How to Deal with an Alcoholic Parent

Dealing with an alcoholic parent can be a difficult and painful experience. Getting help for a parent suffering from alcoholism can seem out of reach and unattainable. At times it can even seem impossible. However, there are steps the children of alcoholic parents can take to secure the help they need and guide them on the path to recovery. Strategies that children of alcoholics can use to help their loved one recover from this devastating disease includes processing guilt, building support, effective communication and consulting with a licensed professional.


Let Go of Guilt

As a child of an alcoholic, you understand how alcoholism affects the lives and relationships in a myriad of destructive and unhealthy ways. The first step in helping an alcoholic parent is to help yourself better understand the disease by consulting with a medical professional. The professional will help you with resources and help you to acknowledge that you are not to blame for your parent’s alcoholism.

Oftentimes, children of alcoholics suffer guilt over their parent’s substance abuse. Sometimes the parent specifically places blame on their children, whether explicitly or implicitly, for their behavior. Successfully helping a parent recover from alcoholism cannot come from a place of guilt. The children must recognize that the parent is responsible for their actions and their behavior.


Ensure Your Safety and Create a Support System

An important part of helping yourself is also ensuring your safety and security. Alcoholism can frequently lead to abuse particularly with loved ones and those in intimate relationships with the alcoholic. Whether the abuse is emotional or physical, it is your responsibility and priority to ensure your safety

If a parent is abusive, it is important to create distance and get yourself in a safe space. Sometimes this can seem impossible particularly if it involves young children of alcoholics. However, recognize that there are people you can reach out to for support and guidance including other family members, teachers, school counselors, and friends of the family. Find someone you trust and allow yourself to be vulnerable to open up to them about the problems you are facing.

While many children of alcoholics are embarrassed, ashamed, or feel guilty over the substance abuse of their parent, it is again important to recognize that the disease is not yours, and nor is the responsibility for that disease. There is no shame in reaching out to others for guidance and help. In doing so you can help build a support system for yourself, which is an important step in helping an alcoholic parent.


Organize and Communicate Your Feelings

With your safety secured and your support system in place, take the time to communicate with your parent exactly how you feel and specifically what you would like to see change. Only do so if your parent is not violent towards you. If your parent exhibits violent tendencies, seek professional help for a guided intervention with medical professionals.

First, write down what you would like to communicate. Think of the ways that your parent’s alcoholism has negatively affected your life, your family, your relationship with your parent, and anything else that you can think of. Organizing your thoughts on paper before you discuss them with your parent can be beneficial for both you and your parent. It can allow you to sift through the emotional trauma of living with an alcoholic and pinpoint specific examples of how their disease has impacted your life.  

Your parent may not be aware of some of these effects, and certainly sharing your perspective is an important tool to demonstrate the negative impact their alcoholism has made on those around them. Having your thoughts written down provides a tool for reference tool as the conversation will inevitably be emotional and may be met with resistance or denial.

When you are ready to have the conversation with your parent, it is important that you choose an appropriate time and place. Do not attempt to have the conversation with your parent when they are heavily intoxicated and less likely to hear what you are trying to communicate. Speak from a place of love and compassion. It is always good to be prepared if the person reacts with anger or outright denial to the message you are trying to convey.  

The conversation will have a greater impact if your loved ones can see that their actions and behaviors have genuinely hurt you and that you have a deep desire to see them recover. Use “I” phrases such as “I have seen…” or “I have experienced.” Speaking from a first person perspective about how your parent’s alcohol abuse has affected your life limits the ways in which your parent can dispute your claims since they are your own experiences. Also, speaking in these terms can minimize the appearance that you are placing blame on your parent.


Find the Right Treatment Plan

To achieve lasting recovery, it is important to seek treatment from a qualified medical professional or recognized treatment facility. It is important to research different treatment plans and to find the option that is best for your parent. Well respected facilities are typically accredited by organizations such as The Joint Commission which sets predetermined criteria and standards for quality care and patient safety.

Things to consider when researching treatment options are whether the treatment facility has both inpatient and outpatient treatment, how many medical staff they have, the ratio of medical staff to patients, and the cost of specific treatment plans. If your parent is open to discussing treatment, find out what type of treatment options they would be open to and help guide them towards seeking help.

As with anything, developing the right treatment plan is a crucial step towards a successful recovery. Be engaged in the process and open to suggestions from those around you including your support system, other family members, loved ones, and medical staff. There are many different paths to recovery, and speaking with a qualified medical professional can help you determine which path is right for your loved one.


To speak to a qualified medial professional at Casa Palmera, call 888-481-4481.