How to Cope With Alcoholic Parents

If you’re struggling to cope with your parent’s drinking problem, here are some tips on how to cope with alcoholic parents. Whether your parent is in recovery or not, it’s important to find a way to express your feelings and cope with the impact that this has had on your life.

Does Your Parent Have a Drinking Problem?

Alcoholism is a disease that is characterized by the inability to cease drinking, even when it has negative effects on your health and well-being. 


Signs of an Alcohol Problem

If you’re worried about your parent’s drinking problem, there are a few telltale signs that you should be alert to. Here are some of the most common signals that your parent might be struggling with alcohol addiction:

  1. They start to drink more than they used to.
  2. They start neglecting their responsibilities at work or at home. 
  3. Drinking becomes an escape from problems or stressful situations – they may start using alcohol as a way to numb out or relax.
  4. Their behavior changes dramatically when they drink – for example, they may become reckless or violent in ways that weren’t usual before booze became a part of their life (or vice versa).
  5. You notice changes in their finances – for example, if money is being spent on drinks rather than necessities like food and rent/mortgage payments
  6. They start neglecting their personal hygiene or appearance.


How Alcoholism Affects the Family

Alcoholism affects not just the alcoholic themselves, but also their families and loved ones.

In the situation where the parent is the alcoholic, the child is often forced into roles they don’t want – either as peacemakers between warring adults or as secondary caregivers while their parents are busy getting drunk instead of taking care of them properly. These children often develop unhealthy coping mechanisms as a result. 

child hiding from parents fighting due to alcohol problem

Additional ways that alcoholism affects the family include:

  • Alcoholism can lead to financial problems for families due to loss of income or unpaid bills.
  • Families may experience tension and conflict as a result of addiction, abuse, and neglect.
  • Children witnessing their family members’ struggles with alcoholism may develop feelings of guilt or shame themselves, which can have long term consequences on their mental health and overall well-being


Dangers of Codependency

Codependency commonly develops in a relationship with an addict. Codependent individuals typically have trouble setting boundaries and managing their own affairs. They often feel responsible for the addict’s problems and end up taking on more than they can handle (both physically and emotionally). 

Codependents often become so fixated on the addict that they lose all sense of self-worth or independence. Codependents may try to “rescue” the addict instead of helping them recover on their own terms. They may also find it difficult to form new relationships because they are constantly worried about how their partner will behave.

If you are struggling with codependency with someone who suffers from addiction, it is important to seek help from a professional therapist who specializes in this type of treatment. This will allow you to set boundaries while healing your heartache caused by this toxic relationship.

 

How to Approach an Alcoholic Parent

If you are trying to cope with an alcoholic parent, it’s important to approach the situation from a perspective of understanding and compassion. 

When approaching an alcoholic parent, talk to them about their relationship with alcohol. Ask them open-ended questions about their relationship with alcohol, and try to understand why they feel the need to drink so much. 

Also communicate how their drinking is affecting those around them, including you.  Do not get angry or accusatory; instead, remain patient and supportive as you listen. Keeping your emotions in check will make the conversation easier for both of you. 

mother and daughter serious discussion

The next step is maintaining communication and staying connected. It’s important to establish healthy boundaries, but if possible, don’t let your relationship be severed completely. Instead, focus on providing support where and when you can. This could include listening non-judgmentally while they talk about their addiction, being there for emergency talks after a drinking episode (or any other crisis), or simply agreeing to disagree on certain topics so as not to fuel anger or resentment towards each other.

It may also be helpful to have someone you trust present with you during this conversation, to give you support and to keep emotions from escalating. 

Above all else, stay positive and hopeful. Alcoholism can be a very dark time in a person’s life – but with patience, understanding and support from those around them, recovery can happen eventually.


How to Help an Alcoholic Parent 

If you are a family member of an alcoholic, there is no easy answer as to what you should do. However, there are several steps that can help make your life easier and help your parent get the treatment they need.

Alcoholism is a serious and life-threatening addiction, and it can be tough to cope with an alcoholic loved one. If you’re struggling to cope with your partner’s drinking habits, there are some simple steps that you can take to help support them.

serious conversation

  • Educate yourself about alcohol addiction. Read articles or watch videos about how alcoholism affects the brain. Also seek out support groups for family members of an addict.
  • Don’t try to solve the problem on your own. Alcoholism is a disease that needs professional assistance in order to be cured. Trying to fix things on your own only makes things worse by causing tension between you and the alcoholic loved one.
  • Keep communication open. Discuss with your parent how things are going, what has been happening, and any questions or concerns that may be on either of your minds.

  • Be patient – It may take time for your parent to admit that they have a problem, and to make a change in their life. Don’t expect changes to happen overnight.

  • Don’t forget about yourself – Practice self-care, and get the support that you need. Lean on friends and family members, or see a therapist to receive practical tips on coping with the situation. 


The Importance of Boundaries With an Alcoholic Parent

Addicts will frequently attempt to manipulate you into thinking that their behavior is okay or acceptable. This might involve lying about how much alcohol they are using, asking for money constantly, etc.

It’s important not to let yourself get influenced by these lies; instead, stand firm and refuse to provide any type of financial support until your loved one has demonstrated genuine changes towards sobriety. 

Setting up healthy boundaries with your parent can keep you from enabling them, and helps them face the consequences of their own actions. It can also keep you from developing an unhealthy family dynamic due to the addiction. 


Support for Family Members

If you have a loved one who is struggling with addiction, it can be really difficult to deal with. While there are steps that you can take to stop the habit and support your family member, we also suggest speaking to an addiction specialist. 

Getting professional help will not only help you understand what’s happening but also allow you to handle situations better in times of distress. If you are looking for help for you or your loved one, contact our addiction specialists at Blueprints for Recovery, who can help you understand the next best steps to take.