Dealing with an Alcoholic Parent - Rehab Guide
alcoholic parent

Dealing with an Alcoholic Parent

Children of alcoholic parents will know exactly how heartbreaking it is to have a loved one who’s a dependent drinker. You want to help them, but you don’t want to overstep your boundaries either.

Some adult children of alcoholics suffer from depression, anxiety and fear. As a child of an alcoholic, they sometimes feel they are at higher risk of having alcohol problems themselves.

Below, we have outlined guidance that children, young people and adults can use when worried about their parent, to help out themselves and the person that they care about. If your wondering how to help an alcoholic parent, the following guidance will be very useful.

1. Don’t Feel Guilty

If one of your parents is addicted to alcohol, it is essential to remember that it is not your fault. You may feel accountable and believe that you are the cause of their drinking problem, but this is not the case. Alcoholism is an illness, and addiction treatment may be required to help a person to get better.

Never feel that you have to help your parent all by yourself. Speak out and talk to an expert that you trust about getting support for your parent. While you may be worried about reaching out, your parent must get the help that they need.

This tip is easier said than done in most cases. But usually, adult children of alcoholic parents will feel somehow responsible for the addiction.

In addition to negative core beliefs, children also develop defensive traits which serve them well for survival in the alcoholic family but eventually cause trouble.

This is especially true if your parent’s alcohol dependence started when you were a child. You might’ve felt out of control of the situation, that if you had done things differently or behaved better, your parent wouldn’t have started drinking.

But the fact is, alcoholism is an illness. While environmental stressors can undoubtedly have an impact on someone’s alcohol dependence,  there’s nothing you could’ve done as a child to have caused your parent’s alcohol addiction.

When you can let go of that guilt, it’ll enable yourself to not only care for your parent better but also yourself.

2. Don’t Enable Them

Substance abuse can be tough to deal with, for everyone involved. When your parent is craving alcohol, they’ll do anything to get their hands on it.

It might seem like it’s easier to give in to their demands, but that’s not a good way in how to deal with an alcoholic parent. Enabling in a relationship is when a person reacts to an alcoholic in such a way as to shield the alcoholic from experiencing the full impact of the harmful consequences of alcoholism.

It can be heart-wrenching to say no to your parent, but you have to stand your ground. Don’t buy drugs or alcohol for them, give them money, drink with them, let them drink in your house, or take on their responsibilities so they can focus on drinking.

3. Please don’t Argue, Especially When They’re Intoxicated

In challenging situations, you might be wondering about things like how to deal with an alcoholic mother in denial. Your first reaction might be to try and force her to realise that she’s an alcoholic, but that will backfire. Not only will this push her further away from you, but it might also cause her to become physically or verbally abusive.

Also, when your parent is taking alcohol, they won’t have a clear mind. Even if they might’ve been receptive to the idea that they have an alcohol dependence, while they’re drunk, they’re more inclined to deny it. They might even lie and be manipulative, to skirt the issue.

It might be difficult but refrain from engaging with your parent if they become combative and argumentative.

Remember alcohol affects the brain

As an issue of drinking, people can encounter memory blackouts; this means they don’t remember things they had done when they were drunk. Try not to quarrel with someone when they are drinking; it only makes things worse. The person drinking might say things that they usually wouldn’t, and will often not remember the discussion later.

4. The Process of Recovery

Attending Al-Anon or another Twelve Step program can be helpful. You will hear about detachment and disengagement. This means you must begin to alter your own reactions to the alcoholic parent and perhaps the alcoholic family. You must start to change old ideas and patterns of behaviour that supported denial. Like the alcoholic, you to begin constructing your own new “stories” about childhood that include the reality of parental alcoholism.

Making the past real and understanding its influence on the present is the heart of recovery. Defences which protected you from seeing or feeling reality must be challenged. You will then look underneath, at a range of feelings and strivings, including anger, loss, sorrow, or deep need that could not previously be acknowledged or accepted as your own.

Ongoing Recovery

Ongoing recovery is working toward achieving an emotional separation from the unhealthy patterns of a family relationship. You can now pay attention to developing the self, or toward developing mature, healthy relationships with others.

There are plenty of support groups for people who have loved ones with alcohol addiction.

You don’t even have to speak up for the first few meetings if you’re not comfortable. Simply sitting in on a meeting where others are going through similar situations can help eliminate feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Read about the problem and people’s experiences

Reading about alcoholism and how it influences people and listening to what other people go through and experience often helps to make sense of our own perceptions and helps us to feel less alone and isolated. Although every family is different, there are several similarities in how alcohol problems affect the family.

5. Don’t Forget to Take Care of Yourself

Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Looking after a loved one can take a lot of your physical and mental energy, so it’s natural to feel worn-out by the end of your day.

You might feel guilty when you even think about doing things for your own benefit but don’t. It’s important that you look after your own needs.

Children of parents with alcohol addiction are in a distinct situation to be able to recognise problems and support their parents and help them stop drinking. Still, it is just as necessary that they look after themselves and obtain the support that they might need too.

The impacts of having a parent who has suffered from alcoholism are far-reaching. They can be significant, so it is necessary not only to respect the parent and their recovery but also consider what can be done to help the family and friends.

Again, if you’re not properly cared for, this leaves you less capable of taking care of your parent. So taking some personal time to go out to eat with friends, read a book, get a massage, or take a bath is a good idea.

6. Make Appointments With a Therapist

If you’re not comfortable speaking about such a sensitive subject with a group, then an excellent alternative is making appointments with a therapist.

In a private setting, you can voice your thoughts to a neutral third party whose job is to listen to you. Just the fact that you can unload your burdens can be therapy in itself!

Also, this professional counselling can help you navigate any challenging personal issues you might have, whether or not they’re related to your alcoholic parent. As a result, you’ll take better care of your mental health, which will enable you to achieve more in life and take care of your parent more effectively.

7. Suggest They Attend Rehab

Even if you’re providing excellent support for your parent, you can’t do it all alone. One of the best solutions for alcohol addiction is rehabilitation.

At rehab, not only will they go through safe detox, but they’ll also attend effective therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and alternative ones like yoga and meditation.

Your loved one will be given all the tools they need to live a sober life with a decreased chance of relapse.

Dealing With an Alcoholic Parent Can Be Difficult

When someone has a drinking problem, alcohol often becomes their main focus. Guarantees are often given that are not followed through. This can be very hard for everyone, and feelings of being let down are common. A person will only stop drinking when they are ready. If you are ready to try talking to your parent about their drinking and its effect on you, read our Helping A Family Member page for some ideas on how to approach the subject. It is essential to look after yourself first, and sometimes this may mean distancing yourself from the drinker.

Dealing with a parent s drinking can be challenging, particularly if they’re a big part of your life. If you have recollections of them before their addiction, then that can make it even more difficult to observe their decline.

But not all hope is lost. While you can’t force your family member to go into rehab, you can be their support. By being sympathetic and understanding, they’ll come to you when they’re finally ready to get help.

When that moment comes, the best thing when dealing with an alcoholic mother or father is to help them seek treatment. Once they’re out, you can remain to be their support system while they walk the road of recovery. This can be exactly what they need to stay sober!

Need some more advice on caring for an alcoholic parent? Then feel free to send us a message. We’ll give you free advice to help you move forward in dealing with an alcoholic loved one.





Author 'Jason


Jason has been writing expert articles and blog posts on issues related to addiction and mental health for Rehab Guide. Jason has a BA in Psychology, a Masters of Social Work and is currently working on his doctorate in social work.


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