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