It can be hard to watch someone you love struggle with alcohol abuse. It can be even harder to learn how to forgive an alcoholic.
Alcohol is legal, which means it’s easily accessible and can be dangerous in excess. Alcohol use disorder is a chronic disease that includes uncontrolled drinking and an obsession with alcohol. Also known as alcoholism, this disease has both physical and emotional symptoms.
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Common signs of alcohol abuse include:
- Poor coordination
- Slurred speech
- Impaired thinking
- Memory problems
- Not being able to stop drinking, even if you want to
- Problems at work, home, or school
- Drinking in secret or lying about how much you drink
- Engaging in risky behavior, such as drinking and driving
- Becoming distressed at not having access to alcohol
- Slowed reaction times
- Experiencing financial problems
One major sign of alcohol abuse is concerns about a loved one’s nutritional habits. Oftentimes, people neglect their nutritional health when they become addicted to alcohol. Look for signs of malnutrition, such as a gaunt appearance, hair loss or thinning, and dark circles under the eyes. These symptoms could be an indicator of a general condition called thiamine deficiency.
In addition to the physical effects of alcohol abuse, there are also psychological signs. When individuals drink, they may repeat themselves and not show their usual level of good judgment. Over time, excessive drinking can lead to sleep troubles and mental health disorders like depression or anxiety. Other cognitive problems include diminished attention span and problems with motor coordination, such as asterixis, which causes individuals to involuntarily flap or shake their hands. In severe alcohol abuse cases, individuals can develop hepatic encephalopathy and go into a hepatic coma.
Studies show that alcoholism is fairly common. In fact, research shows nearly 30% of the American population has experienced an alcohol use disorder at some point in their lives. In the span of 12 months, nearly 14% of the U.S. population experiences an alcohol use disorder. According to addiction experts, almost 20% of adults who have experienced an alcohol use disorder in their lifetime seek addiction treatment.
Effects of Alcohol Abuse on Friends and Loved Ones
The major downside to alcohol use disorders is they don’t just impact the user, they also affect the user’s family and loved ones. As According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, these are some of the ways problem drinking impacts family members, employers, colleagues, fellow students, friends, and others:
- Neglect of important duties: since alcohol impairs one’s cognitive functions and physical abilities, excessive drinking can result in neglect of responsibilities when it comes to work, home life, and school
- Requiring time to recover from hangovers: one of the short-term side effects of alcohol is a hangover. While the physical state of the hangover may be temporary, it can disrupt a person’s ability to meet commitments and invite unhealthy habits, such as poor eating and lack of exercise
- Experiencing legal problems: drinking too much alcohol can increase a person’s chances of getting into a fight, displaying disorderly conduct in public, driving under the influence, and becoming involved in domestic arguments or violence
- The inability to stop drinking at will: alcohol is an extremely addictive substance and can lead to physical dependence and an inability to stop drinking
Alcohol abuse impacts more than the user and causes stress within interpersonal relationships. When it comes to spouses, these are the most common problems that arise when one spouse misuses alcohol:
- Marital conflict
- Domestic violence
- Unplanned pregnancy
- Financial instability
Kids and children of an alcoholic can also be significantly affected. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), one in every five adult Americans live with a relative who abused alcohol during their adolescence. In general, these children are more likely to experience emotional troubles compared to kids who grew up in homes without alcohol abuse. Plus, early exposure to alcoholism can increase the child’s likelihood to have a problematic relationship with alcohol. Studies show that children of individuals who misuse alcohol are four times more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder. Children may also respond to alcohol abuse in the home, such as:
- Failing classes in school
- Overachieving in school or seeking perfection
- Becoming truant
- Acting like a parental figure
- Engaging in risky behaviors
- Being unable to make or bond with friends
- Stealing and/or becoming violent and aggressive
- Manifesting physical illnesses
- Using alcohol or drugs
- Experiencing depression and in extreme cases, suicidal thoughts
5 Steps to Forgive an Alcoholic
It can be hard for families and loved ones to learn how to forgive an alcoholic. However, it’s not impossible. Here are five steps on how to forgive an alcoholic:
- Recognize that addiction is a disease: it’s important to accept that addiction is a disease. Just like cancer, addiction needs to be professionally treated and people with addiction deserve compassion and understanding
- Don’t take their alcohol addiction personally: addiction makes people do things they wouldn’t normally do if they were sober. While the person who abuses alcohol should take some ownership of their actions, it’s also important for families and loved ones to offer a little grace and understanding through the hard times
- Expect things to be different: things won’t magically go back to normal once the user realizes their addiction. Expect and accept a new normal that will help you learn how to forgive an alcoholic
- Get support as a loved one of an alcoholic: seek support as a loved one of an alcoholic. Having pent up emotions against the user will not help you find forgiveness
- Practice gratitude: keep a list of reasons you’re grateful for the person who misuses alcohol in your life and read it to them when needed
Learning how to forgive an alcoholic can have its ups and downs. However, it’s well worth it, in the long run, to strengthen your relationship and move forward together.
How The Detox Center of L.A. Can Help Alcoholics and Their Loved Ones
If you have a loved one that struggles with alcohol addiction, suggest treatment care from The Detox Center of LA. Here, not only can your loved one receive treatment for their addiction and alcohol abuse, but you can also receive support, too.
At The Detox Center of LA, you can engage in family systems therapy to learn how to forgive an alcoholic. In this type of therapy treatment, you’ll sit down with your loved one with an addiction and an addiction professional to unpack all the emotions of all parties involved. Family systems therapy is most effective with as much family participation as possible. The goal of family systems therapy is to resolve family issues, including alcohol abuse. Studies show that individuals with an addiction are more likely to stay sober if they have a solid support system in their corner. While it may be difficult to learn how to forgive an alcoholic, it’s well worth it for all members of the family.