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How to Deal with an Alcoholic Parent

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Imagine growing up with a parent who struggles with alcohol addiction.

The emotional turmoil, the unpredictable behaviour, and the responsibility of taking care of them can be overwhelming.

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For many children, this is a harsh reality. Learning how to deal with an alcoholic parent is a challenging task, but understanding their addiction, setting boundaries, and seeking help for both them and yourself is crucial for a better future.

If you are worried about how much your parent drinks and you don’t know how to help them stop drinking, make sure you seek emotional support for yourself and help for your loved one as soon as possible.

Key Takeaways

Recognising the Signs of Alcoholism in Your Parent

Understanding and seeking help begins with recognising the signs of a drinking problem, such as alcohol abuse, in your parent.

Alcohol addiction manifests in various ways, affecting not only the individual but also their family, especially their children.

Whether it is young children of alcoholic parents or adult children, alcohol use disorders (and drug use disorders) can be horrific.

There are two primary categories of indicators: physical and behavioural, and emotional and mental consequences.

Physical and Behavioural Indicators

Physical indicators of a parent’s drinking may include memory blackouts, alterations in appetite, and modifications in sleep patterns.

Furthermore, behavioural indicators may involve consuming more alcohol than usual, drinking in secrecy, and using alcohol to manage stress.

Keep in mind, that not all alcoholics exhibit the same indications.

However, awareness of these signs aids in understanding the severity of your parent’s alcohol addiction and seeking appropriate support.

Emotional and Mental Consequences

The emotional and mental repercussions of having an alcoholic parent can be just as significant as the physical and behavioural indicators.

Feelings of guilt, low self-worth, and stress are common among children of alcoholic parents.

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These children may internalise blame or feel they could be doing more for their parent, particularly when the alcoholic parent experiences withdrawal symptoms and places blame on them while intoxicated.

The emotional consequences can result in a considerable amount of stress and impact their overall well-being.

Approaching Your Alcoholic Parent About Their Addiction

After identifying the signs of alcoholism in your parent, the next step involves approaching them about their addiction.

This conversation can be challenging, but with careful planning and a supportive tone, it can pave the way for your parent to seek treatment and address the emotional and mental consequences of their addiction.

Bear in mind that your parent may not be ready to accept help or even acknowledge

Choosing the Right Time and Place

When approaching your parent about their addiction, consider the timing and setting.

It is recommended to approach them when they are sober and in a calm state, and not while they are under the influence of alcohol.

A quiet and private setting is also advised to ensure an open and honest conversation.

If you have valid concerns about a potentially violent response, it is advisable to not have the conversation unaccompanied and have another person present.

Maintaining a Supportive Tone

To maintain a supportive and non-confrontational tone during the conversation, use “I” statements that emphasise your own feelings and concerns instead of accusing your parent.

For instance, instead of saying “You are ruining our family,” you could say “I feel hurt and concerned when you drink.”

By focusing on your emotions and the impact of their addiction on you, you create a safe space for open communication, which can motivate your parent to seek help.

Offer to assist them in locating resources and treatment plans, such as inpatient rehab and outpatient programmes and therapy for families.

Setting Boundaries and Avoiding Enabling Behaviours

Setting boundaries and avoiding enabling behaviours is a crucial part of navigating the challenges of having an alcoholic parent.

Enabling an alcoholic happens when one is facilitating and permitting them to persist in the consumption of alcohol.

By not enabling, you can protect your own well-being and encourage your parent to seek help.

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Identifying Enabling Behaviours

Enabling behaviours are actions taken by family members or friends of an alcoholic that unintentionally support or enable the alcoholic’s addiction.

Examples of enabling behaviours may include:

Establishing and maintaining boundaries while seeking professional assistance and exploring treatments for your parent would help prevent enabling behaviours.

Establishing and Enforcing Boundaries

Establishing and enforcing boundaries with your alcoholic parent can protect your mental health and encourage them to seek help.

To establish boundaries, communicate your expectations clearly, and be resolute and consistent in implementing these boundaries.

By doing so, you create a healthier environment for yourself and your loved ones while motivating your parent to address their addiction.

Seeking Professional Treatment Options

Professional help and various treatment options can significantly boost your alcoholic parent’s chances of recovery, providing much-needed support for the entire family.

There are various treatments available, ranging from inpatient and outpatient programmes to group therapies and the treatment process within self help groups.

Inpatient and Outpatient Programmes

An inpatient treatment programme is a residential plan where individuals remain at a facility 24/7 and receive comprehensive care and assistance.

Outpatient programmes, on the other hand, allow individuals to attend therapy sessions and receive assistance while residing at home and continuing their daily routines.

Both options have their advantages, with inpatient programmes offering a secure and structured environment for individuals to focus on their recovery process, while outpatient programmes offer more flexible treatment options.

Resources for inpatient and outpatient programmes may be obtained from local hospitals and addiction treatment centres.

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Family Therapy and Support

Family counselling is a form of psychotherapy geared towards improving the dynamics among family members and fostering a sense of understanding and mutual aid.

It can help address the impact of alcoholism on families and offer support and guidance in managing the situation.

This counselling can also facilitate the acquisition of skills necessary for more effective communication and understanding among members, providing a framework for improving the level of support within the family.

Self-Care and Coping Strategies for Children of Alcoholic Parents

Maintaining mental well-being requires self-care and coping strategies for children of alcoholic parents.

By prioritising your mental wellbeing and seeking support through therapy, you can better cope with the challenges of having a parent with a drinking problem and ensure a healthier future for yourself.

Prioritising Your Mental Health

Seeking therapy can help you cope with the challenges of having an alcoholic parent and prioritise your mental health.

Focusing on yourself enables effective management of stress and processing challenging emotions.

Acquiring professional aid from a therapist or joining a support group can provide you with the tools and resources needed to navigate your parent’s alcoholism and its impact on your life.

A therapist can help you learn new coping skills and help you through your own emotions. They are also great at helping you and your loved one create healthy relationships whilst dealing with these complex emotions.

Support Groups and Resources

Support groups and resources, such as Al-Anon and Alateen, provide a space for sharing experiences and learning from others in similar situations, including those dealing with an alcoholic parent.

These al-anon groups can offer direction, comprehension, and a secure environment for children of alcoholic parents to express their encounters and acquire assistance.

Examples of groups and resources available include Nacoa, Adfam, and Verywell Mind, which can be accessed either online or through local groups.

Dealing with a Parent Who Refuses Help

Though dealing with an alcoholic parent who refuses help can be challenging, respecting their decision while finding support for yourself is vital.

Although it may be difficult, remember that you cannot force them to change, and it is essential to prioritise your own mental and emotional well-being.

It is important to remember that you are not responsible for your parent’s decisions.

If you would like to help an alcoholic parent but don’t know where to start, please make sure to contact our team today – we can help you!

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Respecting Their Decision

While it may be difficult to respect your parent’s decision to refuse help, remember that forcing them to change is not an option.

By tackling the predicament with compassion and understanding, while concurrently emphasising your own mental and emotional wellbeing, you can maintain a healthier relationship with your loved one and ensure your own well-being.

Finding Support for Yourself

Finding support for yourself, through therapy, can help you cope with the challenges of having a guardian who refuses help.

As adult children, you can consult a reliable individual, such as an educator, therapist, or relative, and explore digital resources or groups local to your area.

Focusing on your own mental and emotional health aids in better navigation through the complexities of your parent’s substance abuse, enabling you to continue leading a fulfilling life.


Dealing with an alcoholic parent is an incredibly challenging experience that requires understanding, support, and self-care.

Recognising the signs of substance use disorders, approaching your loved one about their addiction, setting boundaries, and seeking help are all crucial steps in addressing this issue.

Remember, as a child of an alcoholic parent, prioritising your mental health and finding support for yourself is essential for your overall well-being.

You are not alone in this journey, and with the right resources and support, you can overcome the challenges that come with having an alcoholic parent and create a better future for yourself and your family.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I deal with my mother being an alcoholic?

In order to deal with your mother being an alcoholic, it is important to express your care for her, include other important people in her life, offer emotional and practical support, and seek help from a doctor or medical professional.

Learn as much as you can about their alcohol problems before starting the conversation to ensure it goes as smoothly as possible.

What happens to the family of an alcoholic?

Alcoholism can have a profoundly negative effect on an entire family

This can lead to financial problems, strained relationships and physical and emotional harm.

What are some physical and behavioural indicators of alcoholism in a parent?

Physical indicators of alcoholism in a parent may include memory blackouts, alterations in appetite and changes in sleep patterns.

Behavioural indicators include consuming more alcohol than usual, drinking in secrecy and using alcohol to manage stress.

What are some ways to set boundaries with an alcoholic parent?

Setting boundaries with an alcoholic loved one requires being clear about your expectations, and being consistent and resolute in following through.

This can help safeguard your mental health and potentially prompt the loved one to get help.

It is important to be prepared for your loved one to continue drinking, if this is the case make sure to let them know you are there for them if they want help.

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