Alcoholism is a Family Disease

Question: If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring? Answer: Pilgrims.

Setting up our new office on a rainy day in May got me thinking of this corny joke my mother told me ages ago and how it relates to the work we do. I was struck by the notion of members of alcoholic families being viewed as pilgrims. Alcoholism, having robbed them of the comfort, security and nurturing that families should provide, has forced them on a defensive journey to find protection and some sense of self-worth.

Chaos and unpredictability are the hallmarks of alcoholic families. As alcoholism progresses the drinking, which once was fun on an occasional basis, becomes a serious venture that permeates every aspect of a family's life.

The spouse becomes preoccupied with the alcoholic while trying to create a protective structure that will rein in the drinking and allow essential family tasks to be performed. The children learn at an early age that they are on their own (emotionally and quite often physically) and learn to define themselves by how successfully they manipulate the external environment.

Members of alcoholic families become emotional pilgrims. They wander from place to place, person to person and event to event hoping to find a place to call home. Perhaps as the rains of May turn flowers to bloom we can light a candle for these pilgrims. We can welcome them to our agencies and provide them with truth and comfort. We can call alcoholism by its name. We can assure them that they didn't cause their loved ones alcoholism.

Most important, we can tell them that we have a place where their needs can be addressed as they begin to rebuild their homes and their lives.