If you are living with a parent who is an alcoholic you may find yourself at times, in a situation of role reversal, where you will have to become the adult and take care of them. Alcoholism is an illness and your parent will need professional help if they want to stop drinking, but one of the hardest things is getting someone who is an alcoholic to admit that they have a problem.
Does your parent always deny there is anything wrong if you mention their drinking? Do they say they don’t need help? This is all part of the illness, but there are things that you could do to help.
Try to understand the problem
Read up as much as you can about alcoholism and try to understand the problem. This will also help you understand how you might be able to help them.
Talk to them when they haven’t been drinking
Tell them how drinking alcohol affects their behaviour and how it upsets you or frightens you if it does, but do not try to do it when they are drunk. Plan what you want to say beforehand and choose a time when they are not busy or distracted and you know you will not be disturbed.
Ask someone else for help
If you are not confident about being able to talk to your parent about this subject or you are worried in any way, ask for help from someone else. People that might be able to help are a teacher, another family member, your doctor, a friend’s parent, a religious leader or the school nurse. There are always people around who will be willing to help you if you ask them.
Encourage them to get help
In order for your parent to be able to give up drinking and get better, they will need medical help. The best thing you can do to help them is to encourage them to get help from a professional. They might make promises that they are going to give up, for your sake, but their chances of succeeding will be much greater if they get professional help.
Look after yourself
Think about how your parent’s drinking affects you can and remember that you are not responsible for them drinking too much. It is easy to blame yourself and become afraid do the things you want to do or say the things you want to say, in fear of triggering their drinking, but this will just make you unhappy. Keep reminding yourself that you are not responsible for your parent drinking too much and that you cannot cause it or stop it.
Do not make it easy for them to drink
If they ask you for money or to pop down to the shops for them to buy some alcohol, do not do it. If you tell them that you will do something if they drink – for example, tell a teacher – and then don’t follow through with it, it will just make them realise you don’t mean what you say and they will continue to drink.
Don’t lie for them
Don’t make excuses about the things they do when they are drunk. Some people feel embarrassed to admit that they are living with an alcoholic parent, but if you continue to make excuses for their behaviour you are making it easier for them to keep drinking. Let them feel the full consequences of their actions and maybe it will make them realise how bad things are really getting.
Keep yourself safe
If your parent becomes aggressive or violent when they are drunk, you must take responsibility for your own safety. If you need to, leave the house and go and stay with a friend or other family member until you are sure it is safe to return home. Quite apart from keeping yourself safe, you will also be making sure that your parent does not do anything to you which they could later be charged for by the police.