We often think of alcoholism as only affecting the alcoholic. Alcoholism, however, is often referred to as “the family disease” because of its effects on everyone around the alcoholic.

If a parent is an alcoholic, it affects the children and the spouse. Children who grow up in alcoholic households suffer from personality issues and disorders that often carry through well into their adult lives. Guilt, shame, fear, and depression are all common in children who live in alcoholic households.

If the parent is a woman and she becomes pregnant while she is an active alcoholic, of course the problems start for the child well before birth. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is one of the main causes of birth defects in our country. Surprisingly enough, even today, almost one-third of pregnant women still admit to drinking during pregnancy.

If the alcoholic is a teenager, the problems are no less severe. Alcoholic teenagers are more apt to partake in dangerous sexual activity, and the rate of sexual assault and date rape among female alcoholic teens is extraordinarily high. Teenage alcoholics are a threat to their siblings, trouble for their parents, and less likely to graduate from high school than other teens.

As a high school teacher, I saw numerous alcoholic teens. However, when the issue was brought to the attention of their parents, their parents saw ME as the threat. Their child “would never do that!” Because they never saw their teen with a beer in their hand, or never admitted to seeing their teen loaded, they denied it. More often than not, I had suspicions about the parents’ use of alcohol, as well. Alcoholism does run in the family.