Cirque Lodge > Blog > Addiction > How to Help an Alcoholic Parent

Helping an alcoholic parent can feel overwhelming and confusing. They may lash out, try to hide their drinking or deny the severity of the situation. It is important to remember you are not alone, and taking care of your own wellbeing is the most important first step to helping your parent.

How to Know if Your Parent is an Alcoholic

Spotting the signs of alcoholism, or Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) as it is referred to medically, can be helpful for knowing when medical assistance is needed. Although it is not your job to diagnose your parents with AUD, it is useful to know what to look out for.

Consider some of these questions:

  • Do they consume large amounts of alcohol over long periods of time, such as drinking for several consecutive days?
  • Does your parent fail to quit or cut back on alcohol?
  • Does your parent spend a lot of time buying alcohol, drinking it and recovering from hangovers?
  • Do they express a strong urge to consume alcohol?
  • Have they ever failed to take care of parental roles or responsibilities such as cooking dinner or attending an event because they were drinking?
  • Have they ever missed work as a result of drinking alcohol or being hungover?
  • Does your parent seem ill, tense or anxious when they are not consuming alcohol? Especially if it has been several days since their last drink.
  • Do they continue to drink despite family, financial or personal problems caused by drinking?
  • Have they stopped socializing in settings where there is no alcohol or doing hobbies they once enjoyed in favor of drinking?
  • Does your parent continue to drink in spite of a decline in physical health or a psychological problem that is caused by or worsened by drinking?
  • Do they consume more and more alcohol that they used to to appear intoxicated?

If your answer is 'yes' to several of these questions, it is likely time you and your parents seek help to deal with their drinking problem. Alcohol abuse can quickly spiral out of control and it is important to seek addiction treatment as quickly as possible.

Can I Stop My Parent From Drinking?

It’s not your fault that your parent has a problem with alcohol abuse, and it’s not your responsibility to get them to stop drinking. Try engaging other family members in the issue, and explain the signs that you have recognised. Try to remember that you cannot control or change another person’s behavior, especially a person with an alcohol addiction.

Having an alcoholic parent can be scary and confusing, their behavior may change and they may even lash out at you. Their behavior may seem out of character and selfish, and understanding how alcohol affects the brain, and the way this can cause people with substance abuse to act is helpful in ensuring you don't place blame on yourself and make sense of what is going on around you. Substance abuse is a disease but there is addiction treatment available to help your parent regain control of their life.

What is Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is the term most often used by medical professionals. AUD encompasses the conditions often referred to as alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, alcohol addiction, and alcoholism. AUD is considered a brain disorder, because alcohol abuse causes changes to the brain that worsen AUD and cause the disorder to progress, causing a cycle of dependence that is difficult to break alone.

Alcohol abuse is the excessive consumption of alcohol including an inability to cut down or stop drinking, even when consumption negatively affects your life. The person consuming alcohol usually develops tolerance and experiences withdrawal symptoms if they try to cut back or quit.

According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 14.5 million people over the age of 12 had an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).

How to Talk to a Parent With an Alcohol Addiction

Historically, confrontation through 'interventions' were seen as the best way to encourage a person to seek help for his or her drinking; however this approach is out of date. Mental health professionals and addiction professionals alike now agree that this tactic is in fact not as helpful as it once seemed. It can make an individual feel isolated and attacked as opposed to cared for and supported. It is common for a person with an alcohol or drug problem to become defensive when confronted about the negative consequences of their alcohol consumption.

An approach called CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training) teaches family members effective ways of communicating with an alcoholic in a non-threatening and non-judgmental way.

Below are some CRAFT tips to use when talking to a family member with an alcohol or drug addiction.

Tips for Talking to Your Parent

  • Recognize the right time to broach the subject. The best time to talk to a parent with an alcohol problem is when they are trying to quit drinking. This may be a very short period as withdrawal symptoms can cause an individual to relapse quickly.
  • It can be better to deal with an alcoholic one to one so they do not feel ambushed or intimidated. Find a time and place that is free of distractions or interruptions, and ideally a place where there is no alcohol present.
  • Try to communicate in a kind, gentle, and sympathetic way. As difficult as this may be if their behavior is causing themselves or people around them harm, this communicates genuine concern and they are likely to be more responsive and less defensive.
  • If you become upset or frustrated by their behavior or responses, leave the conversation. Shouting, becoming angry or engaging in an argument or fight will help no-one. Call your friends, family or support network, remind yourself of your parents positive traits when sober and that whatever they have said or done has been influenced by the effect of alcohol on their brain.
  • If the person is receptive to getting help, you can suggest treatment options. Being prepared with information on a variety of treatment options before talking to your parent can be useful. Explore additional treatment options with them, encouraging them to be an active participant in the treatment process. You may wish to suggest a specific rehab center that you have researched or provide a variety of options in your area.
  • If they are not yet ready to seek treatment, try not to push too hard. Willingness and desire to start a treatment program is essential to recovery. Let some time pass, and try approaching them again.

How to Be Supportive

If your parent wishes to seek substance abuse treatment, there are a number of things that you can do to support them and yourself:


Use loving and encouraging statements showing your parent you believe in their ability to become sober. The aim is to make your parent feel safe in admitting their struggles with alcoholism, so avoid judgmental language. For adult children of alcoholics, it can be difficult to stay close to them as their health declines, however as long as you feel safe to, maintaining communication with them, can be a great support in getting sober.

Research Alcohol Addiction

Find accurate medical information on substance use disorders to better understand what your parent is going through. It may also feel empowering to research the substance abuse treatment process, and talk through this with your parent, showing your support and interest in their recovery.

Make Self-Care a Priority

Children or family members of those seeking addiction treatment are put under a great deal of pressure and emotional strain. Remember to take time for activities that bring you joy, and ensure you’re getting sufficient rest. Living with a n alcoholic can take a toll on your mental well-being. It is common to feel so concerned about your parent that you disregard your own mental health but burnout will make it even more difficult for you to support them.

Find Family Therapy

Attending family therapy sessions with either you and your parent or including family members can be a great way to heal from the past and work towards a better future together.

Alcohol Abuse Support Groups

One way of looking after your own mental and social wellbeing and recognizing your own needs is to join a support group for the loved ones of alcoholics. This can be a great way to connect with others experiencing a similar situation and verbalize the ways that your parents drinking is affecting you in a safe and confidential setting. These are also spaces where people share coping skills and mechanisms to help detach from an alcoholic person's behaviors and take care of themselves.

Set Boundaries

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) can make people violent and abusive. When an individual who abuses alcohol feels threatened or judged, they may lash out with verbal abuse, blame, or anger. It is important to prepare for this and have an exit strategy if you feel unsafe. You may wish to set and maintain a healthy boundary by verbalizing a very clear line of behavior that you will not tolerate and removing yourselves from the situation if this line is crossed. You can always seek support from organizations, friends and family and domestic abuse networks.

What to Avoid While Helping an Alcoholic Parent

In your attempt to support them, it is important to be aware of certain things you should try to avoid doing.

Do Not Blame Yourself

You did not cause the alcoholism, children of alcoholics may feel to blame for their alcoholic parents drinking but they are not. Try to remember that it is also not your responsibility to fix it. You may wish to provide emotional support or encourage them to receive treatment. However, you are not to blame if you don't have the energy to do this, taking care of your own emotional well being must come first.

Pay Attention to Actions Not Words

If your parent says they want to get sober and will quit drinking immediately it may be tempting to believe them, but it should not necessarily be taken as the absolute truth. People struggling with substance use disorders may say whatever they deem necessary. Pay attention to, and place value on actions as opposed to words. An alcoholic who truly wants to get better will demonstrate as much.

What Do I Do If My Alcoholic Parent Refuses Help?

Treatment programs for substance use disorders rely on a person wanting to get sober. If your parent refuses to stop drinking, there is not much that you can do to convince them otherwise. However, you are not alone. If you are under 18 and your parent’s substance abuse is causing them physical harm or neglect to you or your siblings, then there is the option of reporting their behavior to a family member, school or law enforcement official.

Involve your parents’ friends and family members too, tell them what is going on and ask them for help. There is also the option to seek out the services of a professional interventionist or get help from your family doctor or another medical professional or therapist.

Addiction Treatment Process

The first step to any substance abuse treatment and recovery is detoxification, where the body rids itself of all toxins and traces of alcohol. With alcohol addiction treatment this is likely to be a medical detox, where you will be medically supervised and health care professionals will monitor your vital organs providing medical intervention if necessary.

For those with severe AUD, a medically supervised detox is the only safe method due to the severity of withdrawal symptoms that can be experienced, including.

  • Racing heart
  • High blood pressure
  • Fever
  • Anxiety
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

If withdrawal symptoms are particularly bad, a doctor may prescribe medications such as benzodiazepines to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and insomnia and reduce the risk of seizure. They may also prescribe anti-seizure medication, antipsychotics and painkillers.

After the withdrawal period, an addiction specialist will work with your parent to discover the underlying reasons for your alcohol use disorder, providing professional medical advice and finding the best way to help, which often includes dual diagnosis treatment to deal with underlying mental disorders.

At Cirque lodge our team include credentialed medical providers specializing in practices like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and experiential therapy offer integrated programs that treat both mental health conditions and substance use disorders, personalized to meet the individuals needs and goals.

We deliver a private and convenient solution to addiction. Contact us today to learn more about our exceptional treatment facility in the Rocky Mountains of Utah, where we offer an enriching rehabilitation experience in a tranquil setting, following exceptional quality care standards and the most up to date treatment for substance abuse disorders and drug addiction.

Read more: How long does coke stay in your urine

About Cirque Lodge
Cirque Lodge is a recovery retreat providing cognitive and experiential therapies, in the pristine natural beauty of Utah’s Rocky Mountains.

Cirque Lodge is considered among our colleagues, as one of, if not the premium drug and alcohol rehab facility in the country.

We support patients from all over the USA. For example, from:
Salt Lake CityProvoCaliforniaLos AngelesFloridaOrange CountyNew YorkGeorgiaColoradoTexasSan FranciscoArizonaWest Palm Beach
The Lodge
3114 E Ida's Rd, Sundance, UT 84604
The Studio
777 N Palisade Dr, Orem, UT 84097
All Rights Reserved © 2016 - 2024 - Cirque Lodge