Alcoholism is a disease of epidemic proportions, affecting 9.3 to 10 million Americans, and many professionals
believe the figures are closer to 20 million (Weddle and Wishon). Alcoholism is a "physiological or physiological
dependence on alcohol characterized by the alcoholic’s inability to control the start or termination of his
drinking"(Encyclopedia Britannica 210). It consists of frequent and recurring consumption of alcohol to an extent
that causes continued harm to the drinker and leads to medical and social problems. Alcoholism, however, does not
merely cause harm to the alcoholic, but to the entire family as well, affecting an estimated 28 million children in this
country (Weddle and Wishon). These children grow up in the unhealthy and abnormal family systems harmed by
alcoholism, carrying the negative effects of this environment with them into adulthood. Consequently, adult children
of alcoholics are the innocent victims of a disease which has shaped thei!
r personalities and behavior as children and will, if not treated, promote their personal disintegration as adults.
Most alcoholics don’t fit the stereotype of the lying in the gutter drunk. Alcoholics are likely to be persons of
intense, if sometimes brief, enthusiasms. They often try to do too much too fast. They tend to demand perfection in
themselves and in others. Frustrated, they may become painfully depressed or overly aggressive. There is a lack of
inner stability with which to face life’s problems in a realistic manner (AL-Anon). As the disease of alcoholism sets
in, the family is forced to make an unspoken decision—to leave the alcoholic or to stay and adapt to his illness.
Because they do not want to disrupt their own lives or leave a love one, they deny the problem and try to adapt to the
pressures and problems that alcoholism brings.
Typically, as alcoholism takes over, the alcoholic becomes increasingly preoccupied with drinking. This can lead to
spending less time at home, and neglecting their responsibility to the family. The following are symptoms of
alcoholism (Alateen 5):
Loss of control. The loss of control is usually progressive. At first the alcoholic can control his drinking most of the
time. But he sometimes gets drunk when he doesn’t wants to. Eventually, he loses control more and more.
Progression. The alcoholic may not drink more, but he gets drunk more often. He becomes less dependable. He
becomes more and more obsessed with drinking and less and less concerned about his responsibilities.
Withdrawal symptoms. When the alcoholic stops drinking he may suffer nausea and vomiting, headaches and the
"shakes." He is usually is very irritable. He may even hallucinate. This is known as the DT’s (delirium tremens).
Personality change. The alcoholic seems to have a Jekyll and Hyde personality. When he drinks, he is very different
from the way he is when he is not drinking.
Blackouts. These are a form of amnesia. The alcoholic really does not remember what has happened. Blackouts can
even occur when the alcoholic isn’t drunk, lasting a few minutes or entire days.
At first, we may think alcoholism is called a family disease because it seems to run in families. Most Al-Anon
members are spouses of alcoholics. But they are often the children of alcoholics as well. They may have brothers or
sisters who have the disease or are married to alcoholics. Doctors have observed that there are often more than one
alcoholic in a family; for this reason they have said that there is a family tendency to develop alcoholism, just as
there is a family tendency to develop diabetes ( Alateen 6).
According to a recent study, if you are raised in an alcoholic home you have one chance in four of growing up to
marry an alcoholic (Porterfield 120). The reasons are simple. Children of alcoholics learned to tolerate behavior that
other people consider abnormal or bizarre; they have memorized how to live with an alcoholic. Most kids of
alcoholic parents do drink, even if just socially. According to Coping with an Alcoholic Parent:
Ninety-three percent of high school seniors have tried alcohol.
Seventy percent use it once a month.
One out every five high school seniors drinks daily.
Some researchers think that as many as one third of the teenagers can be classified as problem drinkers.
Studies indicate that teenagers are doing more