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It can be difficult when one of your parents drinks; not only can it have a negative impact on their own health, but it can also affect the entire household and family. Whether you’re a young person or an adult, and are living with a parent who drinks, their destructive habits can be incredibly draining and may be having a detrimental effect on your quality of life and wellbeing.

Here, we outline the symptoms of alcoholism to look out for in your parent and also offer advice on what to do if you’re living with an alcoholic parent, so you and the rest of the family don’t have to live with the impact of their addiction. We also provide information on the expert addiction rehab that we can offer at Manor Clinic.

What are the signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction?

The symptoms of alcohol addiction can vary from person to person and also depending on how much your parent is drinking and how frequently. However, if you notice the following signs in your parent, this could suggest they have a drinking problem.

Does your parent:

  • Lie about the amount and frequency of their drinking habits?
  • Seem to have developed a tolerance to alcohol, meaning they need to drink more to feel ‘drunk’?
  • Drink heavily when they’re on their own?
  • Drink to the point of passing out?
  • Drink more or for longer than they had originally intended?
  • Miss out on special occasions and important events because of their drinking habits?
  • Become defensive when you ask them about their drinking habits?
  • Seem unconcerned with their appearance and personal hygiene?
  • Drink alcohol first thing in the morning?
  • Seem irritable and angry when they haven’t had a drink?
  • Continue to drink despite the negative effects that it has had on their life?

If you have spotted these behaviours and symptoms in your parent, this can be a sign that they are struggling with an alcohol addiction. It’s important to understand that alcoholism is a serious problem that often needs professional help to overcome.

Advice for young people with an alcoholic parent

If one of your parents is addicted to alcohol, you may feel like you are the cause of their drinking habits, but this is not the case. Their addiction is not your fault. Alcoholism is an illness and your parent needs help from a doctor so they can get better.  

If you’re worried about your parent, it’s really important that you speak to an adult you trust about your worries. This might be your other parent, whether they live with you or not, another relative, or a teacher at school. Living with a parent who drinks can be very lonely at times but you should never feel as though you’re on your own. You might feel worried or embarrassed about talking to someone else about your parent’s behaviour. But doing so is really important to help them get back on track. By opening up to someone you trust about how you’re feeling, they’ll be able to support you and can also take steps to get your parent the help they need for their problems.

If you’re worried about your parent, this can mean that you forget to look after yourself. Remember that you are important too and you should make sure you’re looking after your own health and wellbeing. Spend some time each day doing something you enjoy, whether that’s listening to your favourite music, reading a book or hanging out with friends.

Advice for adults with an alcoholic parent

If you’re an adult and are living with an alcoholic parent, there are a number of practical things you can do to help them get the support they need.

Speak to your parent about your concerns

It’s important that you have an open and honest conversation with your parent about their drinking habits, and let them know the impact that their drinking is having on you and other members of the family. There are a number of things to consider before starting this conversation, to ensure it’s as constructive as possible:

  • Make sure you choose a time and place that is safe and private to have this conversation. Broaching the subject when your parent feels relaxed and comfortable makes it more likely they will open up to you about their drinking and what they’re going through
  • Try to approach the conversation in a non-judgemental way and place the focus on you rather than your parent so they don’t feel ‘attacked’. You can do this by using phrases starting with “I” rather than “you”, such as: “I’m worried about you” or “I’m concerned about the amount you’re drinking”. By placing the onus on you, your parent is less likely to feel criticised and therefore is more likely to open up to you
  • If you are met with any denial, try to mention specific occasions and examples of their drinking. For example you could say: “I’m concerned about the amount you’re drinking when you get home from work”
  • Stick to positive language and avoid negative labels like ‘alcoholic’ or ‘addict’ – again, this makes it less likely your parent will feel judged or attacked which means they’re more likely to open up to you
  • Make sure you don’t become frustrated during the conversation. Instead, try to use a concerned, gentle and sympathetic tone throughout, rather than seeming disapproving or judgemental
  • Be positive and solution-focused when it comes to next steps. Ask your parent what they would like to happen next and how you can help them
  • Make it clear that you won’t ‘enable’ or facilitate their alcoholism, and make sure you stick to any boundaries you put in place

Look after yourself

Living with an alcoholic parent can be draining. That’s why it’s so important that you take the time to look after yourself too - only when you feel physically and mentally well, will you be able to help someone else.

Make sure you’re not neglecting your own needs. Ensure you get enough sleep and are eating healthily on a daily basis. It’s also important that you set time aside to do the things you enjoy and find relaxing whether this is having a hot bath, reading your favourite book, or going for a coffee with a friend.

It can also be helpful to share your thoughts and feelings about your parent’s drinking habits with a person you trust, whether this is another family member or a close friend. This means that you can get some support whilst you’re supporting your parent. You could even reach out to groups and organisations such as Families Anonymous and Al Anon where you can meet other people who are going through similar experiences. These groups can provide you with the chance to discuss your situation with people who can empathise with you, and receive mutual support as you navigate this difficult time.

Support your parent to seek professional addiction help

Living with an alcoholic parent can be tough for everyone involved. While the above steps can help you to deal with this at home, it’s important to recognise that alcohol addiction often needs specialist treatment within a dedicated addiction rehab centre. That’s why it’s important to support your parent to get the help they need.

You could offer to call a specialist rehab centre, such as Manor Clinic, on your parent’s behalf to discuss their needs and options for treatment.

Our high quality Addiction Treatment Programme at Manor Clinic consists of:

  • A free, no obligation addiction assessment
  • Medically assisted alcohol withdrawal detoxification, if this is needed
  • Structured group therapy
  • A high quality family programme
  • Access to 12-Step support groups
  • Free aftercare for life
  • Free family support for life

With your help, as well as treatment within a specialist centre, your parent can work towards achieving sobriety and returning to the healthy, happy and fulfilling life they deserve.

For more details please call 023 8046 4721 or click here to book a FREE CONFIDENTIAL ADDICTION ASSESSMENT. Alternatively, you can enquire online and one of our team will get back to you via your preferred contact method.  

Coronavirus information

While the current coronavirus restrictions and social distancing measures are in place, we are offering online support to both new and current patients. We continue to offer access to inpatient services where this is required. For more information on our online therapy service, please visit our Priory Connect page or read our latest online therapy blog. For the latest information on how Priory are responding to coronavirus, and keeping our patients and staff safe, please visit our COVID-19 preparedness blog.

This blog was reviewed by Jacqui Newbold, (FDAP Accredited, NVQ 2,3 & 4 in Care/Mental health, Level 3 counselling, Advance level 4 in counselling), Addictions and Aftercare Manager at Manor Clinic.

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