Drug and alcohol addiction is a destructive cycle; from the first use or first drink to a full-blown addiction, the slope is slippery and dangerous as brain and body are altered, and use turns from a recreational activity to a gripping disease.
Of the millions of Americans who fall victim to addictions each year, the most common substance abuse is alcohol. Alcohol can cause problems with health, finances, and relationships; if you happen to have a parent dealing with an alcohol problem, the consequences can be especially troubling.
Consequences of having an alcoholic parent
Depending on your age, the effects of having a parent who abuses alcohol can be long-reaching. Growing up with a parent who drinks can leave you feeling unloved, unsupported, and suffering from mental, emotional, and physical trauma. As you grow and realize the implications of the abuse and its effects on you, you may seek to find a way to regain your health and seek help for your loved one. You must seek your own health and protection first and then request your parent’s assistance, if possible.
What are the signs of alcoholism in your family?
You may have grown up with abuse since you were an infant, or you may have seen it develop over time. Some of the classic signs of an alcohol problem include:
- Blackout time and memory loss
- Violent mood swings, irritability
- Changes in behavior or appearance,
- Becoming increasingly isolated
- Difficulties with work, finances, and relationships
- Drinking in secret, hiding the issue from others
- Frequent hangovers
- Physical problems associated with excessive drinking
Dealing with an alcoholic parent is not a pleasant endeavor, but it is necessary to protect and preserve their health and your relationship.
Approaching your parent
It can be intimidating to contemplate giving your parent advice on how to improve his/her life; depending on the nature of your relationship, the response to your plea for change could be angry, volatile, and uncomfortable. You cannot force anyone to change or even cut back on drinking. One thing you can do is attempt to make them realize that they have an issue, and convince them that they need to change. Bringing someone else with you to have this difficult conversation might help to soften the blow for both of you and provide an additional measure of accountability. You all attempt to find solutions for a critical issue.
Heal, then deal
As you draw healthier boundaries for the relationship between you and your parent, you must get the mental, physical, and emotional support that you need to regain your health. Once you have established your health, only then should you attempt to deal with your parent to change the behavior. Follow these guidelines for building trust and facilitating a more successful interaction:
1. Make the focus of your conversation your concern about their health and well being. Rather than trying to convince them that they have a problem, focus instead on having them look at their actions and come to a conclusion on their own that their addiction needs to be addressed.
2. Do not initiate conversation if either one of you is intoxicated.
3. Unless you fear that violence or intimidation will be an issue, attempt to find the time when the two can discuss the issue one on one.
4. Start your conversation by emphasizing that this information is coming from a caring place.
5. Place the focus of the discussion on your feelings and how their behavior is making you feel. If you focus on how their behavior is below par or lacking in some way, that can put your parent in a position to defend wayward behavior.
6. List specific incidents and behaviors that you are concerned about and those that affect you. The more information you can provide, the harder it will be to refute the evidence.
7. Allow your parent time to process your feelings and information, and to respond to you. Allow them to be heard, validated, and respected. The more you can facilitate communication that is given and taken, the more likely you will be to reach an agreement that will promote better health.
8. Avoid blaming and shaming. The more you can focus on the concern and finding solutions for your parent, the more likely it will be that you will find success in getting help for them.
Stay on track, and don’t quit
As you remember to prioritize self-care for you, it is important to go the distance to help your parent. You may not be successful the first time around; planning additional conversations around getting help will be necessary as you focus on finding solutions that your parent will eventually be open to exploring. Health and wellness is not something that should be taken for granted; go the distance with regard to finding help and communicating your concern in hopes of inspiring change.