How to help an alcoholic parent

Watching a parent struggle with alcohol addiction can be heartbreaking and can have profound consequences on your own mental health, even increasing the risk of you developing an addiction yourself. While it may seem impossible at times, alcohol disorders can be overcome and your support could be the most important factor in helping your parent turn their life around.

On this page, we will explain how to recognise alcohol addiction and the impact it can have on families. We will also advise on the best way to approach your parent about their addiction, how to keep yourself and other people in your family safe and the treatment options available.

Living with an alcoholic parent

Dealing with an alcoholic parent on a daily basis can be incredibly difficult. They may be neglectful, have unpredictable moods and personalities and you may have witnessed or experienced abuse and violence in your home. Addiction is like a voice in the head which manipulates people into acting in a way that is not really themselves, and alcoholics often take out their frustrations and negative emotions on the people closest to them.

When you have an alcoholic parent, keeping yourself and your loved ones safe is paramount. This not only involves ensuring the safety of any children if there is violence in the home by moving out or contacting the police but also setting healthy boundaries with your alcoholic parent. This means:

  • Not making excuses for them
  • Not giving them money that could be spent on alcohol
  • Not encouraging their drinking
  • Creating an environment that encourages sobriety
  • Sticking to any ultimatums or boundaries you lay out

While you may enjoy a drink yourself from time to time, never drink with your parents or plan social events where alcohol will be present. You may feel like you shouldn’t have to change your life just because they are unable to control their drinking but enabling an alcoholic parent will only make the situation worse.

Living with an alcoholic father or mother can really take its toll and it may feel like you are totally alone. However, organisations like UKAT have vast experience in treating people who are addicted to alcohol and we can help your parent too. Contact us today to find out how we can help.

Why won’t my parent stop drinking?

Alcohol addiction is not a choice, even though it may seem like your alcoholic father or mother is prioritising their drinking over you or your family. When addiction gets its claws into a person, it can blind them to the reality of their situation and cause them to deny that they have a problem or that they are harming their family. This is why an alcoholic parent will often make excuses for their drinking or their behaviour or act defensively when confronted.

That isn’t to say that you should just accept the situation. Nobody is beyond help and the support and understanding of loved ones can be absolutely crucial in the recovery process. However, a person needs to understand and accept they have an alcohol addiction and be ready to change for treatment to be successful. You cannot force your alcoholic father or mother into rehab but try to stay patient and persistent in your efforts to help them.

Is my parent addicted to alcohol?

Your parent consuming a lot of alcohol doesn’t necessarily make them an alcoholic. While this distinction may not seem important, especially when their drinking is harming you and your family, it can impact the effectiveness of treatment. In order to recognise the signs of alcohol addiction, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Does my parent continue to drink despite the negative impacts it is having on them and the rest of the family?
  • Are they no longer showing any interest in doing the things they used to?
  • Are they constantly going to the pub or another place that serves alcohol?
  • Do they seem to be drinking more as time goes by?
  • Are they drinking alone or earlier in the day?
  • Are they showing signs of anxiety, depression or some other mental health issue?
  • Are they becoming more secretive or dishonest?
  • Have they begun to disregard their personal hygiene or appearance?

If your answer to these questions is yes, then your mother or father may be suffering from alcohol addiction. Get in touch with us today and we can explain how to help an alcoholic parent overcome their addiction and start afresh.

How to help an alcoholic father or mother

Approaching the subject of alcoholism with a parent can be incredibly difficult, particularly if they are prone to reactive or emotional behaviour. However, an alcohol intervention can be successful and it is often only when a parent is confronted with the harm they are doing that they realise they need help. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. Choose the right moment

When it comes to voicing your concerns, it is vital that you approach the situation in the right way and at the right time. Choose a time when your father or mother hasn’t been drinking and try to talk to them in a calm, understanding way. Your alcoholic parent is more likely to listen if they are not drunk and you will have a better chance of getting through to them.

2. Be clear about your concerns

Explain the impact that your parent’s drinking is having on your family with clear examples of the changes you have noticed in your relationship. Addiction loves confrontation because it provides it with the opportunity to lash out or become aggressive. This is why rates of domestic violence are higher in homes where alcoholism is an issue, particularly when there is an alcoholic father present. If things do get heated or your alcoholic parent becomes abusive or violent, be ready to end the conversation, particularly if you are worried about your safety or that of anyone else present.

3. Listen

The key to a productive discussion is honesty and compassion. Speak honestly and openly about how you are feeling but also listen to what your parent says with as much compassion as you can manage. Remember, your parent is dealing with a chronic illness. Give them room to voice their own thoughts and feelings and it may spark something in them. Some people are subconsciously aware that they need help but only truly recognise it when they are forced to confront their condition. If your mother or father is ready to get help, offer your support and love and tell them that you will be beside them every step of the way.

4. Seek professional help

If all your efforts have failed or you don’t feel confident approaching your parent about their drinking, you can seek professional help to stage an intervention. UKAT works with some of the UK’s best professional interventionists who can advise you on every step of the process. This will help you to plan what you are going to say and give you the tools and courage you need to help your parent into treatment. If your alcoholic father or mother is too emotional or violent to speak to you, you can even get the interventionist to lead the proceeding themselves.

How to help an alcoholic parent into addiction treatment

The best way to help your parent into treatment for alcoholism is to assist them when they start researching options. If your parent is willing to talk about alcohol rehab then that is a huge step in the right direction. Offer to speak to treatment facilities on behalf of your parent, or go with them to look at different rehabs.

Throughout the whole process make sure your mother or father knows that you support them 100% and will be there for them when they get out of treatment. Discuss anything they would like you to do for them while they are completing their treatment programme to ensure that the transition back into normal life is as smooth as possible. Reassure them that you will visit if that’s what they would like and if the chosen rehab allows for visitation.

Once your mother or father is admitted, make sure to call them and write to them regularly if the rehab centre allows it. Never miss out on ways to communicate during the treatment process. This will enable you to become a pillar in their recovery.

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