Denial: Early in the development of alcoholism, occasional episodes of excessive drinking are explained away by both marriage partners. Drinking because of tiredness, worry, or a bad day is not unbelievable. The assumption is that the episode is isolated and is, therefore, not a problem.
Attempts to Eliminate the Problem:The non-alcoholic spouse realizes that the drinking is not normal and tries to pressure the alcoholic to quit, be more careful, or cut down. At the same time, the spouse tries to hide the problems from the outside and keep up a good.front. Children may start to have problems in response to the family stress.
Disorganization and Chaos: The family balance is beginning to break down. The spouse can no longer pretend everything is okay and spends most of the time going from crisis to crisis. Financial problems are not unusual. At this point the spouse is likely to seek outside help.
Reorganization in Spite of the Problem: The spouse’s coping abilities have become strengthened. He or she gradually assumes a larger share of the responsibility for the family. This may mean getting a job or taking over the finances. Rather than focusing on getting the alcoholic to shape up, the spouse is now taking charge and tries to foster family life, despite the alcoholism.
Efforts to Escape: Separation or divorce may be attempted. If the family remains intact, the family continues living around the alcoholic.
Family Reorganization: In the case of separation, family reorganization occurs without the alcoholic member. If the alcoholic achieves sobriety, a reconciliation may take place. Either way, both partners must realign their roles within the family and make new adjustments.
Recovery; Can occur at any stage provided there is compassion, empathy and understanding by key family members.