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The presence of an alcoholic or substance abuser is a family that leaves an imprint on the relationships inside and outside of a family, as well as on the child development and the mental health of an abuser’s family members. In this paper, the impact of abuse on the external relationships and the influence of past experience on current behavior is studied and the examples witnessed by the author are discussed.
Effects of the Family Problem on External Relationships
Considering the fact that alcohol and substance abuse is a remarkably widespread problem, it can be said for sure that almost everyone has been either affected by it directly or contacted with the affected individuals on a daily basis (National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2015). It is known that substance abuse causes such problems as co-dependence, domestic violence, and disorders of child development. In addition to these consequences, the presence of an alcoholic or substance abuser in a family has a strong negative impact on the relationships outside of the family. My personal experience confirms this notion.
The need to cover the abuser often has a strong impact on outside relationships. For instance, some of my acquaintances, who have an alcoholic parent, were not able to invite friends to their homes, talk about their family or make long-term plans in their childhood years. It has lead to restraint, loneliness, and unwillingness to communicate with peers. As the psychologist Susan Forward noted, a child of a substance abuser must always be on guard to prevent themselves from revealing the truth to strangers (Forward, 2010, p. 72).
This work is energy-consuming, which may make a child limit contacts with non-family or stop them altogether. The same problem exists for the spouses of abusers. The non-alcoholic parents of my acquaintances had to solve everyday tasks such as accepting visitors, asking a day off at work to take care of the abuser, talking to distant relatives without mentioning the abuse, etc.
Leaving with an abuser leads to deep psychological consequences. None of the people affected by abuse, whom I ever knew, were psychologically stable. Many of them had anxiety, which made their relationships with other people complicated. A relative of mine, having lived forty years with an alcoholic husband, started drinking herself, which made her stop all contacts outside of a family.
The Link Between Current Behavior and Past Experience
The psychological consequences mentioned above usually have a long-lasting effect. It is especially true for children, whose personality has to form in the conditions of domestic violence and an unhealthy atmosphere at home . A close relative of mine is an adult child of an alcoholic father, and the origins of her current behavior can be easily tracked to her childhood experience. Being hateful to alcohol, she has married an alcoholic man with an obsessive idea to “re-educate” him, which often happens to abuse survivors. All my acquaintances with similar experience have trouble expressing feelings, arguing with someone with authority, proving their point, and managing stress; these problems are the outcomes of living with an abuser. Thus, even after several decades, the experience earned in childhood still influences the behavior of abuse survivors.
Substance abuse in a family affects the relationships not only inside but also outside the family because of the need for family members to cover an abuser. It also causes psychological disorders that continue to impact the behavior of abuse survivors even decades after separation from the abuser
Fischer, J., & Lyness, K.P. (2005) Families coping with alcohol and substance abuse. In P.C. McKenry, S. J. Price (Eds.), Families & change: coping with stressful events and transitions (pp. 155-178). Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications. Web.
Forward, Susan. (2010). Toxic parents: Overcoming their hurtful legacy and reclaiming your life. New York City, New York: Random House. Web.
National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2015). Alcohol facts and statistics. Web.