Alcoholism: Impact on Health, Family, and Well-being
The Underlying Devastation of Alcoholism
Around 88,400 people die each year due to alcohol-related causes in the United States alone. An alcoholic drink contains ethanol; it is a colorless, flammable liquid that is produced by the natural fermentation of various types of sugar. Alcohol is a depressant drug that slows down sections of our brain and central nervous system, which affects a person’s ability to control their behavior. It can also be described as a psychoactive drug because it can affect one’s mental processes. Alcoholism has been an issue for many because not only does it affect the substance abuser, but it also takes away normal lives from their family. We see an example of this in Scott Sanders’ Under the Influence.
In Sander’s essay, he talks about his early experiences with his alcoholic father. His father’s problem became a family secret, and later on in the story, he describes how it affected him and his siblings. Scott Sanders also brought up how his father drank excessively, and the doctor had to warn them that “one binge would finish him.” Abusing alcohol will not only cost you money, but it will put your health at risk due to high toxicity levels. Alcohol also contributes to destroying a person’s relationship with their family because they start to neglect their duties, spend the money for their addiction, and completely shut everyone out.
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Family Fractures: Alcoholism’s Far-reaching Impact
Alcohol is not free. One of the main causes of arguments between couples/family members is financial issues. Alcohol can be very affordable; at the local grocery stores, they can range from seven to 200 dollars. Some people go out of their way to possess really “good quality” wine that would cost them thousands of dollars. Either way, over time, this would be a very costly habit, and the results of alcoholism are not worth it. If they’re already dealing with alcoholism, it would be hard for them to obtain a job because they would have a difficult time staying sober, and they just wouldn’t function how they would normally. Employers would quickly get annoyed at their behavior and would easily replace them with someone who can work more efficiently. With lowered inhibition while intoxicated, you are also more likely to buy something impulsively.
Financial Strain and the Erosion of Family Unity
In Sander’s essay, as mentioned earlier, a doctor warned his father that “one binge would finish him.” He explained his father’s condition, “– Father collapsed. His liver, kidneys, and heart all conked out. The doctors saved him, but only by a hair. She stayed in the hospital for weeks, going through a withdrawal so terrible that Mother would not let us visit him. If he wanted to kill himself, the doctor solemnly warned him, all he had to do was hit the bottle again” (Sanders 94). His father’s condition was so awful that he almost faced death at one point.
Some people are faced with the harsh truth, yet they still don’t seek help. Short-term effects of drinking may lead to insomnia, periods of depression, anxiety, and high blood pressure. The long-term effects include hepatitis or cirrhosis, which are both alcohol-related liver diseases. Heavy drinking also increases the risks of heart disease, stomach problems, brain damage, pancreatitis, and sometimes, maybe even death. These are serious health issues that should not be taken lightly.
A Cry for Help Amidst Health Crisis
Many people would argue that alcoholism tears families apart. In Scott Russell’s essay, he mentions that although their father never put his hand on his mother, they would usually end in a banter that would result in their mother crying. He also tells us that their father had walked out on them countless times when they were younger. Luckily, his father never abused his mother and his children, but sadly, many are not as lucky. According to the “National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence,” the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that two-thirds of victims of domestic violence report that the perpetrator has had a drink.
Alcoholics tend to neglect family matters and prioritize their bad habits over what is really important. They chose alcohol over family, who most likely were there for them and tried to help them get past alcoholism. In Sander’s essay, he also explained how his dad’s problem affected him and his siblings by stating, “Life with him and the loss of him twisted us into shapes that will be familiar to other sons and daughters of alcoholics. My brother became a rebel; my sister retreated into shyness, and I played the stalwart and dutiful son who would hold the family together.” This quote is important because it emphasizes how it affected their behavior all because of their father’s addiction.
Hope Amidst Despair: Navigating Recovery
In an interview with my friend Jinha’s roommate, Emily, she opened up to me to discuss her dad’s issues with alcohol. “I remember when I was little and when my dad would be out with a couple of his buddies, and he would come back totally sh*tfaced. My mom would stay up all night waiting for him to get home, and I know this because I would wait for him, too. When he got home, it was guaranteed that they were going to fight. It was horrible because my dad was not sober, and I’m sure he didn’t mean all the things he was saying to her in the heat of the moment. But just imagine being that young and already being exposed to that behavior. I felt sorry for my mom; she didn’t deserve all the sh*t that he made her go through. When I was around nine years old, he wasn’t even compared to how he is right now.
He was a happy, generous, best dad I could ask for. He rarely went out, probably two to three times a month, for a drink with his friends. It seemed to get worse and worse over time, though. When I was a senior in high school, it got to the point where my dad barely worked anymore. My mom and I tried our hardest to sober him up and even brought him to a couple of therapy sessions, but nothing seemed to be working. It was heartbreaking seeing my dad like that and to witness my mom go through that all these years.”
She informed me that her dad is currently in rehab and working to better himself while her mom is back with her grandparents because they thought it would be sad if they left her alone in their old home while she’s in Sacramento for college. This interview with my friend’s roommate really shed some light and showed that no matter how hard you try to help someone, if they’re not willing to go through the process, nothing will change. It is hard for family members to witness someone they deeply care about go down that path.
Although there are many negatives about alcohol consumption, some studies show that moderate consumption may come with health benefits. In an article from the Nutrition Source, they explained that “more than 100 prospective studies show an inverse association between light to moderate drinking and risk of heart attack, ischemic (clot-caused) stroke, peripheral vascular disease, sudden cardiac death, and death from all cardiovascular causes. The effect is fairly consistent, corresponding to a 25-40% reduction in risk.” These studies show the positive effects of consuming a moderate or light amount of alcohol, but drinking more than drinks a day might just do the opposite.
Alcoholism not only contributes to financial problems, it also accounts for physical damage to one’s health, and it tears families apart. Alcoholism may not be the only reason that these problems occur, but alcoholism plays a major part. People who struggle should not be left alone to struggle on their own; they should be helped seeking treatment so they do not waste their lives away. Ultimately, the goal is when we see a person fighting this problem, we should try to help instead of shaming and belittling others because we have no idea what they are going through.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2021). Alcohol Facts and Statistics. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Alcohol and Public Health: Frequently Asked Questions. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm
- Bradizza, C. M., & Stasiewicz, P. R. (2009). Qualitative Studies in Special Populations: Implications for Research and Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorders. Alcohol Research & Health, 33(1-2), 9-18.
- Sanders, S. (1989). Under the Influence. In Under the Influence: Essays (pp. 91-97). Beacon Press.
- National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. (n.d.). Alcohol and Violence. https://www.ncadd.org/about-addiction/alcohol-and-drugs/alcohol-and-violence
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- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2020). Alcohol Use Disorder. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders
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- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2021). Treatment and Recovery. https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/recovery