Alcoholism rarely just affects the person with the addiction – it can affect loved ones too, whether it be parents, children, friends, co-workers, and other family members. If your parent has an alcohol problem, your life will likely be impacted too.
If you think your father has an alcohol problem, whether it be involving alcohol abuse or addiction, you more than likely want to help. But where do you start when helping your parent who has a problem with alcohol? What can you do to help?
You are not alone – there is help out there for you and your father. Read on to learn more about alcohol addiction, the dangers of substance abuse, and some of the best ways you can help your alcoholic father – from staging an intervention to simply listening to them.
Although the terms ‘alcohol addiction’ and ‘alcoholic’ are still common, medical professionals have begun to avoid using these terms as they could stigmatise those with alcohol use disorder.
According to the more recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (the DSM-5), alcohol use disorder integrates two disorders that were previously separate disorders in the DSM-IV – alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence.
Instead of referring to these as two separate disorders, medical professionals will diagnose alcohol use disorder (AUD) as mild, moderate, and severe – with alcohol dependence being the more severe form of AUD.
Alcohol use disorder is a type of substance use disorder, characterised by the lack of control over drinking alcohol – including the urge to drink alcohol despite the negative effects that excessive alcohol consumption can cause.
People with AUD may be unable to control their drinking – whether it be:
AUD is a chronic and relapsing brain disorder. It affects millions of people around the UK. In fact, around 23% of adults in England and Scotland regularly drink an excessive amount of alcohol, to the point that it increases the risk of poor health.
Somebody that has alcohol dependence is often informally referred to as an ‘alcoholic’ – although this is not a medical term used by doctors or medical professionals.
Alcoholism can affect a person’s life in many ways – it can have countless physical effects, can affect you psychologically, and can impact your relationships, family, finances, career, and much more.
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Another form of AUD, aside from alcohol dependence, is alcohol abuse. Alcohol abuse is characterised by excessive alcohol consumption – more specifically, drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short period.
Somebody with an alcohol abuse problem may not always be an alcoholic, those with alcohol dependence will often abuse alcohol.
Binge drinking is a form of alcohol abuse. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can have many negative effects on your physical health – both short-term effects and long-term effects. If you abuse alcohol, the risk of developing alcohol dependence increases.
In the UK, we have drinking limit recommendations in place. According to the NHS, you should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol in a week, spread over three or more days. This equates to around six medium glasses of wine, or six pints of 4% beer, lager, or cider.
Drinking in moderation, under 14 units of alcohol per week, can lower the risk of developing alcohol-related health problems and alcohol-related cancers – and of course, can lower the chances of you developing alcohol use disorder.
Being mindful when drinking alcohol and sticking to the NHS alcohol guidelines also hugely decreases the risk of having an alcohol overdose – also known as alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning should be considered a medical emergency.
Some signs of alcohol poisoning include confusion, slow breathing, cold and clammy skin, seizures, vomiting, and unconsciousness.
Alcohol poisoning can be deadly – for example, the combination of vomiting and unconsciousness can lead to you choking on your own vomit, which can be fatal.
If you think your parent is showing signs of alcohol poisoning, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible, whether that be taking them to a hospital or calling emergency services.
Substance abuse can affect all areas of a person’s life, including their physical and mental health. Alcohol abuse can worsen existing mental disorders – for example, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression.
Over time, excessive alcohol consumption can damage your organs. Some organs that alcohol impacts include your heart, liver, pancreas, central nervous system, and of course, your brain.
Drinking heavily can be a huge causal factor of liver problems such as liver disease. It can also weaken your immune system, which means you’ll be more vulnerable to infections.
Another danger of excessive drinking is increased blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of having a heart attack or a stroke.
These aren’t the only physical dangers of alcohol abuse – alcoholism is a causal factor in more than sixty medical conditions.
Substance abuse also puts you at risk of addiction – if you drink heavily, over time, you may develop alcohol dependence. This means that your body feels like it needs alcohol to function properly – and without it, you may experience unpleasant alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Overall, substance abuse can affect your parent’s general well-being and can lead to changes in their mood, behaviour, and overall personality.
Dealing with alcoholic parents can be especially tough as your parent may not seem like the person they once were. This can be scary and heartbreaking – but the good news is that there is help out there, and it’s possible to overcome AUD.
There are many signs to look out for that suggest your parent may have an alcohol problem. For example, they may experience withdrawal when they stop drinking or might appear secretive. A key sign that your parent may have a problem is if they lie about their problem or make excuses for their drinking.
Another sign is their tolerance – alcoholics often develop a tolerance to alcohol, which means they can drink the same amount of alcohol as others around them, but still appear sober.
Somebody with AUD may also drink at inappropriate times – for example, during working hours or in the morning. They may also find it hard to stop drinking once they start, and carry on drinking the next day to ease the hangover and the withdrawal symptoms.
If your family member or parent has a problem with alcohol, you will notice that they experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can have physical and psychological effects and can vary in severity.
Like with all substance use disorders, the severity of the withdrawal symptoms can depend on a variety of factors. However, the general rule of thumb is that the more severe the addiction, the more severe the withdrawal symptoms.
Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome will typically peak around three days after your parent had their last drink – but milder withdrawal symptoms may persist for a while longer. In more severe alcohol addictions, withdrawal symptoms can begin as quickly as a few days after their last drink.
Some common withdrawal symptoms include:
If you’re a child and you think that one of your parents has alcohol addiction, know that you don’t have to help your father all alone – there is support out there for you. It is a lot to deal with at any age, but especially at an early age.
Make sure you speak out, whether be to a friend, family member, or even a doctor or medical professional.
Talk to somebody you trust about the problem – although you may feel worried about talking to somebody about the problem, or you may feel like you’re betraying your parent, it’s important that your parent gets the help they need, and that you receive the support you need.
Speaking up can also ensure that your education, social life, and other areas of your life can get back on track, as having a parent with an alcohol problem can take its toll on a young person’s life.
Likewise, it can be lonely dealing with a problem alone. You may be worried about bringing friends over after school, which can affect your social life.
It’s important to avoid bottling up your feelings. It’s equally important to take care of yourself where you can – make sure you continue doing things you enjoy, whether it be football after school, or simply hanging out with friends.
You may feel responsible for your parent’s drinking, or feel guilty – but it’s important to remember that your father’s or mother’s alcohol problems aren’t your fault, and isn’t something you should deal with alone.
It can be difficult watching your parent struggle with addiction and it can have negative effects on your own life, including your mental health. It can also affect the entire family unit. However, alcohol use disorder is possible to overcome with the right support.
In some cases, you may be in a position to provide your father with the support he needs – but this isn’t always an option. Sometimes professional help is needed – and it’s important to remember that you can’t do everything on your own.
If you’re concerned about your father’s alcohol problems, there are some ways that you can help. Read on to learn some ways that you can help regarding your dad’s alcoholism.
Some people will enable their parent’s behaviour regarding substance abuse and alcohol abuse – however, it’s important to set boundaries and avoid enabling their alcohol use.
When a person has an alcohol addiction, alcohol will become their priority. They may neglect other responsibilities, and do anything to feed their alcohol addiction. This can include lying or manipulating.
It may feel like the easy option to give in to these demands and enable your parent’s drink, but this will only make things worse in the long term.
Likewise, it can feel difficult to say no to your parents – but it’s important to stand your ground for their benefit. Avoid letting them drink in your home, never buy alcohol for them, and set clear boundaries.
Enabling their behaviour will only stop them from seeing the severity of their problem, and blind them to the harmful consequences that alcoholism has on a person.
It’s important to listen and offer support to your alcoholic father – and provide an environment where he can talk to you honestly and openly. You should also speak openly about how you feel, and voice your concerns calmly.
However, it’s important to remain compassionate – it’s not always easy talking to somebody about their problems, and you may feel angry and frustrated at times.
When talking to them, it’s important to get the timing right. Trying to speak to them whilst they’re intoxicated will likely be unsuccessful. Likewise, if they aren’t ready to get help, then you may have to try another approach.
Taking care and supporting a loved one with alcohol addiction can be draining, and it’s far too easy to neglect your own needs. However, you’ll be in no position to help somebody if you’re not taking care of yourself.
Don’t feel guilty about doing things for yourself – it’s crucial for your well-being, and will help you through this difficult time. Make sure you’re meeting your own needs and doing what you can to lower your stress levels. Make sure you’re taking personal time to meet friends and relax.
Looking after an alcoholic parent can have many negative impacts on your life and wellbeing, so it’s necessary to remember to take care of yourself too.
Sometimes, simply being open about your concerns isn’t enough. If you have already tried to voice your concerns to your parent and achieved no success, it may be time to try something else to help your alcoholic parent.
An intervention in regards to alcoholism aims to get your father to seek treatment and be open to exploring the different treatment options available – whether that be contacting a rehab clinic, support group, medical professional, or mental health services administration.
During an intervention, you may wish to include friends, grandparents and other family members, and other loved ones.
Some people choose to invite medical professionals or addiction specialists, so they are on hand to answer any questions about alcohol addiction treatment. After all, this is usually the goal of an intervention.
It’s important to conduct research before staging an intervention. To learn more about how to stage an alcohol intervention for a loved one, such as your father, check out this informative page.
Before you seek treatment for your alcoholic father, you should know that there are different types of rehab – and what works for one does not work for all.
Some people prefer to attend rehab while residing at home in the form of outpatient rehab, whereas others benefit from residing in a rehab facility as an inpatient, in the form of residential rehabilitation.
Rehab for alcohol addiction and alcohol abuse comprises three stages: alcohol detox treatment, addiction therapy, and secondary addiction treatment.
Detoxification deals with the physical element of addiction, whereas therapy aims at dealing with the social, behavioural, and psychological aspects of alcoholism.
Different rehab clinics will have different facilities – some may only offer counselling and CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). In contrast, others may also offer family therapy, group therapy, dialectical behavioural therapy, and more.
Secondary treatment essentially offers additional support once you finish rehab – whether it be in the form of support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, group therapy, or further counselling. The ultimate aim of aftercare is to prevent relapse.
Addiction rehab may be slightly different for seniors – if your parent is a senior, check out our page on rehab for seniors. At Help4Addiciton, we can find the right addiction treatment plan and rehab centre for your father to receive treatment.
We have connections with rehab clinics all around England and Wales, and will listen to your story, requirements, and preferences to find the right place. Contact us today to learn more about the rehab process, discuss your treatment options, and get the ball rolling on recovery.
Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab center called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade. Nick is dedicated to helping others recover and get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013, he released a book ‘The Thin White’ line that is available on Amazon.
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