Is It Your Responsibility to Help Your Alcoholic Parent?

Family relationships often make it hard to figure out how much to help someone who is an alcoholic. Your parent plays an important role in your life that is heavily impacted by how much they drink. Your relationship to your parent is also affected by when they started drinking and how alcohol influenced their ability to take care of you when you were young. For instance, you might be an adult who is now worried about their elderly parent developing an alcohol problem in their senior years. Or, you might have been dealing with your parent’s alcoholism your whole life.

In either case, figuring out what your responsibility to help your alcoholic parent involves gives you a starting point for handling how their drinking problem affects your life and personal relationships. Before you dive in to developing a plan for addressing your parent’s alcohol addiction, it is important to note that alcoholism affects everyone differently. Your reaction to your parent’s alcoholism could look very different from someone else’s based upon your experiences. As you begin to decide how much you want to help, remember that your relationship to your parent and overall mental health should serve as a guideline for making these important choices.

Understand How Alcoholism Affects Families

You are likely already very aware of how alcoholism affects your family. Yet, it helps to hear that none of this is your fault. At times, you might fear having your parent’s behavior leave you embarrassed in front of other people. Perhaps you’ve even avoided inviting them to family events out of the fear that they’d drink too much and cause a scene. If you were raised by an alcoholic, you might find that you developed coping mechanisms that affect your life today. You might feel like you need to walk around on eggshells to stop someone from getting mad, or you may have developed a caretaker personality. Guilt, shame and anger are all common emotions to experience as the child of an alcoholic. You might also deal with depression, anxiety or PTSD that is influenced by some of your experiences. There might also be conflicts within your family about how to address your parent’s drinking problem. You might have a sibling who doesn’t think there is an issue, or you may have other relatives who enable your parent’s drinking. All of these challenges play a role in how much you decide to help your parent.

Learn How to Establish Appropriate Boundaries

While you might leave a romantic partner who drinks too much, children of alcoholics often find it impossible to step completely away from their parent. It is normal to want to help your parent, but you also want to make sure that it does not destroy your mental health. You may also fear giving your parent financial support if they’ve lost their job and are likely to spend any money you give them on alcohol. Your first step to helping your parent is to identify the boundaries that you expect them to follow. For some people, this might mean that they can’t live or visit with you until they seek treatment for their alcohol addiction.

You might also need to restrict your parent from seeing their grandchildren when they have been drinking or refuse to let them borrow money. Although this might be hard, making it clear that you won’t tolerate their heavy drinking any longer is the best way to help them without sacrificing your mental or financial health. If possible, recruit support from other people in your parent’s life when you set boundaries. Sharing how everyone feels the same way during an intervention can help your parent see that they need help. These tips make it easier to establish boundaries with your parent.

  • Create clear boundaries
  • Explain what happens if they continue to drink alcohol
  • Remind your parent that you are acting out of love
  • Have treatment suggestions ready

Show Support When Your Parent Chooses to Get Professional Help

As tough as it might feel to establish boundaries, you can feel good about helping your parent when they decide to help themselves. Let your parent know that you are willing to support them through the process of recovery by outlining a few ways that you will stay involved. For instance, you can agree to go to family counseling with them at their treatment center. After your parent completes their initial treatment for alcohol addiction, they will need you to continue giving them support at home. One of the easiest ways to do this is to suggest sober activities that you can all do together. Take the grandkids to the park, host a family movie night with your parent’s favorite snacks or simply enjoy a dinner.

Doing things together helps to rebuild your relationship and keep your parent’s mind off of alcohol. Are you concerned about your parent’s drinking problem? Your best way to help is to get them into a treatment program. Give us a call at 844-639-8371! We’ll help you find your parent the right place to get sober.

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