My Parent Is An Alcoholic. What Should I Do?
It’s tough to live with parents who are struggling with alcohol addiction. Especially for children, it is a painfully traumatic experience. Instead of your home being a safe haven where you feel relaxed and secure, it becomes a nightmare. Threats of verbal abuse and physical violence abound in the home, making the environment quite toxic.
The worst part is that even if you try to talk your parents out of their drinking habits, they don’t listen to you. They drive you away, or worse, lash out at you with harsh words or harmful actions. You may have experienced your mother or father breaking a glass in front of you when you confront them about their drinking problems. Or they could be constantly yelling at you even if you try to talk to them calmly.
What you may feel when living with alcoholic parents
When your parents are like this, you will definitely find it hard to feel safe around your parents. Instead, you could be:
- Embarrassed about their drinking problems
- Angry at them for drinking all the time
- Worried about their health and well-being
- Frustrated when they behave the same way all the time
- Uneasy when you’re near them
- Finding it hard to trust their words
- Overwhelmed by the situation at home
- Depressed or anxious
These negative emotions do not help you out as a family at all. In fact, they only create distance between you and your parents. Eventually, you may not want to live with them anymore for fear of your own safety. That’s normal, though; don’t be too hard on yourself if ever you feel that way.
How would you act around your alcoholic parents?
If you live with parents addicted to alcohol, you could find it quite hard to be yourself around them. You might act in the following ways:
- You’re always on guard when talking to them.
- You try your hardest not to do anything that will upset them.
- You don’t ask them even for things you need.
- You don’t want to talk to them about their alcohol problems.
- You constantly get into fights with them.
- You keep your bad feelings about them to yourself and keep their addiction a secret.
- You would have trouble keeping up with school work, or sometimes skip school entirely.
- You find the need to take on the responsibilities that your parents should be doing.
- You act like you don’t care about your parents’ issues, even if you feel hurt deep inside.
What should I do?
First, you have to recognize that your parents’ alcoholism is not your fault. You had no part in making them addicted to alcohol. For this reason, you should not blame yourself, even if there are times that your parents blamed you for their problems. It’s the alcohol talking, not them.
Then, it’s crucial to share your struggles with someone you trust. It could be your best friend, or better yet, a trusted adult. Tell them your thoughts and feelings about your parents’ situation. Talking to someone else could be a relief in itself. The best part is they may even be able to help you out.
Also, you need to recognize your own emotions. Your feelings about your parents are completely valid. You don’t have to sweep them under the rug. Pretending that everything is all right will not help. Instead, put those emotions into words. You may write them down or express them to a trusted person.
If it comes to the point that you feel like home is no longer a safe place, call for help. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is always available. Pick up the phone and call (800) 799-SAFE. And if your life is in immediate danger, call 911 right away. Otherwise, reach out to a trusted relative or friend and ask if you can stay in their place for a while.
Lastly, if you can, find a support group like Alateen. Talking with others who share the same struggles is always an effective way to cope with your alcoholic parents.
Is there any way for me to help my parents?
You may still be concerned about your mother and father at home. You may have tried and failed a lot to talk them out of their drinking. You may even want them to go through rehab, but you just can’t make them. They just end up denying the problem and telling you off.
Don’t feel hopeless, though. The good news is there are a number of ways you can help them.
When you decide to have a conversation with your parents about their alcohol addiction, make sure there’s someone else with you. Preferably, this person is someone you and your parents both trust. Then, remember these guidelines:
- Do not try to convince your parents from the get-go that they really have an alcohol addiction. Instead, just let them know of your concern that they might have a problem.
- Avoid starting a conversation with them if they’re drunk.
- Set a date and time to have the conversation.
- From the very beginning of the conversation, let your parents feel that you care about them.
- Throughout your talk, keep pointing out that you’re doing this because you’re concerned about them.
- Do not make them feel like you’re blaming or accusing them. Instead, use “I” statements. For example, “I noticed that you’ve been drinking a lot, and that makes me concerned.”
- Mention any behaviors that have made you worried.
- Let them talk too.
- Avoid speculating or judging your parents when they talk.
- If they deny that there’s a problem, arrange for another conversation in the future.
But if you do manage to make them realize they have a drinking problem, you’ve succeeded in the first step. The next step is to get professional help so their alcoholism can be dealt with properly. They may have to go to a rehab center, or they can join groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).