How to Help A Parent with Alcoholism

The effects of substance abuse can have a great impact on friends and family, especially children with alcoholic parents. No matter what your age is, dealing with an alcoholic parent can be extremely painful and difficult. Fortunately, there are options out there for getting them on the path to recovery.

Does My Parent Have a Drinking Problem?

Alcohol use disorder, more commonly known as alcoholism, is the physical and psychological dependence on alcohol. A parent with alcoholism may have trouble controlling their drinking habits or choose to continue drinking even when it causes problems. Alcoholism can severely impact a person’s personal, professional, social, and financial life. The effects of alcoholism can have a great impact on friends and family, but it is often the children that suffer the most.

Unfortunately, more than 1 out of 10 children in the United States live with a parent that struggles with alcoholism. Alcoholism can lead to emotional, physical, mental, and financial abuse and neglect of children of all ages. This can be an even bigger issue for children who still live with or nearby their alcoholic parent. Often times, children who have a parent with alcoholism will feel unloved, un-cared for, and unimportant. One of the most common issues they struggle with is blaming themselves or thinking they should be doing more for their parent. Some people have been dealing with their parent’s alcoholism since they were born but others develop it later on, as alcohol abuse among seniors becomes a bigger problem. Fortunately, no matter how old someone is or how long they have had a drinking problem, there is always help for them.

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Signs of Alcoholism

The effects of alcohol impact each person differently. Some drinkers may exhibit signs of alcoholism, while others exhibit few, especially if they are considered high-functioning alcoholics. However, there are some common signs, including:

  • Blackouts and memory loss
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Prioritizing drinking over other obligations
  • Isolation from friends and family members
  • Frequent hangovers
  • Changes in appearance, behavior, and social circle
  • Drinking alone or secretly

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How Do You Approach Your Parent About Their Alcoholism?

A person will not change unless they truly want to. You cannot force someone to change, quit drinking, drink less, or make them go to rehab. The best thing you can do for a parent with alcoholism is bring to their attention the fact that you think they have a problem.  Confronting someone, especially a parent, about their alcohol problem can be intimidating. You might be afraid of them getting angry, yelling, or getting violent. It’s possible that your parent may cause a scene, embarrass you, or continue using more but the risks of having a conversation are generally outweighed by the potential benefits. If violence is a concern, then it is best to avoid having the conversation alone and always have someone with you.

If you decide to talk to your parent about their drinking problem, some of the following guidelines may help improve the outcome of any conversation you may have with them:

  • The goal is not to convince your parent that they have a problem, but to let them know you are concerned that they might.
  • Never have the conversation if anyone involved is intoxicated.
  • Let them know you are talking to them about their drinking habits because you care about them.
  • Emphasize that you’re having the conversation because you are concerned with their well-being.
  • Try to always come from the perspective of yourself by using “I” statements and avoid making accusations. Example: “I am concerned by how much you are drinking. I have noticed your behavior has been different. I am worried that your health is at risk.”
  • List any specific behaviors and incidents that you’ve observed and why they concern you.
  • If it may benefit the conversation, mention how their behavior has impacted you and how that has hurt you.
  • Don’t get sidetracked with speculation, judgement, or an explanation for why. Stay focused on the main point.
  • It is important to make sure you are having a two-way conversation so that they do not feel cornered or get defensive. It’s recommended to use open ended questions.
  • If the person denies there is a problem and no progress is made, try to get them to agree to have another conversation in the future.

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What to Do if Your Parent Refuses Help for Alcoholism

If your parent denies having a problem with alcohol or refuses help, unfortunately there will not be many options. It may help you to reach out to friends and other family members for support in talking to them about seeking help. If you are a minor and your parent’s alcoholism is causing them to physically abuse or neglect you, then you should report them to a family member, or a school or law enforcement official.

Another option is to seek out the services of a professional interventionist, medical provider or counselor to help your parent get wise about their problem with alcohol. There are also many options that you can take for yourself. Many resources and support groups exist that are dedicated to helping family members of alcoholics.

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What Resources Are Available to Me?

Al-Anon

Al-Anon is the largest and most well-known support group for families of alcoholics worldwide. It is a 12-Step program modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) that helps members cope with their family member’s alcoholism. Meetings are held in all 50 states and in many countries around the world.

Schools

Most schools of all levels, from elementary schools to universities, have many resources available to students to help them cope with the substance abuse of their parents.

Mental Health Professionals

A mental health professional such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker, may offer you a lot of help in understanding and coping with your feelings. A professional can help you improve your mental state while dealing with your parent’s alcoholism and the impacts that it has had on you.

Get Help Now

If you have a parent that is struggling with alcohol abuse, help is available to you. Contact a dedicated treatment provider that can help you find a rehab facility that will help your parent with alcoholism get on the road to recovery.

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