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You’ve had a long day at work and just want to unwind and relax, so you stop and grab a 6 pack for when you get home. You are greeted by a family that loves you and proceed to have a few. After 1 or 2, you are feeling more calm and upbeat but as the evening wears on and you keep drinking, you find yourself getting more emotional, talking more loudly and saying things that you don’t really mean. When you wake up the next morning, you don’t exactly remember what you said or did, but your family is walking on eggshells and obviously don’t want to be around you. You’ve had another evening of drinking too much, which progressed into an alcohol-fueled fight with your wife and kids.

Although it might appear that everyone around you is able to moderate their drinking so it doesn’t cause problems for them, for some people this just isn’t the case. Too much alcohol consumption reduces the ability to think straight which in turn makes some people irrational so that they misread other people’s comments or intentions and become more intense and aggressive. One small comment that might normally be ignored, like “You had to miss my last piano recital, so I wish you could make the next one!” might be misconstrued by someone who is intoxicated so they think the child is complaining about their lack of interest and an argument ensues. This lack of decision making skills also puts intoxicated drivers behind the wheel of a car and everyone around them in physical danger.  The end result of the unreliable and inconsistent behavior is stress on the family and broken relationships.

Alcoholism not only affects the physical and emotional state of the alcoholic, but everyone in the family unit. Communication problems arise as the spouse and kids lose trust in the person. Family members might retreat to avoid dealing with the instability and embarrassment caused by the behavior, career opportunities are often lost because of conflicts, absences and lack of control at work, and due to the lack of productivity, financial problems can add more burden.

Friends and family can help loved ones who drink too much by talking to them when they are sober. Using specific examples of what they said and did, and even pictures, can help reinforce your argument. It’s important to be clear, supportive and non-judgmental so they understand you are coming from a good place. For example, “Have you noticed that your sleep issues have gotten worse as you’ve been drinking more?” If your relationship to date is one that includes drinking, the point has most likely been to unwind and have fun together. This same goal can be accomplished and replaced with healthier activities like going for a walk, watching a favorite TV series or cooking a meal together instead.

If your friend, spouse or partner is ready to acknowledge the alcohol problem and help get your relationship back on track, then AA meetings, private therapy and group or online and private alcohol education classes are all great ways to support his or her sobriety. Once the drinking stops, many families find that they can regroup and heal for a better future.