My Parent May Have Alcohol Use Disorder: How Can I Help?

Reviewed Aug 31, 2017

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Summary

  • Don’t go it alone.
  • Treat your parent with respect.
  • Be calm and communicate your expectations clearly.

Someone once said, “It’s hard raising your parents.” But sometimes the children must insert themselves into the center of a problem when a parent is overusing alcohol.

Being the child of someone with alcohol use disorder seems like a lose-lose situation. You can ignore the problem and keep the peace. Or you can confront the problem and possibly create a crisis. Anger and hurt feelings seem inevitable. Let’s look at both options.

Denial of a problem is the single most common defense against dealing with alcohol use disorder in a family. Because of the shared family history, buttons are easily pushed and feelings can be hurt. So ignoring the problem seems like the easiest thing to do. But that makes an alcohol problem worse. Here’s how. By doing nothing, we seem to approve of the behavior. Then when the problem blows up and a crisis occurs, the parent who is overusing alcohol says something like, “No one has ever complained about my drinking before.” But by then the damage has been done.

Confronting the problem head-on is very hard to do, but it is the most loving thing to do. It is a bit like pulling a bandage off a wound. Pulling it slowly may be less painful than ripping it off at once, but the actual hurt can last longer.

Case study

Kim is a 48-year-old wife and mother. She retired from teaching a year ago and began drinking a glass of wine in the late afternoon as she prepared dinner for her husband, Ben, and daughter, Crystal. It didn’t take long before her drinking escalated. Now Kim drinks at least one bottle of wine every afternoon and has one or two glasses during dinner with her family. After dinner she falls asleep while watching TV. Ben wakes her around 10 p.m. and helps her get into bed.

Kim is not out at bars drinking with her girlfriends or behaving wildly. She does slur her words on occasion and is much more forgetful than normal. Her husband and daughter are worried. Kim is no longer emotionally available for her family. She is also in denial. When her husband asks her how much she has consumed, she minimizes it and becomes defensive, telling him that she works hard to make things nice at home for him, and feels unappreciated when he complains. To avoid any further drama or arguments, Ben backs off and hopes she will cut down.

Crystal, who is in high school, needs her mother to be involved in her life. But as a result of Kim’s drinking, Crystal no longer comes to her mother for advice or support. One day Crystal came home after school with two of her friends and found her mother “napping” in the recliner still holding her glass of wine. Crystal was embarrassed and told her friends that her mother had a bad cold and was taking antihistamines, which makes her feel groggy.

When a parent has an alcohol problem, the whole has a problem. It is particularly hard for a child of any age to see their parent overuse alcohol. So they usually keep their feelings inside. They also avoid confrontation because they feel as if they are being disloyal to their parent, or ungrateful. These emotions are strong and not easily overcome.

What to do

  • Don’t go it alone. Talk with other family members and ask them how they see things.
  • Set a specific time to talk with your parent. In other words, make an appointment.
  • Treat your parent with respect. Tell them you love them and are worried about them.
  • Focus most of your attention and concern on your relationship with them, not the alcohol.
  • Stop enabling the problem by making excuses or covering up for your parent’s behavior.
  • When a parent who overuses alcohol sees that her drinking has hurt her child she is more interested in seeking help.
  • When you talk with your mom or dad about their drinking, avoid judgment and stick to facts and feelings: “I found you passed out on the sofa yesterday afternoon and it scared me.”
  • Be specific. Say, “I want you to quit drinking.”
  • Be calm and communicate your expectations clearly.
  • Offer help and support.

Talking with a parent about alcohol use disorder is a process, not an event. If you want help or more information, contact a behavioral health or addiction professional in your community.

Remember that having alcohol use disorder doesn’t change all the good and wonderful things about your mom or dad. Remind them of how important they are to you.

Resources

Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization
www.adultchildren.org

Al-Anon Family Groups
www.al-anon.alateen.org

National Association for Children of Alcoholics
www.nacoa.org

By Drew Edwards, EdD, MS
Reviewed by Enrique Olivares, MD, FAPA, Director of Addiction Services, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Don’t go it alone.
  • Treat your parent with respect.
  • Be calm and communicate your expectations clearly.

Someone once said, “It’s hard raising your parents.” But sometimes the children must insert themselves into the center of a problem when a parent is overusing alcohol.

Being the child of someone with alcohol use disorder seems like a lose-lose situation. You can ignore the problem and keep the peace. Or you can confront the problem and possibly create a crisis. Anger and hurt feelings seem inevitable. Let’s look at both options.

Denial of a problem is the single most common defense against dealing with alcohol use disorder in a family. Because of the shared family history, buttons are easily pushed and feelings can be hurt. So ignoring the problem seems like the easiest thing to do. But that makes an alcohol problem worse. Here’s how. By doing nothing, we seem to approve of the behavior. Then when the problem blows up and a crisis occurs, the parent who is overusing alcohol says something like, “No one has ever complained about my drinking before.” But by then the damage has been done.

Confronting the problem head-on is very hard to do, but it is the most loving thing to do. It is a bit like pulling a bandage off a wound. Pulling it slowly may be less painful than ripping it off at once, but the actual hurt can last longer.

Case study

Kim is a 48-year-old wife and mother. She retired from teaching a year ago and began drinking a glass of wine in the late afternoon as she prepared dinner for her husband, Ben, and daughter, Crystal. It didn’t take long before her drinking escalated. Now Kim drinks at least one bottle of wine every afternoon and has one or two glasses during dinner with her family. After dinner she falls asleep while watching TV. Ben wakes her around 10 p.m. and helps her get into bed.

Kim is not out at bars drinking with her girlfriends or behaving wildly. She does slur her words on occasion and is much more forgetful than normal. Her husband and daughter are worried. Kim is no longer emotionally available for her family. She is also in denial. When her husband asks her how much she has consumed, she minimizes it and becomes defensive, telling him that she works hard to make things nice at home for him, and feels unappreciated when he complains. To avoid any further drama or arguments, Ben backs off and hopes she will cut down.

Crystal, who is in high school, needs her mother to be involved in her life. But as a result of Kim’s drinking, Crystal no longer comes to her mother for advice or support. One day Crystal came home after school with two of her friends and found her mother “napping” in the recliner still holding her glass of wine. Crystal was embarrassed and told her friends that her mother had a bad cold and was taking antihistamines, which makes her feel groggy.

When a parent has an alcohol problem, the whole has a problem. It is particularly hard for a child of any age to see their parent overuse alcohol. So they usually keep their feelings inside. They also avoid confrontation because they feel as if they are being disloyal to their parent, or ungrateful. These emotions are strong and not easily overcome.

What to do

  • Don’t go it alone. Talk with other family members and ask them how they see things.
  • Set a specific time to talk with your parent. In other words, make an appointment.
  • Treat your parent with respect. Tell them you love them and are worried about them.
  • Focus most of your attention and concern on your relationship with them, not the alcohol.
  • Stop enabling the problem by making excuses or covering up for your parent’s behavior.
  • When a parent who overuses alcohol sees that her drinking has hurt her child she is more interested in seeking help.
  • When you talk with your mom or dad about their drinking, avoid judgment and stick to facts and feelings: “I found you passed out on the sofa yesterday afternoon and it scared me.”
  • Be specific. Say, “I want you to quit drinking.”
  • Be calm and communicate your expectations clearly.
  • Offer help and support.

Talking with a parent about alcohol use disorder is a process, not an event. If you want help or more information, contact a behavioral health or addiction professional in your community.

Remember that having alcohol use disorder doesn’t change all the good and wonderful things about your mom or dad. Remind them of how important they are to you.

Resources

Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization
www.adultchildren.org

Al-Anon Family Groups
www.al-anon.alateen.org

National Association for Children of Alcoholics
www.nacoa.org

By Drew Edwards, EdD, MS
Reviewed by Enrique Olivares, MD, FAPA, Director of Addiction Services, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Don’t go it alone.
  • Treat your parent with respect.
  • Be calm and communicate your expectations clearly.

Someone once said, “It’s hard raising your parents.” But sometimes the children must insert themselves into the center of a problem when a parent is overusing alcohol.

Being the child of someone with alcohol use disorder seems like a lose-lose situation. You can ignore the problem and keep the peace. Or you can confront the problem and possibly create a crisis. Anger and hurt feelings seem inevitable. Let’s look at both options.

Denial of a problem is the single most common defense against dealing with alcohol use disorder in a family. Because of the shared family history, buttons are easily pushed and feelings can be hurt. So ignoring the problem seems like the easiest thing to do. But that makes an alcohol problem worse. Here’s how. By doing nothing, we seem to approve of the behavior. Then when the problem blows up and a crisis occurs, the parent who is overusing alcohol says something like, “No one has ever complained about my drinking before.” But by then the damage has been done.

Confronting the problem head-on is very hard to do, but it is the most loving thing to do. It is a bit like pulling a bandage off a wound. Pulling it slowly may be less painful than ripping it off at once, but the actual hurt can last longer.

Case study

Kim is a 48-year-old wife and mother. She retired from teaching a year ago and began drinking a glass of wine in the late afternoon as she prepared dinner for her husband, Ben, and daughter, Crystal. It didn’t take long before her drinking escalated. Now Kim drinks at least one bottle of wine every afternoon and has one or two glasses during dinner with her family. After dinner she falls asleep while watching TV. Ben wakes her around 10 p.m. and helps her get into bed.

Kim is not out at bars drinking with her girlfriends or behaving wildly. She does slur her words on occasion and is much more forgetful than normal. Her husband and daughter are worried. Kim is no longer emotionally available for her family. She is also in denial. When her husband asks her how much she has consumed, she minimizes it and becomes defensive, telling him that she works hard to make things nice at home for him, and feels unappreciated when he complains. To avoid any further drama or arguments, Ben backs off and hopes she will cut down.

Crystal, who is in high school, needs her mother to be involved in her life. But as a result of Kim’s drinking, Crystal no longer comes to her mother for advice or support. One day Crystal came home after school with two of her friends and found her mother “napping” in the recliner still holding her glass of wine. Crystal was embarrassed and told her friends that her mother had a bad cold and was taking antihistamines, which makes her feel groggy.

When a parent has an alcohol problem, the whole has a problem. It is particularly hard for a child of any age to see their parent overuse alcohol. So they usually keep their feelings inside. They also avoid confrontation because they feel as if they are being disloyal to their parent, or ungrateful. These emotions are strong and not easily overcome.

What to do

  • Don’t go it alone. Talk with other family members and ask them how they see things.
  • Set a specific time to talk with your parent. In other words, make an appointment.
  • Treat your parent with respect. Tell them you love them and are worried about them.
  • Focus most of your attention and concern on your relationship with them, not the alcohol.
  • Stop enabling the problem by making excuses or covering up for your parent’s behavior.
  • When a parent who overuses alcohol sees that her drinking has hurt her child she is more interested in seeking help.
  • When you talk with your mom or dad about their drinking, avoid judgment and stick to facts and feelings: “I found you passed out on the sofa yesterday afternoon and it scared me.”
  • Be specific. Say, “I want you to quit drinking.”
  • Be calm and communicate your expectations clearly.
  • Offer help and support.

Talking with a parent about alcohol use disorder is a process, not an event. If you want help or more information, contact a behavioral health or addiction professional in your community.

Remember that having alcohol use disorder doesn’t change all the good and wonderful things about your mom or dad. Remind them of how important they are to you.

Resources

Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization
www.adultchildren.org

Al-Anon Family Groups
www.al-anon.alateen.org

National Association for Children of Alcoholics
www.nacoa.org

By Drew Edwards, EdD, MS
Reviewed by Enrique Olivares, MD, FAPA, Director of Addiction Services, Beacon Health Options

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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