Dealing with an alcoholic is never easy, but when the alcoholic is your parent, the situation becomes even more difficult. Most children look up to their parents. They go to their parents for advice. Before a person has a family of their own, they rely on their parents to plan and host all holidays and other special occasions.
Sure, some people will tell you that coping with an alcoholic parent, once you are grown up and out of the house, is as easy as distancing yourself until they get help. The reality is much more complicated. For instance, it is becoming more and more common for adults in their 20’s or even 30’s to depend on their parents for financial assistance. Even if you are financially independent, you may get into a jam and need your parents help. You may have kids and want them to have a relationship with their grandparents. You may even be put into a position of helping your parents out financially because one or both of them needs help. Whatever the case may be, coping with an alcoholic parent is not easy.
As crazy as it may sound, sometimes coping with an alcoholic parent means getting help yourself. Usually, the children of an alcoholic have issues of their own that are caused by growing up in an unstable household. You may have trouble forming connections to other people, because your alcoholic parent made it difficult to trust and count on others. You may avoid confrontation because when you confronted your alcoholic parents as a kid, things could turn ugly. Even if you were out of the house before your parent started drinking heavily, you could feel abandoned and betrayed by your alcoholic parent.
Coping with an alcoholic is much easier and more effective if you become healthy first. There are many support groups and therapists that deal specifically with coping with an alcoholic parent. These groups can also be a good resource for advice on how to stop enabling an alcoholic parent and where to find help for them.
Although it’s not always easy, coping with an alcoholic parent means setting healthy emotional boundaries. Talk to them (when they are sober) about what you will and won’t tolerate. This is not about telling your parent what to do; it is about ensuring your own safety and well-being. Let them know that if they keep getting drunk, you will take action (such as leaving the house, not letting them watch the children on their own, or not taking their calls when they are intoxicated). Stay consistent about enforcing these boundaries. Inconsistency will only make your parent realize that you don’t mean what you say and lets them continue to pull the emotional triggers that keep you stuck in enabling their behavior. When you are coping with an alcoholic parent, it’s important to pick your moments when you talk to them. If your parent is drunk, any kind of talk will probably devolve into an argument, and it’s an argument you will rarely win. He or she may not even remember what you said the next day.
If you or your loved one is in need of treatment for alcohol or drug addiction please give us a call at 800-951-6135.