The number of families destroyed by alcohol in the United States alone every year is mind-boggling.
For the past 30 years, the number one best-selling author, counselor, master Life Coach, and minister David Essel have been helping to try to repair extremely damaged family relationships due to alcohol.
Below, David talks about the need to be real about alcohol and understanding alcoholism within families, if you want to have the best shot at having a great marriage and healthy children not only now but in the future.
This article also highlights the effects of alcoholism on families, spouses, and children.
“Alcohol destroys families. It destroys love. It destroys confidence. It destroys self-esteem.
It creates incredible anxiety for children who live in a household where alcohol is abused.
And the abuse of alcohol is an extremely simple thing to happen. Women who have more than two drinks a day are considered alcohol dependent, even moving towards alcoholism, and men who consume more than three drinks a day are considered alcohol dependent moving towards alcoholism.
And yet, even with this information, and even seeing how alcohol has destroyed so many families around the world, in our office we continue on a monthly basis to get calls from families who are falling apart due to the use of alcohol.
What are the problems & effects of alcoholism on families
Case study 1
A year ago, a couple came for counseling sessions because they had been struggling for over 20 years with the husband’s abuse of alcohol and the wife’s codependent nature, which means that she never wanted to rock the boat or confront him on a regular basis about how alcohol was destroying their marriage.
After having two children, the situation became even worse.
The husband would be gone all day Saturday, or a complete Sunday out golfing and drinking with his buddies only to return home drunk, abusive emotionally, and showing no interest whatsoever in entertaining, educating or spending time with the children unless he had a drink in his hand.
When I asked him what role alcohol had played in the dysfunction of the marriage and in the stress that he was feeling between himself and his two children, he said, “David, Alcohol has no role in the dysfunction of the marriage, my wife is neurotic. She’s not stable. But my drinking has nothing to do with that, that’s her issue.“
His wife admitted that she was codependent, that she was afraid to bring up his drinking because every time she did, they got into a huge fight.
He told me during the session that he could stop at any time to which I said “great! Let’s start today. Put the alcohol down for the rest of your life, reclaim your marriage, reclaim your relationship with your two kids, and let’s see how everything turns out.“
While he was in the office, he told me in front of his wife that he would do that.
But on the drive home, he told her that I was insane, that she was insane, and he’s never giving up alcohol ever.
From that point on, I never saw him again, nor would I ever work with him again because of his arrogant attitude.
His wife continued to come in, to try to decide if she should stay, or divorce him, and we ended up talking about how her children were doing.
The picture was not pretty at all.
The oldest child around 13 years of age, was so filled with anxiety that they set their alarm clock to 4 AM every day to get up and pace the hallways and the stairs of their house to try to rid himself of the anxiety.
And what was causing his anxiety?
When his mom asked him, he said: “you and dad are always arguing, dad is always saying nasty things, and I just pray every day that you too can finally learn to get along.“
This wisdom is from a teenager.
When the younger child would come home from school, he was always extremely combative with his father, refusing to do chores, refusing to do homework, refusing to do anything the father asked.
This child was only eight years of age, and while he couldn’t express his outrageous anger and hurt that his father had already caused him, his sibling and his mother, the only way he could express himself was to go against his father‘s wishes adamantly.
In 30 years as a counselor Master Life Coach, I’ve seen this game played out over and over and over again. It’s sad; it’s insane, it’s ludicrous.
If you are reading this right now and you like to have your “cocktail or two in the evening,“ I want you to rethink this.
When either mom and or dad are drinking on a regular basis, even just one or two drinks a day, they are not emotionally available for each other and there especially not emotionally available for their children.
Any social drinker that saw their family falling apart would stop drinking in a minute.
But those who are alcoholics, or alcohol dependent, will use deflection, diversion, to change the topic and to say “this has nothing to do with my alcohol, it’s just that we have bratty kids… Or my husband is a jerk. Or my wife is way too sensitive. “
In other words, the person struggling with alcohol will never admit they’re struggling, they’ll just want to blame it on everyone else.
Case study 2
Another client I worked with recently, a woman married with two children, every Sunday she would tell her children she would help them with their homework, but Sundays were her “social drinking days,“ where she liked to get together with other ladies in the neighborhood and drink wine in the afternoon.
When she would return home, she would be in no mood or no shape to help her kids with their homework.
When they protested and said, “mom you promised you’d help us,“ she’d get angry, tell them to grow up, and that they should be studying more during the week and not leaving all of their homework to do on Sundays.
In other words, you guessed it, and she was using diversion. She didn’t want to accept her role in the stress with her children, So she would blame it on them when, in actuality, she was the culprit and the creator of their stress.
When you’re a young child, and you ask your mom to help you every Sunday with doing anything, and mom chooses alcohol over you, that hurts in the worst way possible.
These children will grow up filled with anxiety, depression, low self-confidence, low self-esteem, and they may either become alcoholics themselves or when they enter the world of dating, they will look to date people who are very similar to their mom and dad: emotionally unavailable individuals.
A personal account of how drinking can affect families
As a former alcoholic, everything I’m writing about is true, and it was true in my life as well.
When I first started helping to raise a child in 1980, I was an alcoholic drinking every night, and my patience and emotional availability to this young child was nonexistent.
And I’m not proud of those times in my life, but I am honest about them.
Because I used to live this insane lifestyle of trying to raise children while keeping my alcohol near me, I defeated the whole purpose. I wasn’t being honest with them and or myself.
But everything changed when I got sober, and I had the responsibility once again to help raise children.
I was emotionally available. I was present. When they were in pain, I was able to sit and talk to the pain they were going through.
When they were jumping with joy, I was jumping right along with them. Not starting to jump and then going to grab another glass of wine as I did in 1980.
If you’re a parent reading this, and you think that your alcohol consumption is fine and it’s not affecting your children, I would like you to think again.
The very first move is to go in and work with a professional, be open and honest about the exact number of drinks that you have on a daily or weekly basis.
And what does a drink look like? 4 ounces of wine equals one drink. One beer equals one drink. 1 ounce shot of liquor equals a drink.
Going back to the first couple that I worked with, when I asked him to write down how many drinks he had a day, which meant that you had to get a shot glass out and count the number of shots in every Tumblr he was filling, he initially told me that he only had two drinks a day.
But when his wife counted the number of shots he put into one of his tumblers, it was four shots or more per drink!
So for every drink, he told me he had, he actually was having four drinks, not one.
Denial is a very powerful part of the human brain.
Do not risk ruining your children’s future. Do not risk ruining your relationship with your husband, wife, boyfriend, or girlfriend.
Alcohol is one of the greatest destroyers of love, self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth.
You are a role model, or you’re supposed to be one. If you don’t have the strength to quit drinking for your children’s sake and your partner’s sake, maybe it’s better off that you don’t have a family to deal with.
Everyone will be much better if you simply left the family so that you could keep the comfort of alcohol by your side.
Think about that.
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
More by David Essel