Love on the Rocks: Why Alcoholism and Relationships Don’t Mix
Almost everyone who has consumed alcohol to excess on multiple occasions has horror stories of bad behavior. Whether it’s a spouse, significant other, parent, child, sibling, or any number of close friends or acquaintances, heavy social drinking usually has consequences on personal relationships.
Acting rude. Being over-emotional. Flirting. Cheating. Aggression. Violence. General stupor. All of these behaviors will, at some point, coalesce into a sub-standard pattern of behavior which destroys relationships. Those affected by an alcoholic’s behavior feel ashamed and betrayed and may exhibit a general lack of self-respect for the alcoholic.
Known as a social lubricant in moderation, alcohol is anything but that when abused. Generally speaking, alcoholism and relationships are at odds with each other. Here’s why…
Alcoholics are Deceptive
Alcoholics are liars – plain and simple. Lying serves as a self-preservation mechanism, an attempt to convince others that the problem isn’t so bad, after all.
Alcoholics will lie about their bad behavior or patterns of alcohol consumption. They will sneak alcohol when no one is looking. All of this serves to destroy the trust of those around the alcoholic.
Alcoholics Have Bad Memories
Heavy alcohol consumption impairs short-term memory storage. Many chronic alcoholics black out regularly, meaning they won’t remember what happened while intoxicated. While quite literally out of their minds, alcoholics will make terrible decisions that can affect their lives and the lives of loved ones around them.
Also, alcoholics are generally uninhibited and impulsive when drunk. This reduces their ability to make good decisions or even quantify potential consequences. Moreover, it’s a lot easier to deny the severity of potentially hazardous behavior when you don’t remember.
Alcoholics Exhibit Extreme Emotions
If you’ve ever seen someone go from having a great time while buzzed to a pathetic, crying shell of themselves, you’ve witnessed one way that alcohol affects emotion. This type of behavior often comes across to others as disingenuous or as emotional manipulation.
This effect occurs because the emotions aren’t entirely real, and certainly, do not come from a rational standpoint. Their thoughts and reactions are fueled by alcohol, which impairs the drinker’s ability to regulate emotion.
Conversely, some alcoholics are mean, aggressive, or even violent. Again, emotional regulation is impaired. While some may put up with the emotional alcoholic, mean drinkers are less likely to receive forgiveness. Even when sober, the withdrawal effects of alcohol can make the drinker depressed, anxious, and irritable.
Alcoholics Retreat From Social Interaction
Once alcohol abuse reaches a certain point, people begin to eschew personal relationships. There are a couple of reasons for this – one, alcoholics have lost the ability to enjoy simple pleasures, or engage in activities which they used to enjoy. This occurs because alcohol hijacks the part of the brain responsible for processing rewards.
The second reason is because they have to hide their addiction from others, meaning they avoid activities in which drinking is not considered acceptable or appropriate.
Alcoholics Have Other Problems Which Interferes with Relationships
Failure to show up to work, or excessive expenditures on alcohol (especially at bars) may tax the drinker financially. This can affect relationships with spouses or children in the household.
Alcoholics may also have health problems related to their condition, such as a lack of energy, digestive issues, or physical injuries related to drinking. Medical bills, including expenses such as trips to the emergency room, can add up quickly.
Alcoholics are Notoriously Selfish
Alcoholics don’t like to be told what to do, especially if it means quitting or reducing drinking. They will drink even when it is not conducive to the positive social interactions they require to maintain relationships. They will spend money on alcohol before other necessities, and often shut down emotionally when confronted with the truth.
And worst of all, they continue to drink while knowing others are terrified for their health and safety. Alcoholism and relationships don’t mix because the alcoholic is unwittingly engaging in self-harm, while for others there is a very real sense of danger associated with their behaviors.
The combination of alcoholism and relationships often leads to dysfunction and failure. This is not meant to criticize alcoholics for the people they actually are, but to show how alcoholism can change a person’s behavior, mood, and priorities dramatically. Excessive alcohol consumption may literally transform the drinker into a different personal altogether, and not for the better.
Fortunately, however, with treatment and atonement, an alcoholic can repair much of the damage done to his or her life and personal relationships.
I know all of the above to be true, because I am an alcoholic.