Alcoholism is an insidious disease. It not only affects the drinking spouse but the non-drinking spouse and the children. Because the nature of the illness, deception, lies, and manipulation, will destroy a marriage if there is no intervention. No one can ever believe what the drinker says. Children worry all the time about the state of mind of their parent, whether the parent will be sober, and whether they can bring friends over to the house. At some point, after all the “I’m sorry’s” don’t work and the “It won’t happen again” happens again, the non-drinking spouse will finally give up their codependent ways and file for divorce or force the drinking spouse into treatment.
What goes along with the deception, lies and manipulation is the loss of control: the embarrassment at home, parties and holidays when the spouse is once again drunk. Many alcoholics give up friends and refuse to go out. Many go out all the time and don’t come home to their spouses at night. And then there are the excuses the non-drinking spouse gives to the outside world to hide what is going on. “He can’t come to work because he is sick. He can’t come to the party because he has to travel for business.” Ironically, the alcoholic often times blames others for their drinking even when those around them have spent years protecting them with their excuses and codependent behaviors.
Even more frightening are the risks to a child of an alcoholic parent. When they grow up they often become alcoholics themselves. They frequently lose their childhood as they become codependent and take on the role of the parent because their parent is incapacitated. They often times isolate themselves from their friends as they don’t want people to know the family secret, or worse, have a friend at the house when their parent is drunk.
Legal problems often ensue. Many spouses and children of an alcoholic are the object of mental and physical abuse only to be told “the morning after” that they dreamed it, or it never happened. Unfortunately, spouses often get caught in an awkward dance of codependence for the sake of keeping a normal household for the kids or covering up for an employer, which often delays the alcoholic’s ability to get help instead of hastening it.
Financial problems are common. Loss of employment and loss of advancement are also common due to the alcoholic showing up drunk to work, being late to work, taking long lunches, or inappropriate behavior at work functions. There are often times increased expenses for auto insurance, attorney fees, fines and court costs for driving offenses, domestic abuse and even public fights. The result is the family is now in serious financial distress.
The communication problems that accompany addiction will further the breakdown of the marriage. Alcoholics and those addicted to other substances stop participating in the family and household activities and responsibilities. This causes more problems for the children and the non-addicted spouse.
As an attorney who handles many child custody cases, I have seen addiction become one of the largest problems my clients face. We represent the addicted spouse, as well as the non-addicted spouse. We understand the issues and traumas associated with the disease. We help the addicted spouse get help and, if they are resistant, try to set up parameters for safe involvement with the children. We represent people who are struggling with this insidious disease we help people understand how to best protect themselves and the health of their family.