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Alcoholism is a Family Disease

Guest Blog Post by De-de Mulligan

Alcoholism or alcohol dependence is characterized by uncontrollable drinking or the obsession with alcohol. According to the Mayo Clinic, it is estimated there are up to 3 million new cases of alcoholism per year.

Unlike heart disease and cancer, this disease is self-diagnosable. It also affects the entire family system. I should know because my father is an alcoholic and the rest of my family has lived with long-term effects of this disease for years.

The good news is there is help and recovery is available for all parties. This blog post will focus on help for the alcoholic and family, as well as, ways to prevent alcohol dependency in the first place.

Are You An Alcoholic?

Do you drink to get drunk? Does your drinking affect your work product or are you often late or missing from social obligations? Have one or more individuals confronted you about your drinking? Do you feel a need to hide your alcohol?

If so, you are probably an alcoholic and should seek help immediately. It is important to have a strong support system when going through withdrawal as your whole social circle will have to change.

Remember, alcoholism is a progressive disease; meaning what started out as one or two drinks a few years ago leads to three or four in order to get the same good feeling effect.

If you are unsure whether you are dependent on alcohol, take this self test provided by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD).

Alcoholism Touches The Entire Family

Unfortunately, this disease is not self-contained. It affects the spouse or partner of the alcoholic and the children, who often grow up to become alcoholics themselves or marry an alcoholic.

Therefore, recovery and prevention measures need to be in place for the entire family unit to provide a path toward functional family relationships.

Prevention Starts in Pre-Teens

A published survey of 43,000 American adults by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation revealed among those who started drinking before 14 years old, 47% became alcoholics at some point in their lives. When people waited until age 21 or later to start drinking, only 9% experienced the same result.

This is another reason to lock up your alcohol, as up to 30% of teens get their alcohol from their own home.

Recovery for the Alcoholic

According the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, approximately 70% of alcohol dependence treatments are successful. When the alcoholic is living a clean and sober life, there is a 75% reduction in:

  • Incomplete work

  • Absenteeism

  • Tardiness

  • Work-related injuries

  • Mistakes and

  • Disagreements with supervisors

However, recovery can be a long process and can include multiple incidents of relapses. The important thing is for the alcoholic to keep going back for help whether it is to a detox center, medical doctor or support group. The most well-known group is Alcoholics Anonymous, which hold over 55 meetings in Portage County every week.

In addition, Portage County has the Horizon House and Root House which are residential facilities for men and women who need an in-house treatment center. Operated by Townhall II and Family & Community Services, Inc. respectively, these facilities are funded by the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Portage County.

Recovery for the Partner

Regardless whether the alcoholic quits drinking or not, the spouse or partner needs to find support to continue the process of raising the family. Without help, the partner can become a para-alcoholic and become a total enabler to the alcoholic and enmeshed in their daily lives.

In order for the partner to develop detachment skills, yet still provide a level of support to their alcohol dependent spouse, it is recommended that they seek help through support groups. The more well-known group is Al-Anon of which there are 6 meetings in Portage County every week.

Recovery for the Adult Children

Probably the relatively newest revelation with alcoholism is affect it has on the children and how the problems they faced as children are carried through adulthood. I know from personal experience, the Adult Children of Alcoholics program was of great support to me when I was going through a divorce. Although there are no programs currently in Portage County, there are 3 programs in neighboring Summit County.

Addiction is Treatable

Whether it is the alcohol dependent person, their partner, or their children, the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Portage County will do everything possible to provide the person in need with the proper resources. Give Mental Health & Recovery Board a call at 330.673.1756 for help or visit their website for more information.

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