Alcohol’s Effect on Families


Today Dr. Luke will talk with you about the effect of alcohol on families. All societies and cultures have this problem including China. Dr. Luke will start by telling you about a story of Wang Ting.

Wang Ting was a 35-year-old man who lived in a large city in Southern China. He was a scientist and worked at a medical university. He had a good job and was slowly advancing in his career and able to do more and more research in his field of study. However, he began to notice that his work was not quite as good as he had hoped. In fact he was beginning to wonder if his work was not as good as it had been in the past. Associated with this concern was the fact that his wife was beginning to tell him that he was drinking too much alcohol. He told her to mind her own business and that he was not drinking too much. Further, he told her, she did not understand that he had to drink to get new contracts for his research.

Though he used these reasons as his excuse he knew that he probably was drinking too much and the alcohol was having a greater and greater effect on his life. He was more irritable at home and at work. Also he was drinking more and more at work when he had supper parties, which required him to drink.

During this time a friend of his came to him and asked him if he was doing all right. Why, Wang Ting asked angrily. He realized this was a good friend who just wanted to help. The next day he told his friend that he thought he was doing fine but was not too sure. He asked his friend why he had this concern. His friend told him that he noticed at parties that he was drinking more and more. He also noticed that he was more often likely to get into arguments at work. Wang Ting told his friend that he was right but he did not know what to do. He needed to drink to get the contracts and he felt like he needed to drink more and more or he would feel bad. He wasn’t particularly interested in drinking so much.

Wang Ting’s friend asked him if all of this was affecting his relationship with his wife and his daughter.  He said it was. He was more likely to be angry with his wife and 8-year-old daughter. His friend asked him if they could talk some. His friend told him that in the past he had a drinking problem, which almost destroyed his life and family. However, before that happened something happened which changed his life and gave him the power to overcome drinking alcohol. Further he had not missed drinking alcohol at all.

Wang Ting asked his friend asked him what this was that changed his life? He was certainly interested in what had happened to his friend. Wang Ting’s friend told him first he went to the doctor to make sure that his body had been adversely affected by so much alcohol intake. He recommended Wang Ting do the same.  So Wang Ting made an appointment to see the doctor. Wang Ting saw the doctor who talked with him, examined and did some tests. After all of these results came back the doctor told Wang Ting that his health was generally good and he had no serious problems from the alcohol intake. However, the doctor told Wang Ting that his health would be seriously hurt in the future if he continued to drink as much as he was currently drinking.

The doctor told Wang Ting family therapy research has shown that there is certain predictable patterns that occur in families and being aware of these patterns can help us to understand and deal with family events in a more helpful way.

First, the doctor told Wang Ting, research has shown that most families naturally operate in ways that help to preserve stability.  We must realize that some of the things that we do in our families are conscious attempts to take care of the family and that some things that we do our unconscious.  Sometimes, we do things and then only later realize the full impact of our actions.

The doctor gave Wang Ting this example of families. Families have, sometimes, been compared to a mobile, like that hanging above a baby's crib.  Imagine that each of the family members is like the objects hanging down from the mobile.  In their natural state these objects are balanced in a similar way, family members tend to enact in a way that achieves balance.  Whenever one family member changes, however, it can throw the family out of balance.  This would be like making one of the objects on the mobile either heavier or lighter.  It would throw the mobile of its natural balance.  In a family, whenever one family member makes a significant change, the other families may alter their behavior in a way that achieves balance, once again.  For example, imagine that you have a family of a mother, a father, and a child.  The father has a problem with drinking too much alcohol.  Because of his alcoholism, he does not take responsibility for very many household activities, nor does he take responsibility for helping to pay bills.  Since he does not take this responsibility, the mother and the child have learned to take on more responsibility.  The child helps more with household chores and the mother takes care of making sure that bills are paid and that the family continues to function.  The mother and child may tend to talk about family decisions among themselves and not even consult the alcoholic father because he is usually not involved or can't provide helpful input.  This family has achieved some type of balance around the problem of the father's alcoholism. Wang Ting thought this all very interesting and wondered if his wife and daughter were functioning like this.

The doctor continued the story.  Now, imagine that the father stops drinking.  Possibly, he goes to substance abuse treatment, or perhaps, he stops on his own.  Either way, he is now recovered from the problem of the alcohol abuse.  Now that he is not drinking, he begins to take a much more active role in family activities.  Now, he wants to help make family decisions regarding finances or activities.  He takes an interest in these activities and expects his wife and child to honor his role as the husband and father.  Now remember, this wife and child are not accustomed to this.  Perhaps, they have questions as to whether his alcoholism recovery will last or not.  Perhaps, they simply have not learned to trust his judgment about family issues.  At any rate, his having stopped drinking has disrupted the family balance.  Changing one element in the mobile has thrown it off balance.  Now, the family members have to adjust to achieve balance, once again. Wang Ting would certainly like for his wife and daughter have the opportunity to have a husband and father who did not drink so much.

The doctor continued, of course the mother and the children are very happy that the father has stopped drinking, but this change in the father creates some difficulties and need for adjustment in them.  Sometimes, they are able to make these adjustments; sometimes families have more difficulty adjusting.  We might imagine that the mother may feel some resentment when the father tries to take over some of her previous role.  The child is accustomed to going to their mother when they need help with a decision.  It may be somewhat difficult for them to go to their father, now. Again Wang Ting wondered if this is what was really happening in his family. Could he change his asked the doctor?

The doctor said yes, but he went on to say that this example is just one of many ways that families have to adjust to a change in one family member.  Sometimes, the changes will involve someone making a positive change such as stopping alcohol abuse.  Sometimes, the change will involve a negative change such as a parent losing their job and being home more.  Sometimes, however, the change may not be positive or negative, but just different.  An example of this would be when a child moves into adolescence.  Even though this change is normal and expected, it requires adjustments in all the members of the family.

The doctor said that he believed it would be true to say that all families are characterized by constant change, and that all families try to maintain some degree of stability during these changes.  One researcher compared a healthy family to oil. It can modify it shaped to fit around another object in its path.  At the same time, it maintains its integrity.  A healthy family can change it shaped to accommodate to changes in circumstances or individual family members while maintaining its family integrity.  Healthy families offer support and love, while allowing the individuals to grow and become independent.  In a healthy family, adolescents feel the freedom to move in and out of the family system as their circumstances and their level of maturity dictates.

The doctor at this point suggested to Wang Ting that he go home and be honest with his wife about the changes that were going on in their lives and his need to stop drinking so much. Then start a plan as to how to address these changes. That would be a good start. Wang Ting agreed with this plan.

The next day at work he and his friend discussed about the visit to the doctor. Wang Ting told him it was helpful but he wanted to know what it was that made his friend stop drinking. His friend told him it was not an idea or medicine but rather the person of Jesus Christ. Coming to know Jesus as his savior gave him a new life where he did not want to drink alcohol. Jesus Christ gave him new meaning and purpose.

Wang Ting asked his friend how this happened?  He said that it happened because he came to realize that he was a sinful person and separated from God because of his sin. He took his Bible and opened it up and read, ‘Have mercy on me, O God according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.  For I know my transgressions, and sin is always before me.  Against you, you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when I speak and justified when you judge.  Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me (Psalms 51.1-5).’  Wang Ting’s friend said King David wrote this about 3,000 years ago. Wang Ting said that this would have been in China’s Chou dynasty.

Wang Ting’s friend told him that these verses show us that we are all sinful people and as a result this sin is against God. God is just in punishing us but God is also a merciful God. That is God did not allow for us to be punished, as we should for our sins. The result of that sin is spiritual separation from God now and eternal separation from God. Wang Ting’s friend showed him another place, which said, ‘Do not cast me from your presence (Psalms 51.11).’ This mercy is given to us through the person of Jesus Christ. 

Wang Ting’s friend showed him another place which said, ‘Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.  We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us had turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53.4-6).’ A prophet named Isaiah wrote this 2700 years ago.  This simply means that Jesus took our punishment on himself so we would not have to be punished. He did this by dying on a cross for our sins.

It is this sin, Wang Ting’s friend said, which separates us from God. By believing in Jesus Christ we have new life in Christ as our sins are forgiven and we have a new life in Jesus Christ and can now approach God.

In another place in the Bible Wang Ting’s friend showed him where it said, ‘therefore since we have been justified through faith we have peace with God through our Jesus Christ (Romans 5.1).’  Wang Ting wanted this peace as he knew alcohol did not give him the peace he wanted either inside himself, with his family or with work.  How could he get that peace, Wang Ting asked his friend?

Wang Ting’s friend turned to another place in the Bible, which showed him another place in the Bible, which said, ‘if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved (Romans 10.9).’  Wang Ting’s friend told him that if he believed this he would have Jesus as his savior to save him from his sin. Wang Ting wanted this salvation.

Wang Ting’s friend asked him to pray after him the following prayer, ‘Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I have sinned against you. I also believe that I deserve my punishment of eternal death for my sin. I believe that you died on the cross for my sins and that after you died three days later you rose from the dead to show your victory over sin. I ask that you come into my life and save me from my sins and be the Savior and Lord of my life. Amen .’

After praying this Wang Ting had a new joy and purpose as he felt his sins lifted from his life.  This new purpose and joy gave him the desire to not drink as much and slowly over time he stopped drinking completely. His family also was changed with a greater purpose and joy in life.

You too can have the same joy and purpose as Wang Ting if you will just ask Jesus into your life as Wang Ting and believe what you say.