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Coping With An Alcoholic Parent

4 July 2009, 03:48 AM    #1
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Last edited by ‹›, 3 December 2009
Taken From: Here Alcoholism has been around for centuries, yet no one has discovered an easy way to prevent or stop it. Alcoholism continues to cause anguish not only for the person who drinks, but for everyone who is involved with that person. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), there are nearly 14 million Americans who are considered problem drinkers (including 8 million who have alcoholism) and 76 million people who are exposed to alcoholism in family settings. Although these rates show a huge number of problem drinkers, they also show that people who live with alcoholic family members are not alone. Why Does My Parent Drink? Alcoholism is a disease. Like any disease, it needs to be treated. Without professional help, an alcoholic will probably continue to drink and may even become worse over time. Just like any other disease, alcoholism is no one's fault. Some people who live with alcoholics blame themselves for their loved one's drinking. But the truth is, because of their disease, alcoholics would drink anyway. If your parent drinks, it won't change anything if you do better in school, help more around the house, or do any of the other things you may believe your parent wants you to do. Other people may tell themselves that their parents drink because of some other problem, such as having a rough time at work or being out of work altogether. Parents may be having marital problems, financial problems, or someone may be sick. But even if an alcoholic parent has other problems, nothing you can do will make things better. The person with the drinking problem has to take charge of it. No one else can help an alcoholic get well. Why Won't My Parent Stop Drinking? Denial can play a big role in an alcoholic's life. A person in denial is one who refuses to believe the truth about a situation. A problem drinker may blame another person for the drinking because it is easier than taking responsibility for it. Some alcoholic parents make their kids feel bad by saying things like, "You're driving me crazy!" or "I can't take this anymore." An alcoholic parent may become enraged at the slightest suggestion that drinking is a problem. Those who acknowledge their drinking may show their denial by saying, "I can stop anytime I want to," "Everyone drinks to unwind sometimes," or "My drinking is not a problem." Why Do I Feel So Bad? If you're like most teens, your life is probably filled with emotional ups and downs, regardless of what's happening at home. Add a parent with a drinking problem to this tumultuous time and a person's bound to feel overwhelmed. Teens with alcoholic parents might feel anger, sadness, embarrassment, loneliness, helplessness, and a lack of self-esteem. These emotions can be triggered by the added burdens of living with an alcoholic parent. For example, many alcoholics behave unpredictably, and kids who grow up around them may spend a lot of energy trying to feel out a parent's mood or guess what he or she wants. One day you might walk on eggshells to avoid an outburst because the dishes aren't done or the lawn isn't mowed; the next day, you may find yourself comforting a parent who promises that things will be better. There may be problems paying the bills, having your mom or dad show up for important events, and you may even have to take care of younger siblings, too. The pressure to manage these situations in addition to your own life — and maybe take care of younger siblings, too — can leave you exhausted and drained. Although alcoholism causes similar patterns of damage to many families, each situation is unique. Some parents with alcohol problems might abuse their children emotionally or physically. Others neglect their kids by not providing sufficient care and guidance. Parents with alcohol problems may also use other drugs. Your family may have money troubles. Although each family is different, teens with alcoholic parents almost always report feeling alone, unloved, depressed, or burdened by the secret life they lead at home. Because it's not possible to control the behavior of an alcoholic, what can a person do to feel better? What Can I Do? Teenage children of alcoholics are at a higher risk of becoming alcoholics themselves. Acknowledging the problem and reaching out for support can help ensure that your future does not repeat your parent's past. Acknowledge the problem. An parent who is a problem drinker is never your fault. Many kids of alcoholics try to hide the problem or find themselves telling lies to cover up for a parent's drinking. Admitting that your parent has a problem — even if he or she won't — is the first step in taking control. Being aware of how your parent's drinking affects you can help put things in perspective. For example, some teens who live with alcoholic adults become afraid to speak out or show any normal anger or emotion because they worry it may trigger a parent's drinking binge. Clearly, hiding your feelings can create its own set of problems. Acknowledging feelings of anger or resentment — even if it's just to yourself or a close friend — can help protect against this. Recognizing the emotions that go with the problem also can help you from burying your feelings and pretending that everything's OK. Likewise, realizing that you are not the cause of a parent's drinking problem can help you feel better about yourself. Find support. It's good to share your feelings with a friend, but it's equally important to talk to an adult you trust. A school counselor, favorite teacher, or coach may be able to help. Some teens turn to their school D.A.R.E. (Drug and Alcohol Resistance Education) officer, whereas others find a sympathetic uncle or aunt. Because alcoholism is such a widespread problem, several organizations offer confidential support groups and meetings for people living with alcoholics. Al-Anon, an organization designed to help the families and friends of alcoholics, has a group called Alateen that is specifically geared to young people living with adults who have drinking problems. Alateen is not only for children of alcoholics, it can also help teens whose parents may already be in recovery. The group Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) also offers a variety of programs and resources for people living with alcoholics. You're not betraying your parent by seeking help. Keeping "the secret" is part of the disease of alcoholism — and it allows the problems to get worse. As with any disease, it's still possible to love a parent with alcoholism while recognizing the problems that he or she has. And it's not disloyal to seek help in dealing with the problems your parent's drinking create for you. In fact, taking care of yourself is what your dad or mom would want you to do if he or she could think about it clearly! Find a safe environment. If you find yourself avoiding your house as much as possible, or if you're thinking about running away, consider whether you feel in danger at home. If you feel that the situation at home is becoming dangerous, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE. And never hesitate to dial 911 if you think you or another family member is in immediate danger. Because alcoholism is a disease and not a behavior, chances are that you won't be able to change your parent's actions. But you can show your love and support — and, above all, take care of yourself.

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