone goes into recovery and it has a ripple effect throughout the rest of the family and the cycle is finally broken. As I began writing this series, I thought the ending was going to be different from the one you are reading now. But stories of alcoholic families are not predictable and do not always have happy endings.

Many times the situation must get worse -- a lot worse -- before someone finally gets to the point of reaching out for help and the healing process begins. Sometimes a major crisis has to occur or tragic event take place before any real changes are made. But many times the pain and suffering go on for years -- even generations -- and the cycle keeps repeating.

Unfortunately, this may be one of those stories.

Next: The Cycle Repeats

Previously in 'A Family in Crisis'

Part 1: A Family in Crisis
Part 2: An Alcoholic in Denial
Part 3: A Family Disease
Part 4: The Cycle of Violence
Part 5: The Cycle Continues
Part 6: Why Do They Stay?
Part 7: A Progressive Disease
Part 8: Passing It On

Part 9: Another Child

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

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