How to Help an Alcoholic Father

This Page was last reviewed and changed on June 23rd 2021

Content Overview

Fathers are usually considered the pillar of the house; maybe this is why watching your dad struggle with an alcohol use disorder can feel heartbreaking and devastating. However, alcohol disorders can be overcome with mutual respect, by showing that you understand and by really understanding all that he may be going through. There are ways to become the healing force in his recovery. Alcoholism is a complex disease; it can be complicated to resolve everything alone.

Does it seem like he is ready to battle the harmful habits and demons, but maybe hasn’t decided yet? Although you are doing your best to support him on the journey to recovery, maybe sometimes you may feel like giving up, as the addiction has won. However, as his child, you are able to influence him enough to take the first small steps onto the path of recovery.

Plenty of free and private alcohol addiction treatment services can assist you both in healing from the effects of alcohol use disorder.

Does My Father Have an Alcohol Problem?

In order to be able to assess properly whether or not your father does have an addiction to alcohol, you first need to be able to successfully recognise the signs and symptoms of this condition.

Alcohol use disorder, or alcoholism, is defined as a pattern of alcohol use which involves issues such as regarding exhibiting control over your drinking habits, being overly preoccupied with alcoholic beverages, continuing to drink even when it causes problems for yourself or those around you, needing more to get the same effect as before, as well as experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you decrease or stop drinking.

Therefore alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder, is not equal to drinking a little bit too much every now and then. If your dad does have a problem with his drinking habits, he will struggle to drink in moderation. Does it almost always end up that he keeps on drinking to extremes, even if he tells you that he is just going to have one drink?

It is obvious that “issues” and “problems” are sometimes vague description of what alcoholism involves. However, there are some signs that can help you define your father’s condition more precisely:

Signs Your Father May be Struggling with Alcoholism

  • No longer showing any interest in doing the things he used to.

  • Is constantly going to the pub, or anywhere else that serves alcohol.

  • Seems to be drinking more and more as the days and weeks go by; you can see this by the number of empty bottles and cans that are in the bin.
  • He’s drinking earlier in the day.
  • Anxiety, depression or some other mental health issue.
  • Becoming more secretive and succumbing to dishonesty.
  • Often experiencing hangovers.
  • Going out often; keeping his location a secret.
  • Disregards personal hygiene or his appearance.
  • Regularly feels exhausted, moody or unwell.
  • Prefers to isolate himself.
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How Do I Approach My Father About His Drinking Habits?

According to some sources, seven steps are at the basis of communicating to someone when you’re worried about their drinking:

1. Communicate – Communication is not the same as talking; it’s all about being clear and showing as much as telling. Discuss with him the effects his alcohol use has on the family with examples, explain to him about the changes you have noticed in your relationship and how it affects you. Setting up boundaries and being strict with them is also a way of communicating your position in this situation.

2. Talk – Always discuss problems and plans; share your ideas with him all the time.

3. Listen – As well as talking, listening is part of the communication. While sharing your position is very important, you also need to give him room for existing as part of this process. Let him tell you how he feels and his plans.

4. Look for solutions – problems are indicators, but you need to work out the solutions together.

5. Decide what to do – come up with decisions together.

6. Start to act – Forget the enabling ways; be strict with boundaries; help him start what you’ve planned together.

7. Analyse the progress – create milestones, analyse the situations at each step together. Even if something doesn’t go according to plan, keep on going and don’t despair.

Things to Avoid

  • Don’t tell your dad what to do in a way that seems like you are nagging or accusing. This will lead to arguments and if you start to argue, you will struggle to talk openly and honestly with him in the future.
  • Don’t judge your dad or put him down.
  • Don’t resort to using threats or demands to try to get him to change.
  • Don’t focus on the past and mistakes he’s made.

How Can I Help My Father into Treatment?

The best way to help your dad to start on residential treatment for alcoholism is to assist him when he starts researching options. If your dad is willing to talk about alcohol rehab then that is a huge step in the right direction. Offer to speak to treatment facilities for your dad, or go with him to look at rehabs that he feels could be best suited to him. Help him decide, but keep in mind to not overtake him during the process – it’s still about him and how he feels.

Throughout the whole process make sure your dad knows that you support him one hundred per cent and will be there for him when he gets out of treatment. Discuss with him anything they would like you to do for him whilst he is in treatment, to ensure that the transition back into his normal life is as smooth as possible. Reassure your father that you will visit him whilst he is in rehab if that’s what he’d like and the chosen treatment allows for visitation. Keep on writing to him and/or calling if it’s part of the programme. Unless it’s inevitable, never miss out on ways to talk to him while he’s healing and after that. Become his pillar in recovery.

Private Alcohol Treatment vs NHS Outpatient Services

In the United Kingdom, you have the possibility of picking between private and public drug and alcohol treatment services. The NHS provides a certain amount of free drug and alcohol services for those who need it. However, due to long waiting times, limited availability or funding for residential treatment and the lack of consistency in treatments, people often feel more attracted to private options. 

As a growing number of private alcohol rehabs partner with private health insurance providers, the funding issue becomes less of a factor in choosing the right programme.

Below are the pros and cons of both private and NHS drug and alcohol treatment:

  • Admission process – you will always be able to find somewhere private that will be able to accept you within 24 hours. Sometimes, the NHS may take even months to find a place locally.
  • Continuity – in a private rehab you will likely be treated by the same staff throughout your whole treatment process. With the NHS, you will most likely need to travel to different clinics or centres for different treatments and will be treated by whichever member of staff is on duty.
  • Therapeutic community – NHS treatment is unlikely to be in a residential rehab so the community is dispersed. Private rehabs may even offer their own recovery communities.
  • Cost – NHS treatment is free and accessible to everyone, who can bear the other negatives. Private treatment is paid by the client or their private health policy.
  • Therapies – Private rehabs often have access to many more therapists and therapeutic modalities including combinations of proven (Cognitive behavioural therapy, One-to-One psychoanalysis) and innovative (Art therapy, Music therapy, Yoga and Acupuncture) modalities.

My Father Refuses to Seek Treatment – What Should I do?

If your dad is refusing to seek treatment; don’t panic and don’t get angry, regardless of how hard it may seem. Keep on supporting him, help him with suggestions about treatments, support group meetings, offer to go with him and emphasise on how you also need this. The support should never stop, even if he declines your help.

Try not to show your exhaustion and any frustration to him; do not become an excuse or an enemy. Try to still be his pillar to sobriety by giving him an escape route every time he is going to drink – counter offer sober events and fun times without binging.

Can I Force My Father into Treatment?

The simple truth is, no – you can’t force your dad into treatment, and even if you could, it wouldn’t help. One of the key ingredients to a successful treatment programme is the honest desire to get sober. Without it, you may put your father through a process which is costly and time-consuming but will almost certainly prove unsuccessful.


  1. 1. (accessed 22/01/2020)
  2. 2. (accessed 22/01/2020)
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