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How to Live With an Alcoholic Parent? – 12 Dos and Don’ts

April 29, 2020
12 dos and don'ts to follow when living with an alcoholic parent

The following blog has been reviewed by an expert. For more information, please see our editorial policy.

Life can feel hard if any of your parents have a drinking problem. Living with an alcoholic parent and trying to help them on your own is not going to be easy. Those will be your hard times in life to deal with. Extensive use of alcohol by a parent can not only affect their health badly but also prove detrimental to the family’s happiness.

When a person consumes alcohol extensively, they often lose their sense of the external world. Effects of alcohol misuse may lead a person to blackout and memory loss. In such conditions, reach out for support and professional help.

Condition and Circumstance of the Family When a Parent Abuses Alcohol

If a person is suffering from alcoholism, it can be noticed through their behaviour. You may sense chaos at home. Below are some examples of how one may feel living with an alcoholic parent and how a family might be affected.

How You May Feel

  • Thoughts of leaving or not getting back to home
  • Avoiding your parent
  • Uncomfortable to share your feelings
  • Scared, depressed, and anxious
  • Afraid to show up while they’re drinking
  • Harming yourself
  • Difficulties in doing your work

How the Family May Suffer

  • The home would often prevail with fear and stress under any specific circumstance
  • Struggle to manage necessary expenses
  • Older siblings or grandparents might be taking care of the family
  • Parent suffering from alcoholism may mistreat their children
  • Parent might often get into trouble, that may hurt them or others
  • Parent might be less concerned about their appearance and hygiene
  • Alcoholic parent would cover up with lies to get away from criticism
  • Even parents may apply for a divorce

Typically, these may vary for different people based on the situation. Don’t worry; there’s hope – addiction is a medical condition that can be treated with proper medications and treatment. Here are some behaviours that you must stop and start doing when you live with an alcoholic parent.

Living with a n alcoholic parent - infographic

5 DON’Ts

1. Don’t Take Responsibility for Your Parent’s Condition

It isn’t your fault to bear the burden. You have nothing to do with your parent’s drinking problem. The love you have for them may make you think so. But, you should try to stop worrying because you’re not responsible for their behaviour. Alcoholism is a disease that you can’t be liable for, so while there may be ways to encourage your parent to get help, learn to accept that the situation is outside your control. 

2. Don’t Let Them Break Your Personal Boundaries

An alcoholic will not tolerate any criticism shown upon them and may also violate your personal space. They may ask you for money constantly, tell you to cover for them or force you to drive them. 

Understand that these kinds of behaviour are not ‘Ok’ and you have the right to say ‘No.’ Setting and keeping personal boundaries can protect you and help your parent to feel the consequences of their alcohol problem.

3. Don’t Argue With Your Parent While They’re Drinking

Arguing with a person when drunk will agonize you in pain. Stopping your parents from drinking might lead the situation to get even worse.

Dealing with older adults struggling with an addiction could be complicated because of their sensitivity. This may create an environment of stress and frustration at home. It may also get you out of control, which in turn may push you towards depression. However, it’s important to keep in mind that when a person has an addiction, their ability to make decisions logically is diminished. So, it’s best to stay away from arguing with an alcoholic parent.

4. Don’t Accept Blame for Their Alcohol Problem

Generally, an alcohol consumer blames something or someone—anything else, but themselves—for their drinking habit. They might blame you or someone else for their drinking problem, but don’t let them blame you for their drinking or relapse. In other words, do not feel guilty for their drinking or for keeping your boundaries. 

5. Don’t Constantly Ruminate About the Circumstance

An alcohol problem in the family can quickly consume all the attention and energy of family members. It’s easy to obsess over what to say and how to live around an alcoholic, forgetting about day-to-day life. 

Some believe that alcohol addiction can be stopped with enough will power, while others may believe it is not curable whatsoever. Often, alcohol-addicted people make promises to quit. But they fail, because of their physical and psychological dependence on alcohol. While there is no ‘cure’ or quick solution, with appropriate medication and treatment, a person can recover. Health professionals and the concerned person’s willingness to recover can help them find freedom from the bottle.

7 DOs

1. Accept Your Feelings

Suppressing emotions may instead cause harmful mental stress and affect your focus. You may think that life is unfair and you may be angry, sad, concerned, or overwhelmed. 

And that’s okay; understand that your parent is suffering from a disease. Whatever happens, you can’t take the blame.

Keep in mind that you can still love your parent while hating their addiction. Think about how you can help them to quit. You might find peace with yourself by doing so.

2. Speak With Your Parent About How You Feel

Alcoholism is a chronic disease, and without proper support, it might feel like a redundant cycle. At some point, you should share with your parent how you are concerned and hurt by their drinking, in hopes it may convince them to quit. Remember, from the above DON’Ts, don’t argue or have a conversation while they’re drunk. Avoid blaming them. Choose a spot in private, where they might feel comfortable speaking this issue. 

Initialize your conversation with how you feel about them. Use “I” to start with instead of using “You”; use open-ended questions and don’t accuse them with words like “alcoholic” or “addict.”

For example, you might say, “I love you, and I’m concerned about what alcohol is doing to you. Would you like to get treatment?”

Take the conversation easy and with a concerned tone that could intrigue sympathy. Hold your intent positively and convey hope that change is possible. 

3. Confide in Someone

You can’t undergo all the negativity of your parent’s situation alone. Get this matter to someone who can support and encourage you and to whom your parent might listen. 

It could be your grandparent or your uncle or friends or anyone you trust. Consider meeting up with a counsellor to confide in them and express your feelings. Tell them what is going on with your parents and get aid from them.

It also makes you feel better rather than keeping it all in yourself. Sharing with someone will likely reduce your anger and as well as your frustration. 

4. Practice Healthy Coping for Stress

Practice healthy coping for stress with some relaxing techniques. Meditation, yoga, or breathing exercises can be a big stress reliever and common in practice. Instead, you can also try watching your favourite show on TV. Some even take a massage and warm bath that, too, could be useful to you.

Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. Physical exercise is the best stress fighter and will enhance your mental health and physical health as well. You can also fight your stress with singing, dancing, or any of your interests.

5. Engage in a Meaningful Relationship

Some fail to engage in a close and significant relationship while looking at their father or mother’s alcohol problem. If you’re isolating from others, then you should start to engage now and be intentional in making and deepening friendships. Friendship could provide stability and keep you away from your home miseries. You can get support and taste happiness when they’re around.

Start meeting new people and develop relationships with those who have similar interests. Know each other and share your concern with them to reduce your stress.

6. Journal to Express Your Thoughts and Feelings

Journaling is a great choice to reduce your frustration. You can journal about how you feel living with an alcoholic parent.

You can even share your thoughts as a blog through the internet instead of using pen and paper. If you’re finding it daunting, then start small, maybe writing just one thing you’re grateful for each day. Share to make yourself comfortable in your daily life.

7. Look After Yourself

Instead of spending all your time worrying about how to live with an alcoholic parent, change your course of action and be sure to take care of yourself.

Focus on your studies; put some effort on it. If you can’t focus on your studies at home, consider a tutor or friend’s house. Develop your interest and focus on it because it’s important for your life and can be a healthy escape from the chaos of living with an alcoholic parent.

Exercise is the best way to keep yourself fit and happy for long and upcoming days. Get some good sleep. It is significantly crucial for your physical health.

Have constraints with your parent when they’re drunk by setting personal boundaries. Start answering them with “No” for any of their requests that fosters their drinking. Live your life. Remember, you cannot change your parent and you’re not responsible for their drinking. Do what you can to encourage them to get help, but don’t let it consume your thoughts and harm your health.