Alcoholism and the Family Business

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Alcoholism is the commonly used term for alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. Both of these disorders involve repeated life problems that can be directly attributed to the use of alcohol. Both disorders can have serious consequences, affecting an individual's health and personal life.

"In a family business, ignoring or not dealing with the issues that are created by alcohol addiction can have a profound impact on family relationships and the family’s business," according to top family business expert Don Schwerzler. "In a family business, the three major “systems” are family, management and ownership. Alcohol addiction will affect each of these spheres of influence."

Schwerzler has been studying and advising family businesses for more than 40 years and he is the founder of the Family Business Institute. "When a family business owner, manager or family member in a key position in the family’s business is a true alcoholic, that business is probably doomed," suggests Bill Corbett, family business alcoholism expert.

Alcoholics are often ignorant of the damage they are causing. If confronted they will often say, “I’m not hurting anyone but me,” or just “get angry in their denial”.

The higher up on the organizational chart the alcoholic is - the greater potential for disaster. The culture of the business sickens rapidly and creative employees are stifled or leave. The alcoholic’s family mirrors the sick culture of the company, but with much more personal scarring and loss. The trust is violated in relations with financial institutions, vendors and customers. The reputation of the alcoholic, and in many cases, the reputation of the company is permanently damaged.

On a physical level, alcoholism affects the entire body. It is responsible for a wide range of health problems including nutrition, memory loss, liver disease, blood pressure problems, heart attack, stroke, immune infections, pancreatic disease, impotence and diabetes.

Emotional problems due to alcoholism can lead to marital problems, depression, child abuse and ultimately can be responsible for family breakups.

Alcoholism creates a variety of social problems:

Alcoholism causes or contributes to a variety of severe social problems including homelessness, murder, suicide, injury, and violent crime. Alcohol is a contributing factor in at least 50% of all deaths from motor vehicle accidents. In fact, about 100,000 deaths occur each year due to the effects of alcohol, of which 50% are due to injuries of some sort. According to a special report prepared for the U.S. Congress by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the impact of alcohol on society, including violence, traffic accidents, lost work productivity, and premature death costs our nation an estimated $185 billion annually. In addition, it is estimated that approximately one in four children (19 million children or 29% of children up to 17 years of age) is exposed at some time to familial alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, or both. Furthermore, it has been estimated that approximately 18% of adults experience an episode of alcohol abuse or dependence a some time during their lives. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

The symptoms of alcoholism can be broken down into two major categories: symptoms of acute alcohol use and symptoms of long-term alcohol use. One simple tool for beginning the diagnosis of alcoholism is called the CAGE - four questions, with the first letters of each key word spelling out the word CAGE:

Have you ever tried to Cut down on your drinking?

Have you ever been Annoyed by anyone's comments about your drinking?

Have you ever felt Guilty about your drinking?

Do you ever need an Eye-opener (a morning drink of alcohol) to start the day?

Are You A Functional Alcoholic?

Treatment of alcoholism has two parts. The first step in the treatment of alcoholism, called detoxification, involves helping the person stop drinking and ridding his or her body of the harmful (toxic) effects of alcohol. Because the person's body has become accustomed to alcohol, the person will need to be supported through withdrawal. Withdrawal will be different for different patients, depending on the severity of the alcoholism, as measured by the quantity of alcohol ingested daily and the length of time the patient has been an alcoholic

After detox comes rehabilitation. The best programs incorporate the family into the therapy, because the family has undoubtedly been severely affected by the patient's drinking. Some therapists believe that family members, in an effort to deal with their loved one's drinking problem, sometimes develop patterns of behavior that accidentally support or "enable" the patient's drinking. This situation is referred to as "co-dependence," and must be addressed in order to successfully treat a person's alcoholism.

Sessions led by peers, where recovering alcoholics meet regularly and provide support for each other's recoveries, are considered among the best methods of preventing a return to drinking (relapse). Perhaps the most well-known such group is called Alcoholics Anonymous, which uses a "12-step" model to help people avoid drinking. These steps involve recognizing the destructive power that alcohol has held over the alcoholic's life, looking to a higher power for help in overcoming the problem, and reflecting on the ways in which the use of alcohol has hurt others and, if possible, making amends to those people. According to a recent study reported by the American Psychological Association (APA), anyone, regardless of his or her religious beliefs or lack of religious beliefs, can benefit from participation in 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). The number of visits to 12-step self-help groups exceeds the number of visits to all mental health professionals combined. American Psychological Association

What Are The Signs of Alcohol Addiction

Recovery from alcoholism is a life-long process. People who have been taken through the recovery process, including the 12 STEPS in the book, Alcoholics Anonymous (also called the Big Book), can say, they have recovered. What recovered means is that they no longer suffer from the effects produced by alcoholism. To stay recovered requires continual work on themselves and in helping others to recover from alcoholism.

A Life Journey - Reflections From Our Family Business Alcoholism Expert

Our family business alcohol expert has been sober for 33 years, a successful entrepreneur who runs several family businesses – and along the way has helped more than 400 men and woman struggling with a drinking problem.

Family Business Alcohol Recovery Program (FBARP)

As the premier online resource for family businesses, the Family Business Institute and our on-line organization Family Business Experts, offer special support programs for family businesses dealing with alcoholism.

Our Family Business Alcoholism Rehabilitation Program (FBARP) is unique and highly effective. Before, during and after detoxification, our team of family business experts becomes part of the family business support program – dealing with the rehabilitation of the recovering alcoholic, and helping support the family business dynamics.

For more information on FBARP, complete our Ask The Expert form (in confidence) and our family business alcoholism expert will contact you to discuss how we can help your family business.


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