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

Reviewed Jul 13, 2021

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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.

When a parent has an alcohol problem, the whole family 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 their drinking has hurt their child they are 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

Al-Anon Family Groups

National Association for Children of Alcoholics

By Drew Edwards, M.S., Ed.D.

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.

When a parent has an alcohol problem, the whole family 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 their drinking has hurt their child they are 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

Al-Anon Family Groups

National Association for Children of Alcoholics

By Drew Edwards, M.S., Ed.D.

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.

When a parent has an alcohol problem, the whole family 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 their drinking has hurt their child they are 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

Al-Anon Family Groups

National Association for Children of Alcoholics

By Drew Edwards, M.S., Ed.D.

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, assessments, 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.  ©2019 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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