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Alcoholism is defined as an addiction to the consumption of alcoholic liquor and is seen to be a chronic and progressive disease. Alcoholism cuts across all ages, background levels, incomes, ethnicities, and age groups. Recently, studies have indicated that genetic makeup plays a role in the development of alcoholism. However, research also shows that genetic factors alone do not contribute to the development of alcoholism.

Alcoholism, known as a family disease, affects the life of those living with the alcoholic. Alcoholics may have young, teenage, or adult children. They may have wives or husbands, brothers, sisters, or older parents living with them. An alcoholic will disrupt the lives of everyone around them. According to SAMHSA's (Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration) statistics, more than 76 million Americans are exposed to alcoholism in the family.

Alcoholism affects each member of the family differently. A mother's alcoholism affects the fetus even before the child is born. When a pregnant woman drinks, alcohol is transferred through the placental tissues into the blood of the fetus. The blood levels of alcohol both in the mother and the fetus become the same. Babies may be born with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). This has been observed to be a primary cause of birth defects. These children can have lifelong medical problems including mental retardation. FAS babies are generally underweight, may have deformities of the skull, face, and eyes, and may have damaged central nervous system, among many other problems. Because of these factors they experience difficulties in learning, maintaining attention span, making judgment, etc., and also display behavioral problems.

Physically healthy children whose parents are alcoholics also face many problems. Common symptoms of children of alcoholics (COAs) include low self esteem, loss of confidence, chronic depression, bedwetting, crying, frequent exposure to stress and tension and fears of abandonment. Slightly older children display symptoms such as keeping to themselves, developing a poor self-image, and becoming very self- conscious. Teenage children of alcoholics are seen to develop phobias. School performance is affected and the children have relationship problems at school. COAs, if untreated for their problems, carry it into later life.

Incest and domestic violence including battering are common in families of alcoholics. More than 75% of the cases of domestic violence include a member of the family who is an alcoholic. Adult children of alcoholics, who have not faced their past, show signs of impulsive behavior and aggression. They also often abuse drugs, make poor career choices, have relationship problems, and may become alcoholics themselves.

Alcoholism is seen to have negative effects on the spouse. They nurture feelings of self-pity, hatred and avoid social contacts. The spouse of an alcoholic often performs the duties of both the parents. This puts pressure on the parent who is non-alcoholic and he/she may neglect the children. Experiencing financial difficulties and joblessness are common features. Family members use denial to justify the alcoholic's dependency. This perpetuates the unhealthy atmosphere and enables the alcoholic to continue with the drinking problem.

Alcohol Awareness Classes including Alcoholics Anonymous, in-patient and outpatient rehab centers and online alcohol awareness classes offer support and education to help to lessen dependency on alcohol and improve lifestyles. Online alcohol awareness classes provide assistance in the private, relaxed atmosphere of the user’s own home. Classes can be taken individually or with the support of family members on any Internet based computer. They are an excellent choice to open up that often-difficult initial discussion in a safe atmosphere. Especially if the alcoholic is reluctant to visit a therapist or go to any meetings where other people might see him/her. Classes provide information on the health risks of alcohol and steps to take to overcome the addiction. They provide information that everyone in the family can benefit from. The durations of the awareness course are different and can be chosen by an individual according to specific needs.

Many of the online courses are designed to meet stipulations laid down by the court for DUI offenses, but they are also good self-improvement tool for those struggling with alcoholism before it is too late.