How to Help Your Alcoholic Parents + Coping Tips
Last Updated: November 3, 2023
Learning how to help alcoholic parents can be incredibly difficult. Addiction affects far more than the person living with a substance use disorder alone and can place undue strain on the children of alcoholic parents. But there are options for helping your parents achieve recovery and tips you can use to cope with the challenges addiction brings.
Challenges of Having an Alcoholic Parent
Living with an alcoholic parent puts emotional and psychological stress on children. You may have had to care for your parents while intoxicated, bear the brunt of emotional outbursts, or be anxious about their health and well-being.
Alcohol use disorders are not a choice; they are a disease. Without outside intervention, people living with an alcohol use disorder may struggle to cut down or stop drinking on their own.
Signs Your Parent May Struggle With Alcoholism
While the signs of alcoholism are different for everybody, some of the common symptoms that people with an alcohol use disorder face include:
- Multiple failed attempts to stop on their own
- Withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop drinking
- Frequent alcohol cravings
- High tolerance for alcohol
- Alcohol interferes with responsibilities at work or home
- Worsening mental health symptoms as a result of alcohol use
- Continued drinking despite harmful consequences
How to Talk to Your Alcoholic Parent
If you’re concerned about your parent’s alcohol use, you can follow these guidelines when opening the conversation about recovery:
Choose the Right Time & Place
Avoid bringing up a conversation about alcohol problems while your parent is intoxicated. Instead, try to find a place and time free of distractions when your parent is sober. You’ll want the privacy to talk about this deeply personal challenge.
Use “I” Statements
“I” statements are a communication style that minimizes the feeling of blame and instead focuses on personal experience. Rather than accusing or shaming your parents for their drinking, try making statements like:
- I worry about your health when you drink alcohol.
- I’m concerned that your alcohol use has become a problem.
- When you get drunk, I feel scared and worried.
These statements shift the conversation to how your parent’s alcohol use affects you rather than pointing the finger at your parents, which can cause them to become defensive.
Practice Active Listening
It’s vital that you actively listen to your parent’s experience. Avoid judging them for their actions, and be empathetic to their situation. Showing your concern can help open the door to a meaningful conversation.
How to Protect Yourself Emotionally & Physically
Despite what many people believe, an alcohol addiction doesn’t only affect the person drinking. Taking steps to protect your well-being can also put you in a better position to help your family.
Set Firm Boundaries
Setting clear boundaries around what you can and cannot do for your parent struggling with alcoholism is the first step. For instance, you may need to set boundaries around money, how you’re willing to help them, or whether you can spend time around them while they drink.
Build a Support Network
Learning how to deal with alcoholic parents is often more manageable when you have a supportive group that truly understands. Groups like Al-Anon or Alateen can help you build this support network to promote your healing.
Do Your Research
Learning more about the disease of alcoholism can help you understand why your parent struggles with alcohol use. It can also help you to recognize that their addiction is not your fault.
How to Get Your Parent Help
Whether your parent is willing to seek treatment or not, there are options for you to get them in touch with the resources to help bring about recovery. Planting the idea can encourage them to pursue treatment later.
Explore Treatment Options
First, identify alcohol treatment centers. Addiction treatment comes in several varieties, including:
- Medical detox, which focuses on helping people overcome alcohol withdrawals
- Residential rehab is a live-in facility where people receive intensive treatments and therapies for alcohol use disorders
- Outpatient rehab is a facility your parent travels to for therapy and treatment
Alcohol treatment can be a catalyst for change in your parent’s life. Several decades of scientific evidence show its effectiveness in helping people stop drinking, improve their quality of life, and live healthier lives in recovery.
Plan an Intervention
If your parent doesn’t recognize their difficulties with alcohol, an intervention may be the next step. A professional interventionist has specialized training in helping people realize their need for treatment and will help guide the intervention process. They can assist you and other loved ones in planning, rehearsing, and carrying out the meeting.
Be Present During the Recovery Journey
If it’s emotionally safe for you, support your parent while they’re receiving treatment. You could attend family therapy, talk to them about their progress, or simply let them know you’re proud of them for taking the steps toward sobriety.
Understand that relapse is often part of the recovery process. Avoid shaming or blaming your parent if they don’t immediately get better, but encourage them to pick back up and start again.
Coping With Your Parent’s Recovery
Learning how to deal with alcoholic parents can be a lifetime journey. Two main things can help you along the way:
You are not in control of your parent’s substance use. It seems simple, but truly learning to break this notion is often no easy task. Letting go of this perception of control can help you focus on your well-being and future. It also allows you to be more supportive of them.
Do what you can to help, but recognize the limits of your influence. If your parent continues drinking, it’s out of your control.
Prioritize Your Health
Even if your parent doesn’t choose to work toward sobriety, you can take steps to care for your well-being. Seek therapy or support for yourself. Identify and practice coping strategies that help you manage stress and relax.
Get Help for Your Parent Today With Same-Day Admission
If your parent is ready to start their recovery, contact The Recovery Village Kansas City by calling our recovery advocates at 816-710-5883 or filling out our confidential online contact form.
Our comprehensive addiction treatment facility has the evidence-based tools to help them recover. Treatment can spark the change needed for a long-term recovery.
American Psychiatric Association. “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5-TR).” Accessed September 21, 2023.
Huebner, R. B., & Kantor, L. W. “Advances in Alcoholism Treatment.” Alcohol Research & Health, 2011. Accessed September 21, 2023.
Volkow, N. D., Koob, G. F., & McLellan, A. T. “Neurobiologic Advances from the Brain Disease Model of Addiction.” New England Journal of Medicine, 2016. Accessed September 21, 2023.