Alcoholism is a painful and destructive disease that impacts not only on the alcoholic, but on their loved ones too, especially children. Whatever your age, having an alcoholic parent is never easy, and can lead to mental, emotional, physical and financial abuse. Even if the neglect isn’t explicit, alcoholism leaves children deeply emotionally affected – feeling unloved, unsupported and forgotten about. Many children of alcoholics will question whether it’s their fault, whether they could have done something to stop their mum or dad’s drinking.
You may feel as though you are to blame or have failed in some way, that you aren’t good enough or loveable enough to make your parent stop drinking. You might be embarrassed about an alcoholic parent’s behaviour. Why do they continuously choose alcohol over me? Why are they never present? Why do they keep making the same false promises that they’ll stop, only to repeat the same behaviours time and time again?
You are not to blame
Whilst it can be easy to blame yourself, this couldn’t be further from the truth. If your mum or dad is suffering from alcoholism and is physically dependent upon alcohol, then nothing else will come first. For an alcoholic, nothing comes before taking another drink. This may be a hard truth to hear, but understanding the science behind addiction can help to lessen the shame, guilt, anger and self-blame that you may feel.
You are not alone
Remember, you aren’t alone. According to a recent report, the number of adults seeking help to cope with an alcoholic parent has tripled over five years. The National Association for the Children of Alcoholics (NACOA) supports those who have spent their childhood with an alcoholic parent, as well as those whose parent’s drinking problems emerged later in life. The charity took more than 23,000 calls or messages last year from over 18s worried about their parent’s alcohol intake, compared to 6,400 in 2013. According to the NACOA, one in five children in the UK are affected by their parent’s drinking – and the new figures suggest that adults are affected by it too.
Stephanie Page, a helpline supervisor at the charity, said that those children whose parents began drinking later in life face a different set of challenges: “The parent may have retired and is lonely; they may have had issues adjusting to retirement. The adult child of the alcoholic often finds that really difficult because they haven’t seen this side of them before and they may not know what to do.”
How to help a drug or alcohol addicted parent
No matter your age, it’s never easy to have an alcoholic parent. Children of alcoholics often experience guilt, anger and resentment as well as still loving their parent and wanting to help, so it can be a very confusing time. Here at our private alcohol rehab, the Providence Projects, we provide support for families of addicts. We speak to relatives of alcoholics everyday, many of whom are in desperation. So we understand how difficult and uncertain a time it can be for the whole family: not knowing what to do, how to help, or whether your parent will ever get better. Please know that whatever your stage in life, whether you’ve been addicted for 2 years or 20 years, recovery from alcoholism is possible and is worth having.
Below are a few ways in which you can help your loved one to start on their road to recovery.
1. Look out for signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse:
No matter how minor the signs of alcohol abuse seem, they should not be ignored. Alcoholism is a chronic, progressive and ultimately fatal disease, and one which can quickly spiral out of control. So being able to recognise the warning signs and early intervention can make all the difference to a person’s recovery. The following are some signs of alcoholism to look out for in your loved one:
– Drinking alone and in secret
– Frequent hangovers
– Showing signs of irritability and extreme mood swings
– Making excuses to drink frequently, such as to feel normal, relax or manage stress
– Changes in behaviour and in appearance
– Changes in social circle
– Blackouts and memory loss
– Withdrawal from social situations
– Drinking in the morning
– Increasing difficulties with work and with finances
– Prioritizing drinking over everything else
2. Speak to your mum or dad
It can be terrifying to bring up a conversation with your parent if you are concerned that they may have a problem with alcoholism. Whilst you might be scared that they’ll get angry, upset or violent, the benefits of open and honest communication tend to far outweigh the risks. Having someone there to support you can help. Never initiate the conversation when the person is intoxicated, and try to maintain a two-way discussion so they don’t become defensive. Remember, you cannot force someone to change or to quit drinking. You can’t force them to see they have a problem. The best thing you can do is to explain why you think they have a problem, and to emphasize throughout the conversation that you’re doing it because you care, and because you are concerned for their wellbeing. If you would like more information, take a look at our intervention page.
3. Ask for help
Talk to a good friend or trusted confidant – maybe a relative, teacher, counsellor or therapist. Letting someone else know what you’re going through and how you’re feeling can be a huge relief. Sometimes all we need is for someone else to be there and to listen. If you don’t know who to talk to, speak to our trained addiction counsellors who are more than happy to give their expert advise.
Khetsiwe Giles-Rowley reviewed Providence Projects
6 April 2019
Where do I start?? I truly believe that The Providence gave me my life back. I have been to treatment facilities before but some about Provy grabbed me this time. The staff were incredibly loving and tolerant with me and my peers throughout my whole treatment process. Today being 5 and half years clean and sober since my Provy days I can now call some friends. If you want somewhere to love you and guide you back to what your true essence is Providence Project is it. See more
4. Contact UK rehab centres
If your parent is physically dependent on alcohol, it is likely that a residential stay at an addiction treatment centre will be their best chance of a long-lasting recovery. Entering a private alcohol rehab clinic provides a service and a level of care to the suffering addict which is difficult to find elsewhere: from medical alcohol detox, to one-to-one counselling, bespoke treatment plans and individualised aftercare provisions. Highly skilled addiction counsellors will help the alcoholic to understand what led to their addiction in the first place, and help them to develop the tools and coping skills to avoid relapse in future.
5. Look after yourself
Perhaps most importantly, remember to take care of yourself. Addiction affects the family as much as the addict or alcoholic. There is a wealth of support and information available for families, not only about how to help your loved one but how to take care of yourself too. Support groups such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon offer a safe space in which people can learn about the disease of addiction and get support, guidance and identification. In Al-Anon they teach you about the Three Cs: “I can’t control it, I can’t cure it, I didn’t cause it.” The best thing you can do is to get support for yourself, so that you can cope whether your loved one continues to drink or not.
Please know that whilst it might not feel like it now, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Help is available and your mum or dad can get better. The Department of Health has recently pledged to invest £6 million to support the children of alcohol-dependent parents, aiming to improve alcohol treatment services as well as expanding national helplines available to children with alcoholic parents.
There is so much to be gained from a life lived in recovery: from meaningful relationships with family and friends, to travelling the world, a real chance of employment, not to mention getting your freedom and self-esteem back. If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one, then we are here to help. To find out more about recovery and the alcoholism treatment programme options we have on offer at our private rehab clinic in Bournemouth, then please call us today and speak to one of our expert team of addiction counsellors, on 0800 955 0945 or fill out our quick and easy contact form.