Alcohol abuse doesn’t just affect the person who is struggling with the disorder, but it deeply affects the entire family as a whole. There are few things as difficult as watching someone you love struggle with something that is completely out of your control. Unfortunately, having alcoholism in the family is not uncommon. It is estimated that somewhere around 28 million children in the United States have alcoholic parents – and that 11 million of those children are under the age of 18. Not only does growing up with an alcoholic parent put an extreme amount of stress on the children in the household, but studies show that children with alcoholic parents are far more likely to begin abusing alcohol themselves. Parents who abuse alcohol tend to be more permissive, allowing their children to drink without serious consequences. Genetic predisposition is also a major factor. Alcoholism is hereditary – children with alcoholic parents are significantly more likely to have addictive personalities themselves.
The effects of alcohol abuse on children are far-reaching. Families in which one or both parents struggle with alcoholism are far more likely to experience a wide range of other (related) issues, such as:
- Poor parenting skills, leading to behavioral problems in children
- A lack of structure and schedule
- Increased conflict within the home, such as fighting, arguing and physical violence
- A lack of healthy communication, sometimes leaving children feeling isolated and alone with no one to talk to or rely on for emotional support
- A lack of a familial role model, which can lead the children closer to poor decision making and a lack of structure later on in life
- Community isolation and isolation from peers based on feelings of shame and embarrassment
- Financial struggles; those who struggle with alcoholism tend to spend a great deal on alcohol leading to debt and other forms of financial strain
If you believe that your mother or father might be struggling with alcoholism, it’s important to know that no matter how tough it may seem at the time, the patterns of alcohol abuse within the family can be broken. It’s also important to know that while there are some steps you can take in order to help, you personally don’t have the power to get your parents sober. No one does. They will have to decide that they have had enough and are willing to get help. However, if things get really severe and you begin to fear for their life then a professional intervention will be beneficial – and we can help with that. At Pine Tree Recovery Center we have extensive experience working with the children of alcoholics. We understand how grave the effects of alcohol abuse on children are and we will do everything in our power to help get your mother or father started on the road to alcohol recovery.
Parental Alcohol Abuse – Symptoms
If you believe that one or both of your parents might be struggling with alcohol abuse but you aren’t quite sure, there are several warning signs and symptoms to be on the lookout for. The symptoms include (but are not limited to):
- Memory loss and frequent blackouts
- Constantly excusing drinking/looking for reasons to drink
- Frequent hangovers/unexplained changes in sleepings patterns
- Financial issues
- Trouble at work
- Prioritizing drinking over spending time with family/other activities that were previously enjoyed
- Changes in appearance/a lack of personal hygiene
- Being secretive about drinking or drinking alone
If a lot of these warning signs ring true and you believe one of your parents is struggling from an alcohol abuse disorder, there are steps you can take to make sure they get the professional help they need. It’s crucial that you don’t attempt to help your loved one on your own – call Pine Tree Recovery to learn more about how we can help.
How to Help an Alcoholic Parent
Alcohol abuse effects on the family are devastating, but they are not uncommon. While you might feel alone in your experiences it’s important to recognize that you are not – in fact, it is estimated that alcoholism affects a staggering 17.6 million Americans nationwide. While you cannot personally force someone into changing, there are several steps that you can take to help your alcoholic parent.
- Remember that when talking to your mother or father about your concerns, coming from an accusatory place will often do far more harm than good. Rather than say, “You have a problem with alcohol,” say something like, “I’m beginning to grow a bit concerned about your relationship with alcohol.”
- Never initiate conversation while either party is under the influence of alcohol or anything else. It might be difficult to find a time when the parent you’re concerned about is sober; if you can’t find a sober window during which to have a conversation, don’t have a conversation at all
- If you feel safe doing so, make sure that the conversation happens in private – just between the two of you. If your parent is an angry drunk, avoid doing anything that might trigger an argument or violence of any kind
- Make sure you already have a rough idea of how the conversation will go – a beginning, middle and an end. This will help you to stay on track and not divert too much on tangents. Start by expressing your concern, and make sure you continuously reiterate that your concern comes from a place of care and love
- Make a list of instances that have concerned you and relay them in a non-threatening way. Say something like, “It upset me when I really wanted you to come to my game and you didn’t make it.” Be specific in the instances that you list. Again, avoid accusations
- Be sure that when you address the situation you’re coming from a personal place rather than a generalized place. “I have been concerned with the amount you’ve been drinking,” not, “You drink too much.” “I’m starting to think that your drinking habits might be affecting your health and well-being,” not, “You’re an alcoholic.”
- In order to avoid defensiveness, make sure that you’re listening to their perspective too – you want the dialogue to flow both ways. Hear them out. If your mother or father denies that there’s a problem and starts to get defensive, don’t fight back. Ask if there is another time when you two could sit down and talk
We understand how devastating it can be to watch someone you love struggle with an alcohol abuse disorder. If you have attempted to talk one-on-one and you haven’t made any progress, call Pine Tree Recovery for help. We will offer you insight and support, and set you up with a professional interventionist if necessary. If your alcoholic parent is neglecting you or emotionally or physically abusing you there are resources available. It’s important that you let someone you trust know as soon as possible, like a family member or another trusted adult. You may also want to get other family members involved – if your mother is struggling with an alcohol abuse disorder and she’s very close to her sister, for example, give your aunt a call and express your concerns. Remember that no matter how it might feel, you are never alone. Even if you can’t do anything to help your parent directly it’s important that you continue to take care of yourself and continue to make sure that all of your needs are being met. To learn more about our program of alcohol abuse recovery or to learn more about how we can help, call us today.
To learn more about our family program please give us a call today, and feel free to give us a call if you’d like some support or guidance when it comes to the more difficult-to-have conversations.
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