Helping an Alcoholic Parent
Alcohol is a commonly abused substance.
Alcoholism severely impacts a person’s life.
Alcoholic parents may also neglect their children.
Alcohol use disorders affect nearly 17.6 million people in the United States. This makes alcohol by far the most commonly abused substance in the country. It is therefore quite common for people to have loved ones who are struggling with this condition.
It is extremely painful and difficult to deal with an alcoholic parent. Alcoholism severely impacts a person’s life—as well as those around them. It can cause crippling effects on the family, especially the children.
If the parents are suffering from alcoholism, children may suffer from emotional, physical, mental, and financial abuse. Alcoholic parents may also neglect their children. Even when alcoholism doesn’t lead to harm or distress, it often leaves children feeling unloved or unimportant. As the parent grapples with alcoholism, the children are left to fend for themselves.
For many children of alcoholics, what causes the most stress is the constant fear and worry. Over time, this can lead to bitterness and resentment.
It is not uncommon for children with alcoholic parents to blame themselves for the problem. They might think they could be doing more for their parents, even when it is out of their control. It gets even worse when the parent blames that child to their face. The guilt can be overwhelming for some. Not only is this untrue, but also unfair for the child.
No one is responsible for someone else’s drinking problem.
Still, there are ways for children to help their alcoholic parents get over their addiction. It starts with recognizing the signs of alcohol abuse and then using that knowledge to guide the parent towards sobriety. It is important to remember that no matter how old an alcoholic is, they can still recover.
Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholism
Alcohol and alcohol addiction can impact everyone differently. Therefore, the signs and symptoms can differ from one person to another, including the severity and frequency of each symptom. It depends on a wide range of factors such as age, gender, history of substance abuse, drinking habits, etc.
Some alcoholics exhibit multiple signs of alcohol abuse, while others are very subtle. But still, some signs are common to many, if not most alcoholics.
Here are some of the most common signs of alcohol abuse: blackouts, memory loss, irritability, mood swings, frequent hangovers, changes in appearance, shifting behavior, and increasing isolation from friends and family members.
Alcoholics typically have bad drinking habits: whether it is drinking in the middle of the day or drinking all by themselves. They often end up drinking even when they are not supposed to. An addicted individual will continuously seek out alcohol even when they are already suffering from its adverse health effects.
The alcoholic will keep making excuses for their drinking and their bad behavior. This will lead to increasing difficulties at work or with finances. Alcoholism has more than just physical and mental health effects. It affects a person’s social life too. They may lose friends, struggle at work, or ruin their relationships.
A person struggling with alcoholism will prioritize drinking over other obligations. They will neglect their responsibilities in favor of drinking. Some alcoholics try to hide their drinking habits by keeping it secret.
Approaching a Parent about their Problem
It is quite difficult to approach a parent about their problem, especially if the child doesn’t know how to do it or how to open the conversation. The first thing to keep in mind is that no one can force someone else to change. Children cannot make their parents quit drinking—not unless the parent decides to quit on their own.
The only thing loved ones can do for an addicted family member is to bring to their attention the fact that there is a problem.
It is normal to worry about the parent’s potential reaction. Children might fear their parents getting angry, making a scene, or even getting violent. It is normal to worry that they might move out or just drink more and more. These things have happened to others—but they don’t necessarily happen to everyone.
It is a good idea to follow a few general guidelines to increase the chances of success when staging an intervention. These guidelines can help improve the outcome of any conversation with the parent in question. Unless violence is a concern, the risks of having this intervention are far outweighed by the potential benefits.
If the parent has a tendency to be violent, do not initiate the conversation alone—always have someone to act as a buffer.
Only initiate the conversation when the parent is sober. Both parties need to be sober for the intervention. Make sure to highlight that this is being done out of concern and love. Continually emphasize that this intervention is for their well-being.
As a rule, always speak from an individual perspective rather than a general perspective. The children should focus on how the problem is affecting and hurting them. To make sure that the parent does not feel cornered and get defensive, make sure that it is a two-way conversation. A good way to do this is to ask questions. When speaking to the parent, always stay on the main point. Do not get side-tracked by speculations and judgment.
The goal is to open them up to the possibility of seeking proper medical treatment. If they feel cornered or betrayed, they might withdraw even further from their loved ones. If they deny that there is a problem, try to get them to agree to have another conversation in the future.
When staging an intervention, it is best to hire a professional in order to get the best results. An interventionist is trained to facilitate this type of conversation. If a parent refuses help, then there aren’t a lot of options available. For underage children whose parents are physically abusing or neglecting them, they need to report it to a family member, a school official, or a law enforcement official.
Other professionals such as interventionists, medical professionals, and therapists can help alcoholic individuals see the light. Find a treatment expert who can help discuss various treatment options.
Resources for Children with Alcoholic Parents
Just because the parent is refusing or unable to seek treatment does not mean it is completely hopeless. Children themselves can focus on dramatically improving their own life by taking care of their emotional wellbeing and physical health.
There are plenty of resources and support groups out there that specialize in helping the children and other family members of alcoholics. These resources can help provide emotional support, college scholarships, and tips on how to get over grief and survive daily life.
Al-Anon is by far the largest support group for families of alcoholics. They are also the most well-known. This group is modelled after Alcoholics Anonymous or AA, but it is focused on helping members cope with their family member’s alcoholism. Al-Anon includes a 12-Step program that members can follow. Al-Anon holds regular meetings in all 50 states, as well as many countries around the world.
SMART Recovery is one of the leading alternatives to AA. It is especially popular with alcoholics that have issues with AA’s spiritual approach. SMART Recovery is an organization that has resources for friends, family members, and even alcoholics themselves.
Co-DA stands for Co-Dependents Anonymous. It is a support group that is dedicated to helping people who are struggling with co-dependent relationships. Co-DA helps with people impacted by alcohol and drug use. Co-DA is a 12-step group where members provide support for each other.
For children still in school, schools of all levels have numerous resources available to help students cope with the substance abuse of their parents. The internet is also a great resource for knowledge, information, and guidance. A quick internet search can give the contact details and websites of the many online resources and support groups out there. It is easy to find nearby rehab facilities, medical experts, etc. Contacting a mental health professional may also be greatly beneficial. Psychiatrists, therapists, and social workers may be able to help children of alcoholics to cope with their feelings and improve their mental state.
If someone in the family is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, it is important to seek help. A combination of medical detox and behavioral therapy can go a long way in the fight against substance abuse. But because every individual is affected by addiction differently, a comprehensive program tailored to their specific needs is necessary. Look for a nearby addiction treatment facility today and find out how drug treatment programs work.
Rehab is Your Best Chance
Treatment is an addicted individualʼs best option if they want to recover. Beating an addiction not only requires eliminating the physical dependence, but also addressing the behavioral factors that prevent them from wanting to get better. Simply quitting may not change the psychological aspect of addiction. Some people quit for a while, and then take alcohol again, only to overdose because they did not detox properly. Recovery involves changing the way the patient feels, thinks, and behaves.