It’s tough when someone you love is addicted to alcohol. And when the alcoholic in your life happens to be your parent, it can be particularly difficult to know how to help — or even whether you can make a difference. For adult children of alcoholics, watching a parent ruin their health and relationships with alcohol is often so devastating that even staying in touch is fraught with tension.
There’s only so much anyone can do to help an alcoholic who is not ready to recover. But there are some things you can do to help your parent eventually make that choice. Here’s how you can help and support an alcoholic parent you don’t live with anymore.
How to Talk to an Alcoholic Parent
One of the best things you can do for your parent is to have an honest conversation with them. This might be a little awkward, but you, as your parent’s child, have a particularly good chance of getting through to them eventually. That’s not to say that your first conversation with your parent will lead to them deciding to recover. But it does mean that gathering your courage and opening a dialogue is important, and you should do it sooner rather than later.
There are a few key things to remember when you talk to your parent about their drinking. First, find the right time to talk. Don’t talk to your parent when they are drunk, because that will make it difficult to have a productive conversation, and your parent will be more likely to get defensive.
Second, be sure to frame all your concerns as “I” statements. Emphasize to your parent that you love them and are concerned about their drinking habits. Don’t accuse them of anything, or they will probably argue. For instance, don’t say, “You’re an alcoholic and you need to do something about it.” Instead, say something like, “I’ve noticed that you’re drinking a lot lately, and I’m worried about your health.”
Using concrete examples during your conversation may help prevent your parent from becoming too argumentative. If your parent’s alcoholism has caused problems with their finances or relationships, for example, use those as talking points to support your case. Your parent may not be happy to hear it, but the more concrete evidence you provide to support your concern, the more likely they’ll be to consider what you say.
Finally, emphasize to your parent that help is available. The point of the conversation isn’t to make your parent feel like they’ve messed things up forever. Rather, it’s to help them see that they don’t have to continue living in an unhealthy way. Your parent may not be ready to accept help yet, but it’s important that they realize help is available in the first place.
Maintaining a Relationship with an Alcoholic Parent
It’s difficult for many adult children to stay close with a parent who is an alcoholic. But, as long as you feel safe around your parent, making an extra effort to stay in touch with them could make all the difference in the world to them. Call or text your parent frequently to let them know that you’re thinking of them, and plan to get together with them when you can. Find things to do that don’t involve drinking. Taking your parent’s mind off alcohol will be especially helpful if and when they decide to recover.
Be careful not to enable your parent. Providing unconditional love and support does not have to mean overlooking their unhealthy relationship with alcohol. Stay honest with your parent, and don’t make excuses for them, especially if their alcoholism leads them to make poor decisions. Maintain your own boundaries while letting your parent know that you are there to help them with recovery.
Getting Support for Yourself
Don’t forget to care for yourself while you try to help your alcoholic parent. The children of alcoholics often have emotional issues of their own, and you need and deserve support as much as your parent does. Make an effort to take care of your physical and emotional well-being by getting enough sleep, eating well, and seeing friends often. Support groups and therapy can also be helpful if you are struggling to cope with the realities of having an alcoholic parent.
Alcoholism is often called a family disease, and the children of alcoholics are affected by it even if they don’t live with their addicted parent anymore. Your compassion, support, and honesty can go a long way towards helping your parent recover and live a healthier life. If it’s time to get help for yourself or someone you love, call us today at 800-737-0933 to learn about options for recovery.