The Effects of Alcoholism on the Family

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“Alcoholism has emerged in our time as a unique and highly specific illness. Yet it is a problem that dates from the beginnings of civilization, a subject that has been discussed and pondered as one of the great issues of human life” (Dorris 1). Alcoholism not only affects the addicted, but those around them as well. The alcohol addict can be male or female, adult or child, and almost no family in the United States today goes completely untouched by its affects. In order to understand the effects that alcohol addiction can have on the family as a whole three general areas of knowledge must be covered. Addiction to alcohol in general and its effects on the individual, alcohols effect on the familial unit, and possible treatment options both for the addict as well as the affected family members.

Origins of alcohol most likely predate recorded history. Historians believe it was probably discovered even before the Stone Age (Dorris 17). The fact that alcohol played, and continues to play, such an important role in the history of man showcases mans incredible need for the substance. Alcoholism has ravaged every nation since the dawn of its creation. History has been profoundly shaped by its use and abuse. “Alcoholism is a disease which maims and destroys; it costs the United States national economy billions of dollars every single year. Alcoholism, as a disease, ranks as the third highest killer in the United States, only heart disease and cancer claim more lives each year” (Dorris 3). Alcohol has been a thorn in the side of our government since the founding of our nation, so much so that at one point the government tried to ban it all together. Alcohol is evident throughout many historical texts. The Bible has two stories that deal with the ill effects of Alcohol. First is the story of Noah and his son Ham, “And when he had drank some of the wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent.” (Gen. 9.21) This describes Noah’s son Ham’s trickery to shame his father, but most importantly it immediately describes one effect of alcohol on the body of an individual as well as on the family. Noah’s other two sons, Shem and Japheth, were ashamed at their father’s nakedness and so covered his body with a cloth. Noah awakes from his drunken state and curses Ham for what he has done, but what he might have done instead was curse himself for allowing alcohol to take control. Also in Genesis is the story of Lot and his daughters. Following the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot and his two daughters went to live in a cave. Then “One day the older daughter said to the younger, ‘Our father is old and there is no man around here to lie with us, let us get our father to drink wine and then lie with him to preserve our family line through our father.’” (Gen. 19. 31-32). Once again alcohol is an evil that a righteous man must face, and once again that man fails. For someone who becomes addicted to alcohol the dependency it brings can ultimately lead to trouble with society. Alcohol is related to many crimes, especially crimes against the family. The alcoholic usually feels that he is a free person, his conscious and inhibitions disappear, and he begins to take liberties with that his impulses suggest he take (Dorris 23). It is at this point that the alcoholic’s moral and ethical values disintegrate; taking him places he never planned to be. Alcoholism and alcohol in general are associated with such crimes as rape, incest, murder, robbery, and many other violent crimes. “Almost thirty percent of father daughter incest cases and seventy-five percent of domestic violence cases involve a family member who is an alcoholic” (Parsons 3). Much of these crimes are specifically related to the family and its structure. “Seventy-Six million American adults have been exposed to alcoholism in the family. Alcoholism is responsible for more family problems than any other single cause” (Parsons 1). Throughout the history of the family no other...
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