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Alcohol Addiction's Toll On Entire Families: Alcohol Awareness Month

April 30, 2018

Alcohol Awareness Month – the annual campaign from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) – is nearly over, but the benefits of observing it never end. In this final blog entry from Turning Point and our New Jersey alcohol treatment center, we discuss how alcoholism is not a problem that impacts just a single person. No, alcohol addiction entangles entire families in a number of ways. In turn, it will take a family to overcome alcohol addiction.

What Are Enabling, Codependence & Enmeshment?

When someone becomes addicted to alcohol, the behaviors they adopt spill over into all facets of their life, eventually affecting their family and loved ones. How family members react to the negative changes and dangerous habit can vary and depends greatly on the individual’s view on alcohol abuse.

Most often, though, family members will begin to engage in one of three behaviors:

Enabling: Possibly the most common and most hazardous behavior family members of someone with alcohol addiction is enabling. Someone uses enabling behavior, or becomes an enabler, when they actually
  • encourage alcohol consumption. The problem with spotting and stopping enabling behavior is that it is rarely as obvious as buying a loved one an alcoholic beverage or telling them to have another drink at a party. Enabling is usually subtle, like accepting half-hearted apologies for drunken behavior, or trying to downplay the harm of alcoholism to avoid uncomfortable situations.
  • Codependence: Akin to enabling is codependence. A family member who exhibits codependent behaviors has linked their own self-worth or purpose to the person struggling with alcohol addiction. In particular, they feel the need to be there for them but not necessarily help them overcome the problem. As long as their family member is afflicted by alcoholism, the codependent family member is “needed,” in their mind at least. This behavior is dangerous because they may subconsciously encourage alcohol abuse to keep the cycle going. Simply put “Carrying is seen as Caring”
  • Enmeshment: A family member who is enmeshed with an alcohol addict essentially experiences a heightened sense of empathy. If the person with alcohol addiction becomes depressed due to the self-abusive lifestyle, then the enmeshed individual will also become depressed, for example. Enmeshment is most common between parents and an alcohol-addicted child. The problems caused by enmeshment are significant, as it is likely a “defeated” attitude will wash over the entire family, making it all the less likely that alcohol addiction treatments will be pursued.

A Family Problem Requires a Family to Solve

If there is just one thing you take away from Alcohol Awareness Month, let it be that alcoholism is a family disease. Not only does alcoholism impact everyone in your family in numerous ways, but it can “spread” to them as well by leading ​

to enabling, codependent, or enmeshed behaviors. In order to set things right and head down a fruitful path of recovery and sobriety, family counseling will be necessary.

At Turning Point, we offer family wellness programs that shine the spotlight on how families play a role in both the furthering of alcohol addiction and the alleviation of it. We have been the first name in New Jersey alcohol addiction treatments since 1975, so you can trust us to create personalized, compassionate, and effective programs. To take the next step towards overcoming alcoholism, you can review our admissions process, refer a loved one to our center, or request admission for yourself today.

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