How to Help a Parent Who Is Addicted to Alcohol
Does your parent have an alcohol use disorder? When you see your parents crumbling under the weight of alcohol addiction, you may feel at a loss, unable to help, and unsure of what you can do. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, an estimated 14.4 million U.S. adults suffered from an alcohol use disorder in 2018. You’re not alone in this situation, and there is help available to you and your parents.
When Your Parent Drinks
Though minors will find it difficult to get their parents help, adult children of alcoholic parents can take action. Alcohol use disorder impacts social, economic, professional, and personal aspects of life. It is also life-threatening especially if left untreated.
The first step, then, is to realize that alcohol use disorder is a true disease. Just like you would encourage your family members to get help for other illnesses, do the same for alcoholism. This often starts with a conversation about what’s happening and why. Here are a few ways to talk with your parent about your concerns:
- Tell them what you see and what you’ve experienced.
- Discuss how their choices affect you. Do they worry you, hurt you, or impact your quality of life?
- Discuss what you see happening to your parent’s health.
- Talk about what you want for your parent if he or she can stop drinking. Could relationships improve? Could they live a healthier life?
- Provide your parent with access to treatment. This may include alcohol detox services or programs such as AA.
Don’t sit on the sidelines. If you are able to do so, reach out and work with your other family members who want to help. Remember that blame won’t help: alcohol use disorder is a disease that your parent cannot handle on their own. Help them find the support they need.
When Parents of Minors Drink
Perhaps you are still young and dealing with a parent who is always drunk. This can leave you overwhelmed and afraid of what’s happening. You may wonder if your parent will make it home safe or if they will lash out at you. Sometimes, parents who drink are also embarrassing in the way they talk to and interact with friends or teachers. In this situation, recognize you can play a role in getting your parent some help. What can you do as a minor when your parent is drinking? Here are a couple of strategies to keep in mind.
- Don’t try to interact with your parent if he or she is drunk. Make your safety a priority every time.
- Always talk to them when they are sober about what their drinking does to you. Does it make you afraid? Do you worry about them or even yourself?
- Reach out to another family member to get some help.
As a child, remember that this is not your fault and that sometimes people make decisions that create difficulties in your life. If you feel at risk or in danger, be sure to reach out to an adult you trust.
Tips on Approaching a Loved One with an Addiction
It’s not easy telling someone who is in the middle of addiction that they need to stop. That’s why it is always important to minimize the drama and the tension in these situations. You want to have a conversation, not point fingers and blame the other person. You want them to see that your care for them and your desire for them to get clean comes from a good place.
Talk to them when they are not intoxicated. Emphasize that you care about their health and future. Try to have the conversation one-on-one, unless you are worried about aggression. It is also possible to call in help through an intervention (structured and supported by a drug and alcohol treatment center).
Often, you need to create boundaries as an adult child in terms of what you can and cannot provide to your family member if they continue to drink. This can be very challenging for most people, but it can make the difference if you stop enabling and supporting their addiction.
You do not have to go through this process on your own. Instead, reach out to a professional who can provide you with the support you need in managing your parent’s addiction.
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