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I also began to realize that due to the fact that any family is a complex and often unique entity in itself, that there are many subtle and underlying aspects to alcoholism in the family that are often not visible at first sight. Many of the interviewees when describing their feelings as children noted a sense of guilt and a sense that in some way, through bad behavior or poor school performance, they were to blame for the actions of the alcoholic parent. This made me even more aware of the severe impact that alcoholism in the family can have on children. Many of the interviewees who described this feeling of guilt were elderly and it became obvious that in some cases this feeling of guilt had not been dealt with or eradicated and still persisted to a certain extent. The parents in the interviews who had children who had succumbed to alcoholism also showed a deep sense of remorse and a feeling that they had not been good enough as parents.
Another theme which was dominant in the interviews, and one which had been expected, was the way that alcoholism damaged and even destroyed relationships. This was particularity the case between man and wife but was also noted as a factor in almost all the other interviews. The sense of betrayal in the instance of the young girl how had been abused was extremely strong and this had affected not only her relationship with her father but also her relationship with other males subsequent to her father's death.
Another aspect that is well documented in the literature and which also formed an important part of the information provided by the interviewees was the impact of the social stigma attached to alcoholism. This stigma affected the interviewees in various ways but what was evident in many of the interviews was the fact that this stigma or social censure of alcoholism was a central issue with many implications. This was also related to another theme that emerges; namely the fact that in many cases families at first attempted to hide the fact that they had an alcoholic member in their family.
Due to the stigma attached there was in fact a form of denial of the reality of alcoholism in the family. This in turn had a number of results, some of which will be discussed in the following sections.
Another central theme was that all interviews expressed the fact that with an alcoholic member in the family it was impossible to live a normal and relaxed life. This response way to be expected; however this also had various implications in terms of the growth and development in the younger members of the family and with regard to problems later in life.
In terms of questions about the effectiveness of rehabilitation the interviewees that took part showed a very ambivalent and often negative attitude towards rehabilitation in a formal sense. This was one aspect of the interviews that tended to contract the trends in the literature on the subject. This made it very difficult to ascertain the success to otherwise of formal rehabilitation techniques. What did become evident in many of the interviews was that informal rehabilitation was seen to be have engendered a certain amount of success. This in fact related to findings in the literature and to the view that rehabilitation techniques that include the family are more successful.
The interviewees presented a number of key points that add to and extend the above central themes. This will be very briefly discussed in relation to each of each interview.
The first interviewee was a middle-ages man, Mr. A. This interviewee provided extensive insight into the issues surrounding alcoholism in the family. Mr. A had lived through a very traumatic youth with both parents who were alcoholics. He lived in continual fear of their drunken fights and had in effect to run the home by himself. Poverty was another factor that added to the gloomy scenario, with both parents spending most of the money on alcohol. This was by far the most extreme of the interviews and it painted a picture of intense privation and suffering on the part of a young child who often had to put his parents to bed.
However, it was also one of the most uplifting and compassionate interviews and the interviewee showed very little bitterness towards his alcoholic parents. Mr. A stated that he eventually became inured to their drunkenness and saw it almost as " normal." This relates to studies that show the some family members often become tolerant of the alcoholic and tend to be very accepting of his or her drunkenness.
Mr. And Mrs. B. were two elderly people who still showed the strain of having a son who had died from alcoholism at the young age of 22. This was a very traumatic and intense interview and a point that the couple repeated was that peer influences could have a very dramatic effect on the choices that a child makes. Although their son had been to numerous rehabilitation clinics, he eventual slipped into a state of depression and committed suicide.
The couple also noted the influence of the media as a cause of the tragedy. They referred to the positive way the media presented alcohol and the failure of society in general to condemn the use and abuse of alcohol. As the interview progressed, the sense of anguish at the loss of their son for no real reason was palpable and I did not question them too deeply about the actual circumstances of the son's death.
Miss C. told the story of her ordeal when as a young girl she had lived alone with her alcoholic father. This interview included rather detailed accounts of the way that the father would be fairly caring during the day but abusive at night.
This also led to sexual abuse, which was to result in serious issues for Miss C. later in life.
Mr. D. was very reticent about the loss of his wife through alcoholism. There was the suggestion that Mr. D blamed himself to a certain extent for this. There was also an implied criticism that the acceptance of social drinking was partly the cause of his wife's alcoholism.
Mrs. E. A was a mother who had overcome alcoholism but spoke mainly about her earlier decline into prostitution as a result of alcoholism. This was an extremely difficult interview as the subject of her prostitution was obviously a very sensitive issue. The prostitution was linked to an alcoholic father who had abused her as young girl. This had led to feelings of guilt and worthlessness which resulted in her becoming an alcoholic and turning to prostitution. The literature and studies on the connection between child abuse, alcoholism and sexual deviance later in life were instructive in this case.
Mrs. F. provided background to the theoretical view that alcoholism was hereditary and not entirely socially or psychologically socially caused. This participant had two family members who were alcoholics and she was convinced that this was a genetic trait that occurred regularly in the history of her family.
Background: Literature review
The available literature on this topic is extensive. The central themes that were derived from the interviews are also referred to and dealt with in much of literature; which tends to support many of the aspect and themes that became evident in the interviews.
A very useful general resource is Medications Can Aid Recovery from Alcoholism by Paula Kurtzweill. (1996) This study provides insight into the way that medications can assist the recovering alcoholic. Furthermore it is useful as an introduction to the subject as it provides a succinct overview of what alcoholism is and the various effects that alcoholism can have on the family and those who are directed affected. It is also a useful in that it provides insight into the status of thinking and research on alcoholism. For example, the study states that, "Alcoholism is a complex disease with physical, social and psychological consequences -- not only for alcoholics but also for people closest to them. "(Kurtzweill 1996) The study also emphasizes an important aspect that was prominent in the interviews.
In the past, alcoholism was often viewed as a moral weakness or character flaw; it was thought that the person could stop drinking if he or she really wanted to. It wasn't until 1970, with the establishment of NIAAA and a national public education effort that people began to understand and accept that alcoholism is a life-threatening, chronic disease involving psychological and physical dependence on alcohol. (Kurtzweill 1996)
This view relates to much of what has already been discovered about alcoholism in the interview section on this study. This refers particularly to the stigma attached to alcoholism. In terms of the interviews that were undertaken it also became evident that alcoholism…[continue]
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