Article Summary: For many years alcoholism was seen as a condition of the weak-willed and lazy, but today we know that it is a clinical, progressive and potentially fatal disease. And while the individual suffers the most from this disease, it is not and individual condition. It is a universal, human condition that can strike any person at any time. It is a disease that affects our families and our communities and it is one of the biggest public health threats known in the last two centuries. When one person in the family suffers from alcoholism it affects everyone else dramatically, from children to spouses to parents and uncles and cousins and nephews and so on. And because alcoholism is a disease that does not permit the sufferer to help themselves, they will most likely rely upon the assistance of their family to triumph over the disease and set the family balance right once again.

The effects of alcoholism on other family members begin extremely early - even before birth. Mothers that consume alcohol while pregnant expose their unborn children to serious illnesses like Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or FAS, Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND), and Alcohol Related Birth Defects (ARBD). These illnesses can cause a lifetime of agony for families where children are born with brain damage, retardation or physical abnormalities as a result of one of these diseases. In some cases parents spend the rest of their lives caring for a permanently disabled child.

Whether affected by FAS or related disease or not, children of alcoholics are exposed to various stresses and conditions that can have a severe and lasting impact on them. AllPsych Online stated on its website that "Alcoholism is responsible for more family problems than any other single cause," and few in the family suffer these problems more acutely than children. Alcoholism in the family is often associated with violence and child abuse, and children of alcoholic parents sometimes grow up with significant social, emotional and even sexual disorders caused by fear, anxiety and sadness caused by an alcoholic home.

Spouses of alcoholics suffer through many of the same troubles that their children do. Domestic violence is much more likely in a house where an alcoholic is present. Additionally, the severe economic, employment and physical and emotional health problems caused by alcoholism often strain marriages so much that they result in divorce and splintered families. However, in many cases spouses play the role of enabler and work to cover up or minimize these problems, which allows the alcoholism to continue unabated.

Parents of alcoholic children sometimes suffer the most because they are generally more cognizant of the consequences and risks of prolonged use of alcohol. Parents often go to great lengths to get help for their children, sometimes exhausting their physical, emotional, financial and material resources in order to do so. And yet a great deal of the time the behavior continues despite the parent's best efforts. This can be especially dismaying and can serve to drive family members apart as each seeks to protect themselves from more emotional pain.

If you or someone in your family is an alcoholic, you don't have to live like this anymore. Pick up the phone and call or click one of the links below. The rest of your life can start right now, but we can't help if you don't call.

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