Coping with an alcoholic parent
Whatever your age and wherever you are in life, having an alcoholic parent can be challenging, frustrating and heart breaking. Your childhood may have been ruined by neglect, violence and uncertainty. Perhaps you’re concerned where your mother or father’s alcoholism will finally lead them to. There’s a strong chance that you feel alone and isolated – which is why it’s important to understand that you need support too and that there is help available.
Putting you first
It’s only natural for us to want our loved ones to be healthy and happy. Sadly, it’s not possible to ‘fix’ an alcoholic parent and trying to cure their alcoholism only leads to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. The odds are you’ve tried everything in the past from hiding drink (they simply find more) to begging, shouting and screaming and bargaining.
What really matters is taking care of yourself. This isn’t selfish; you have just as much right to a productive and satisfying life as the next person. The good news is that there are simple but effective way to prepare for the hurdles ahead.
Keep yourself safe – if your parent becomes violent when drinking, it’s important to keep a physical distance. This can be very difficult as it may mean moving out if you live together but being free from abuse is critical to your wellbeing. If possible, gain the support of family and friends. Don’t be afraid to speak out about the problem as people can’t help if they’re unaware.
Understand that the situation isn’t temporary – alcoholism tends to creep up over time. There are instances where people become addicted almost overnight, but this isn’t typical. Sometimes it’s tempting to believe that excessive drinking is due to certain problems or events. So if your father’s been having a stressful time at work, he’ll cut down on drinking once it’s over. The truth is that drinking is the problem in itself no matter what’s happening in the rest of a person’s life.
Find a support group – many people who have family members (including parents) living with alcoholism find support groups a huge help. Al-Anon is a fellowship of relatives and friends of alcoholics who share their experiences in a safe and anonymous place to help solve problems and provide invaluable support. Alateen is part of Al-Anon and is for young people aged 12 to 17 years.
Develop your own healthy coping strategies – even as an adult, our parents’ behaviours are normal to us. You are probably more at risk of developing alcoholism as you have an alcoholic parent, so make sure you’re not turning to alcohol to deal with stress and unhappy situations.
One of the toughest and most frustrating challenges you’re likely to experience is your parent’s denial that there is a problem. This is an extremely common trait of addiction (so common in fact that it almost defines addiction). Your parent may laugh off suggestions of getting help as though you’re being overly dramatic. They may become aggressive or their alcoholism might be so developed that they are past the point of having a sober conversation.
At Step One Recovery, we’re very aware of the difficulties friends and relative face when trying to help their loved ones. We provide expert alcohol rehab and recovery at our exclusive recovery centre based in Spain. Just as importantly, we’re highly experienced in supporting families of people who are currently in denial of their condition.
The power of intervention
This particular type of support is known as intervention. We can arrange intervention over the phone, but where possible like to meet in person to talk through the situation with yourself, your parent and any other family members that need to be involved. You can rest assured we do everything we can to make the meeting reassuring rather than stressful or intimidating.
Experience has shown us that being in a room with professional people alongside family members can help people struggling with addiction understand that they don’t have to cope alone anymore. This can feel like a huge relief and almost liberating – encouraging your loved one to begin to admit to their problem and agree to go into rehab.
We understand that the idea of intervention can feel overwhelming but it really can be the start of truly positive change. Our intervention experts are respectful and non-judgemental. Once your parent has agreed to go into rehab we’ll take care of all the details to facilitate admission and then treatment quickly and easily.
You can be certain of complete confidentiality from the moment you get in touch. Recovery is a difficult journey but we’ll be there to guide your parent throughout treatment and beyond. We don’t believe in quick fixes and will help develop new coping mechanisms for a rich and productive life without alcohol.