Chaos - the word that best describes life in an alcoholic family. Everyone is constantly on edge and guarded, never knowing when the next blow up will occur. Their lives are filled with guilt, unfulfilled expectations, resentment, fear, and anger. To them, this is normal family life. They know nothing else.

Members of an alcoholic family seem to assume roles that protect both themselves and the alcoholic. They mistakenly believe that if they do everything right their loved one will stop drinking and stay sober.

They take care of the alcoholic - cleaning up after him, making excuses when he misses work or appointments. They work hard to protect him from himself and the consequences of his actions. Does this really help the alcoholic? No, they are just enabling and allowing the alcohol abuse to continue.

They police the alcoholic - family members will search out the stashes of alcohol and destroy it. They will haul him out of bars and liquor stores. They believe they are doing this for the good of the alcoholic, but in reality they are causing him to become more secretive.

They pretend everything is perfect - perhaps pretending to be a perfect family will make it a reality - right? Alcoholism has such a negative social stigma that many families will attempt to project a perfect happy family, when life is really a house of cards. Any minute something will cause the cards to fall and the facade will be gone.

Life with an alcoholic is demanding and stressful. There usually are financial worries, health issues and perhaps legal trouble. Add to that the moods swings that accompany any type of addiction. Is it any wonder that families of alcoholics are constantly in chaos?

Alcoholism is a vicious cycle that many times continues from generation to generation. The family dysfunction also follows the cycle. Children often end up as alcoholics or in codependent relationships. But there is hope for breaking the cycle. Support groups such as Al-Anon, Alateen and Codependents Anonymous are places where a family can find hope. Through support of others with similar stories, they can see that there is a way to break free of codependency and alcoholic families.