The effect of alcoholism on families

If asked to envision an image of a problem drinker and their setting, what would you imagine? The daily pub drinkers? Park-bench drinkers? For many people in the UK, the setting of this mental image may be a little closer to home. In fact, if you asked the question to Brits today, hundreds of thousands would probably use the family home as the setting. The 2020 report on childhood vulnerability revealed that from 2019 to 2020, 478,000 children were residing with a parent who had issues involving alcohol or drugs.

In this blog, we take a look at some of the most pressing issues the entire family unit could face when they’re living with a person who is struggling with alcohol.

Financial strains

When there is an alcohol sufferer within a household, the financial strains on the family can be devastating. The expenses associated with excessive alcohol consumption can add up quickly, and often families struggle to keep up with the costs.

The most immediate financial strain caused by alcoholism is the cost of alcohol itself. Depending on the severity of the addiction, a sufferer can consume significant amounts of alcohol daily, which can quickly add up to hundreds of pounds per week. Our Alumni member, Kev, had this to say about his past alcohol addiction and the costs it involved;


“In the last ten years alone, I was drinking a bottle of Jack Daniels a day, along with six cans of Fosters and miniatures.”


If we were to break this down based on current UK prices (70cl bottle of Jack Daniels, 440ml per can of Fosters and excluding miniature bottles of spirits) it works out to £34 a day, £12,410 a year and over a ten-year period, would equate to £120,410 spent on drinking alone.

But the financial strain doesn’t stop there. It can also bring financial worry in other ways too, such as;

  • Difficulty in finding or maintaining employment
  • Healthcare costs for the individual
  • Legal fees if the person is committing crimes to fund drinking or participating in risky, illegal behaviour whilst under the influence
  • The stress and anxiety of dealing with an alcohol abuser can lead to physical and mental health problems for family members, requiring medical expenses or therapy costs.

Domestic violence

Research suggests that alcoholism can increase the likelihood of domestic violence due to the negative emotions experienced by the person with alcohol problems such as anger, frustration and irritability. This can lead to physical, emotional and sexual abuse towards loved ones, with the National Resource Centre on Domestic Violence showing that up to 50% of domestic violence cases involve alcohol.

It’s important to understand that domestic violence doesn’t just mean physical harm; it can deeply impact a person’s mental health too. This type of trauma can cause a range of issues such as;

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Substance abuse
  • Low self-worth
  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Withdrawal from social activities

If you are experiencing domestic violence from your partner, it’s vital that you reach out for help. If you feel threatened or unsafe, leave the situation immediately and go somewhere safe, such as a friend or family member’s house or a domestic violence shelter. If this option isn’t available, call 999 as soon as possible.

Effect of alcoholism on families - woman depressed due to alcoholism

The impact on children within the family

We think it would be safe to assume that the vast majority of people had seen their parents drunk at least once whilst growing up. For many of us, the morning may be met with apologies and explanations from our parents explaining what happened the night before and nothing more. Heartbreakingly though, not every child is so lucky. Subjecting children to an alcohol-fuelled environment can have a plethora of negative ramifications:

Neglect and lack of supervision…

When you are drunk, you may not be able to pay attention to your children’s needs or behaviours, leading to neglect or lack of supervision. Children need adult guidance and support to grow up healthy and safe, and being drunk hinders your ability to provide that. In 2020, the department of education found that 16% of children in need cases were accompanied by a parent who was addicted to alcohol.

Traumatic experiences…

Children who see their parents drunk or under the influence of alcohol can experience traumatic experiences that can affect their psychological well-being. They may feel scared, confused, or even ashamed, leading to long-term emotional and behavioural problems.

Child abuse…

Children growing up in an alcohol environment may experience emotional, physical and sexual abuse, neglect, or a combination of these. The effects can be long-lasting, with children experiencing difficulties with school, relationships and mental health. Tragically, the DfE reported that between 2011-2014, in 36% of cases where a child was reported to have passed away or seriously harmed, parental alcohol or drug use was involved.

If you are a child reading this, it’s important to remember that you need to reach out for help. This could be through a trusted member of the family, a friend or a teacher. If you are experiencing violence and worried about your or another family member’s safety, you must call 999 immediately.

Increased risk of accidents…

Even if you have no intentions of harming your child whilst drunk, you may lose coordination and balance, making it more likely you will trip, fall or drop things. If children are around you, they could be unintended victims of your lack of coordination.

Modelling harmful behaviours…

Children learn from the adults in their lives. If they see their parents drinking excessively, they may view it as normal behaviour and begin experimenting with alcohol themselves at an early age.

Effect of alcoholism on families - person holding drink

What can I do if I feel someone in my family has an issue with alcohol?

If you think your partner is an alcoholic, it can be a difficult and overwhelming situation. Here are a few things you might consider doing:

Encourage them to get help…

Suggest that they seek professional help from a doctor or counsellor. At Oasis Recovery, we offer alcohol rehab, which includes detox and therapy that can get your loved one the help they need.

Consider attending counselling together…

Couples counselling can help both of you address the problem and find ways to cope better with the situation. In addition to couples therapy, Oasis Recovery’s alcohol rehab programme also offers different therapeutic approaches for cases such as this

Take care of yourself…

If you feel like your partner is becoming aggressive or already showing signs of violence towards you, you must call the emergency services straight away. If your partner is not showing signs of aggression, it’s still beneficial for you to get in contact with us at Oasis Recovery to speak to someone about the next steps.

If any of the signs in this page resonate with you, we urge you to get in touch. We can help you and your family overcome any alcohol-related issues through our comprehensive rehab programme. Please know that you are not alone, and there is support at hand when you need it.