Alcoholism affects nearly 17 million Americans. This crippling affliction destroys families, lives, and health of nearly everyone involved in its trappings. The abuse of alcohol can affect a person’s physical health, social and work lives, and relationships to the point where they can no longer function without assistance and intervention.
Unfortunately, the addict is not the only one affected while in the throes of addiction. Children, no matter what age they may be, are also affected. When children under age 18 live with an alcoholic parent, they can be physicall, mentally, emotionally, or even financially affected.
It is a myth that the effects of alcoholism do not extend beyond life in the home; often adult children of alcoholics experience stress and life situations that they do not sign up for as they struggle to find help for their afflicted parents. Even when alcoholism doesn’t lead to physical harm and distress, it leaves children of any age feeling neglected and unimportant.
Children of alcoholic parents struggle with feelings of low self-esteem, and they may also battle depression as they come to terms with the fact that they cannot control this destructive behavior. They may also feel blame and guilt, thinking that they might have done something to contribute to the addiction, or that they should be doing more to find help for their parents. While these feelings are noble and justified, they are not healthy if they affect one to the point where their own day to day mental and physical health are affected.
Signs of alcohol addiction
While some children have grown up in addictive environments, other children don’t realize that their parent has a drinking problem until years later, when they themselves have reached adulthood. Signs that a parent has a drinking problem include:
- Blackouts, memory loss
- Wide mood swings
- Justifying drinking or associated behaviors
- Prioritizing drinking over other activities
- Isolation from family and friends
- Increasing difficulties with finances and work obligations
- Drinking alone or trying to hide drinking
- Frequent hangovers
- Changes in appearance, behavior, or circles of friends
How do I help my parent if I discover that there’s a problem?
It is painful to discover that your desire to help them may not be enough to start the process of change for your addicted parent. You cannot change or control their behavior any more than they can now control your actions and choices. The most powerful thing you can do is to suggest that they look at their behavior to determine if they have a problem. Point out the evidence, and help guide them to a conclusion if you are able to. While this information may not be received joyfully; your parent may be angry, belligerent, and unpredictable, they need to hear what you have to say. This may not be a comfortable conversation, but it is necessary for hope and healing to begin. Here are some things you can do to begin the process of uncovering to begin recovery:
Let them know you are concerned, and it is affecting you
Parents do not want to know that their behavior is adversely affecting your life; if you let them know that you are concerned and that their behavior is causing feelings of anxiety, worry, and fear, they are more likely to take an introspective look at their own actions to determine if a change is necessary.
Don’t initiate conversations while someone is intoxicated
This information will not be well received if the substance abuse is in play. An alcoholic is already prone to angry, belligerent behavior; you want to minimize emotional distress as you point out the problem and suggest a solution. This is time for clear thinking for all of you; model this behavior and hold them to an expectation of the same.
Come with evidence in hand
While you focus on statements that emphasize how you are affected like “I feel, I am concerned, I am affected….” be ready to point out evidence that suggests a problem. If you give them evidence of situations that indicate problem behavior, it becomes more difficult for them to justify their actions and choices, and they are more likely to hear your side of the story.
Keep the lines of communication open, and offer help and support
To make sure that your parent doesn’t take a defensive stance, keep the conversation two-sided, and offer them a chance to tell their side of the story. If you are able, offer help and advice, and let them know that you are there to help in any way that you can. It can be very frightening to admit that you have a drinking problem, and your parent will need to know that they are supported as they choose recovery.
Don’t take no for an answer…permanently
While your initial conversation might not be well received, try to get your parent to agree to subsequent conversations in the future, and establish a rapport of mutual respect as you navigate this situation together. Let them know that you are willing to enlist additional support if necessary to support their healing process. Keep talking, keep sharing, and it is likely that they will see what you see in due time. Stay hopeful and positive, and be honest as to how you feel about their drinking.
While you may feel isolated in your struggle with your addicted parent, you are not alone. There is help available for both you and your parent; reach out to find what works best for you and your family. If you and your parent are looking for resources, we can help. Contact us today at
772-934-6580 for more information. We wish you the best of luck together on your recovery journey!