How children can help an alcoholic parent

This Page was last reviewed and changed on June 7th, 2022

Verified by Dr. Mateen Durrani
MBBS; DPM(lre); MSc(Lon); BSPsych(Lon)

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Content Overview

If you are living with a parent that is constantly drinking, needs alcohol to stay calm or becomes unpredictable when they drink, then they are likely to be suffering from alcohol addiction.

We understand how difficult it is living with an alcoholic parent, and you are not alone. One in five UK children lives with a parent who drinks too much, which can be confusing, frightening and make you want to keep secrets. But it’s important to remember that experts can help an alcoholic through recovery so things can get better. This page will explain what you need to know to improve the situation.

The most important step

Alcohol addiction means that a person does not have any control over their drinking, even if they are causing harm or have a desire to stop. This is because it changes the functions in the brain, and changes logical thinking.

The most important thing to do when the person looking after you is an alcoholic is to take care of yourself. We understand that your parent may behave in a way that makes you worry about them or say things that make you feel guilty. But it is not your responsibility to look after them. Your priority is to keep yourself safe and happy and improve your situation.

If you have no other adult you can turn to, you do not feel safe or your parent’s drinking is negatively impacting your life, then you can contact the National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACOA). This is a registered charity that exists to help children living with alcoholic parents, and you can call them at any time if you want to talk or need advice.

Why doesn’t my parent stop drinking alcohol?

It’s never easy trying to figure out why your mum, dad or carer won’t stop drinking. You may have asked them many times to stop or acted in a way that you hope makes them recognise the damage alcoholism is causing. However, it’s important to remember that alcohol addiction is not within their control and you cannot make your parents change their behaviour, regardless of how hard you try.

No matter how much your parent cares about you or what you do to prevent it, alcoholism alters the brain functions and it will not be possible for them to stop drinking without medical help.

How can I help my alcoholic parent?

The most effective way you can help someone with an addiction is to educate yourself on alcoholism. Understanding alcohol addiction means you can see things from their side and therefore communicate effectively. You can read the alcohol rehab and treatment page on this website, ask other adults, look for information in the library or call our helpline to find out more.

Here are some common signs of alcohol addiction:

Understanding that alcohol addiction is difficult to control without assistance will help you realise why they are drinking the way they are and how urgent it is that they access help. You can also look up different treatment options, so you comprehend what is involved and how long it will take.

Alcohol addiction is treatable and we offer rehabilitation services to help people recover from alcoholism and learn to live happily without it, so please reach out for support rather than attempting to handle this by yourself. An addiction treatment centre such as UKAT or a charity such as NACOA will be able to help you with the next steps.

Please call us for free advice if you have questions about treatment and how it works.

Can I get my parent professional help?

You cannot force your parent to go to rehab, but there are things you can do to persuade them to get help.

If your parent has a strong desire to stop drinking, then they may be open to talking about treatment. You can suggest that they attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings, to talk about their relationship with alcohol and get an idea of how therapy feels. These are free of charge and are held every week all over Britain. You can also suggest that they call or visit our treatment centre. Talking with a professional about what rehab is and how it will help may reduce their anxiety around the subject, helping them to reflect on their behaviour and volunteer into the programme.

Conversely, because addiction is all-consuming, your parent may not believe they have a problem when you talk to them about it. This can be frustrating and upsetting, but you must understand that it’s not because they don’t trust you or don’t care – it’s because the addiction tells them that nothing is wrong and they believe they are in control of what they are doing.

It is challenging for someone with alcohol addiction to admit that they are upsetting you and not looking after everything properly, so they may blame their drinking on you or other things. If this happens, try not to take it personally. Find someone you can trust to help remove you from the situation until your parent is willing to take control of their addiction and seek help.

During the Covid-19 pandemic visits to our centres are limited to avoid any spread of Coronavirus into our clinics. However, you can call our admissions team to speak to a professional about rehab, ask any questions and see whether it is something you’d like to try.

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Should I tell people what’s happening?

Your parent may be in denial about their drinking and tell you not to mention it to anyone. Irrespective of what they tell you, you should never feel as if you have to keep this a secret. Alcohol addiction affects millions of people across the UK and is much more common than you may believe.

Addiction can only be helped if you talk about it. If nobody is aware that your parent is drinking, then the issue will be ignored and they will not realise that they have any support.

However, we know that if your parent hides their drinking well, then other adults may find it difficult to believe, so it’s always best to talk to a professional first. Opening up to experts who understand the ins and outs of addiction will support you and can help you through every step, so you don’t have to go through it alone.

The impact of an alcoholic parent on families

The impact alcoholic parents have on families can cause impressionable children to fall into addiction themselves. If you are a parent with alcohol addiction or you are worried about a child with alcoholic parents, you can talk to one of our team to book private addiction treatment.

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If you successfully complete our 90-day inpatient treatment programme but experience a relapse within 30 days of leaving, we will welcome you back for complimentary 30 days of treatment.*

* Click here to learn more or contact UKAT directly for rehab availability.

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