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My daughter or son is an alcoholic: What can I do?

Watching a child lose themselves in alcohol addiction can make parents feel helpless. If you suspect, “My child is an addict!”, there is no magic bullet or good advice that can stop an addiction and so when most people see their son or daughter slipping into alcoholism, they simply do not know how to stop it. Here, we review some practical suggestions in addressing a suspected alcohol problem within your family. We invite your questions about treatment or family therapies for addiction in the comments section at the end.

STEP 1: The Old Ways May Not Be The Best

Many parents, upon discovering their children have an alcohol problem, resort to traditional parenting reactions. They attempt to punish their child. This could be cutting them off from “bad friends”, Sending them to their room, Taking away privileges or even just getting angry and yelling. These methods may have worked in the past, but chances are, they will not work to treat an addiction. The two reasons for this are that, 1) if they are old enough to get alcohol, they are probably old enough to have some independence which means traditional punishments are harder to enforce. 2) Punishing an addict does nothing to fight the addiction. So, your first step is to recognize that what you used to do…is broken, and that you need to seek alternative ways of coping.

STEP 2: Talk To Them

People with an alcohol problem do not respond to anger, they respond to empathy. Someone who is drinking too much may already feel depressed or isolated, punishing them further really only serves to increase their urge to drink. The best way to approach an alcohol addiction is to talk to the person. Do not do this when they are drunk, wait until they are sober, and maybe even a bit hung over. Tell the person that you are worried about them, that you care for them and that you just want to help.

Also remember to go to them with evidence and ideas. What this means is, before you speak to anyone about an alcohol addiction, it is important to gather evidence to prove they have a problem. No evidence means they can just deny everything. Once you have the evidence, the ideas come into play. Find a list of treatment options so you can have them ready for the talk. Ideas of the treatments available will show the addict that there is a way out. It is like offering a ray of hope.

STEP 3: Take Action

Once you have spoken to your child about a possible addiction to alcohol, it is time to take action. If you can, go with them to speak to a doctor about the condition, Speak to a counsellor or look at a treatment centre. All of these options can be effective in getting treatment but it may be hard to get your son or daughter to embrace them.

If you are having trouble, speak to a doctor, counselor or treatment centre yourself. They can offer advice and some comfort. It is also a good idea to look into some family support groups. There are organisations out there that are designed to support the families of alcoholics. They are full of people just like you that have gone through it all before and may be able to help.

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You Can Only Do So Much

Addiction is often called a family disease because it affects everyone around it, but when it comes to treating addiction, The Addict has to make the first move. If you have Offered help and provide your son or daughter with treatment options, there is not a lot more you can do. Most addicts that actually kick their habit do so because they decide to.

If someone does not want to quit, there is very little that can be done to treat them. A good example of this is people in prison treatment programs. These people do not have access to drugs or alcohol for years at a time but once they get out many go right back to using. This is because they were forced to stop rather than choosing to stop themselves. Until someone decides they want to get better, they will not respond well to treatment. If your son or daughter is refusing treatment, attend family support meetings and get yourself some help and support. The only other thing you can do is keep encouraging the addict to go to treatment.

The road is not easy

This may not seem like an easy road or the answer most people want to hear but it is the truth. Having a child with an alcohol addiction is never easy but with help love and support, most people can get better. We invite your questions or comments in the section below and will try to respond to you personally and promptly.

Photo credit: Wiki Media Commons

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35 Responses to “My daughter or son is an alcoholic: What can I do?
MG
3:41 am August 5th, 2014

Hi,

We do not even know where to start.. We have a son who has both Asperger’s and is Bi-Polar. He has been using alcohol and marijuana. We are trying to make a move but cannot get him to stay clean for more then a week. We are concerned with the move, that he will not be able to join us, though his therapists etc. say that treatment is not a good option. He has already been through dual-diagnosis treatment twice and hospitalized for over 8 weeks in a psychosis and bipolar episode. With is last mental illness episode he was in extremely rough shape. It has affected everything including disorganized thinking. They even suggested he not go to school for the next year to give his brain time to heal. He passes easily as18 or older, and yet thinking at the level of a 12 yr old or so, which causes major problems. We don’t’ give him any cash, we lock up valuables, we have done everything we can think of to help this. The only thing that was haven’t been able to do is move, and I am anxious to get him out of this town and situation as quickly as possible. Do kids stop using when they are in a new environment where they don’t know anyone and/or don’t have access to people who can provide it? My husband and I argue often about our son, it’s an ongoing issue that is coming to a head as he gets older. It’s so frustrating and feels hopeless. Please help. Thank you so very much.

Janet
6:17 am August 29th, 2014

Hi, my daughter is 43 years old with a 17 year old son and a 4 year old daughter. She has a recent DUI. Her husband drinks with her every time she drinks and he is the biggest enabler alive. He puts his kids in harms way everyday by leaving her to drive the kids while drunk. I have tried to talk to him about these issues, but he only protects the alcoholic instead of his kids. When I try to talk to her about her alcoholism she becomes very verbally abusive to me. I am about to severe all ties with her, but I’m afraid of leaving the kids without anyone to watch out for them. Not to mention I love them so much. I don’t know what to do anymore. This is affecting my relationship with my husband and with my 2 other adult kids that have disowned her. I need help and don’t know what to do. I am depressed and at my wits end.

Thank you
Janet

Alan
1:26 pm January 11th, 2015

My son has mental health issues and is an Alcoholic, just lost his job, just lost his long term girlfriend, he refuses treatment, he knows all the avenues to get well, we have been in contact with all the agencies ourselves, we are heart broken, until he accepts therapy , there is no hope.
We are getting councilling and we are visiting the DRug and Alcholol abuse centre for help.
Can we do anything else ?.

5:13 pm January 16th, 2015

Hi Alan. I feel for you and your wife. Look into the CRAFT model of family intervention. I think that you can really benefit from the program.

McCarla
10:31 am March 29th, 2015

I have a 32 year old son who is an alcoholic, he moved in temporarily 8 months ago (again). It has been bad enough that he drinks almost all of his check away, he works fast food, does not help around the house, pays very little, and has trashed his room. Well it has now reached the level of every once in awhile (couple times a month) he verbally abuses me to he has now threatened my life more than once tonight. My live in boyfriend of 7 years goes to work at 11 and that is when it starts, I called the police tonight after 2 1/2 hours of his verbal abuse and threats. and of course it is a civil matter, so now I have to file an eviction come Monday morning and I have choose to wash my hands of this abuse, I already have health issues, and he is my only child I had cancer and hysterectomy at 19 years of age. I don’t know what else to do. His grandfather on his dads side was an alcoholic and so was my mother for many years. Am I wrong for doing this ?

11:25 am April 14th, 2015

Hello McCarla. Have you tried counseling or psychotherapy? I believe it could help your son with his habits and behavior, but can also help you get your head together and figure out a more structured way to help him. Individuals may have genetic predisposition for addiction, but many other social and economic factors influence it. From what you describe, it is clear that you need professional help. Plus, it will be good to sit down and resolve some issues.

Taylor
7:53 am September 22nd, 2015

I am the alcoholic son. I cannot stand it and hate myself for it. I just want to be normal. 24 years old and although I’m a business owner pursuing 2 degrees with an awesome gf, I feel like such a failure. The stuff will kill me one day. I don’t drink everyday, but when I do I go on 3 day binges of stupor :/ I wish this would just stop already

4:22 pm September 23rd, 2015

Hello Taylor. You can! With the proper help and approach. You should also be ready for recovery to take a longer time, since there is no such thing as “just quitting”. To get informed and ask about treatment options, feel free to contact our trusted treatment providers through the phone number displayed on our site. Good luck!

Alan
2:15 pm September 24th, 2015

My wife and I are getting wonderful support from ADAction and the Family support unit at the Rehab centre, where my son is attending, he will be in rehab for 6 months, this is giving us time to manage our life.

McCarla
10:19 pm September 24th, 2015

Ivana I truly appreciate your response however I am very familiar on dealing with alcoholics for many years, and I do not see where it is I who is need of counseling, but my son should be the one seeking it and owning he has the problem not me I do not drink, and from the years of dealing with it calmer, it came down to tuff love and not ending up dead.

11:50 am September 25th, 2015

Hello again McCarla. It was just my suggestion, since I couldn’t figure out from your comment that you have in fact sought help before. I meant to encourage you to give it a shot at resolving the issue constructively and I absolutely agree that he’s the one with the alcohol and behavior problem. But, it affects you too and your boyfriend and your life, so it is good to seek support as you are the one who has to deal with the situation. As I re-read your first comment I have to say that no one will ever find you to be the bad guy for taking those measures. Sometimes it’s time to move on, and maybe it will motivate your son to straighten up.

Janet
11:30 pm December 28th, 2015

Hello,
I’m sitting at home by myself crying in thedark. I just don.t know which way to turn. My 22 year old daughter is an alcoholic and it is tearing me to pieces, She got a lot of help this year and went into rehab. It was a 12 week programme and she came out on the 18th May this year. Within 10 days she was back drinking and has been spiralling ever since. When things have got bad for her she takes herslf to A and E where they will detox her for a couple of days then sends her out. Our relationship has completely broken down as I could not take the abuse anymore. I have really tried but am failing miserably to have a mother /daughter relationship with her.My fear is that she will die if this carries on, Somebody please advise me.

Thank you
Janet

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
2:50 am December 29th, 2015

Hi, Janet. I can’t imagine what you’re going through. I’m really sorry. Recently, I was introduced to Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT). So, check out Allies in Recovery: http://alliesinrecovery.net/about-craft/. They are an NGO that works with families to intervene with problem addicts using the CRAFT intervention model.
Here’s another helpful reading: http://addictionblog.org/author/dominique-simon-levine/
Hope this will work! Good luck!

brenda
7:29 pm January 14th, 2016

What to do when a child is involved?

Charlene
6:08 am January 26th, 2016

My 31 year old alcoholic daughter has isolated herself in her apartment and has been drunk for about 6 full days. She has been to treatment 2 x and has had a counselor. She is unemployed and on Obama care. She started drinking around 20 years of age and has been binge drinking and blacking out, off and on for the last 5 years. What do I do? Do I take her to hospital or let her kill herself?

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
5:03 pm January 29th, 2016

Hi, Charlene. I suggest you take her to hospital. Also, you may check out Allies in Recovery: http://alliesinrecovery.net/about-craft/. They are an NGO that works with families to intervene with problem addicts using the CRAFT intervention model.

Debbie
5:49 pm February 1st, 2016

I have a 44 year old daughter who is a alcoholic. She lives 2 1/2 hours from me. She won’t drive home because the last time (4 years ago) she got a DWI. Every time I go up there on the weekends, she does hold a job, she has been driving for hours. Her behavior is very hard for me to handle. She repeats herself, says very strange things, wants my attention every second and plays her music video’s thinking I want to hear them. After two hours of this she may take a shower so we can go eat or shopping. She doesn’t come home for Christmas so I took her Christmas presents up to her, she said her apartment door was unlocked, so I made the drive, she lives on the second story so I has to carry several bags. When I get up there her door is locked. I set down on the hallway floor, called her cell phone 5-6 times, knocked on the door. She never answered, I waited about 20 minutes, sent her another text that I wasn’t going to set in the hallway all morning and going to the store. Finally after two hours of shopping, I decided to drive home. She call me as I was leaving town, and I was so mad and upset and we just got into a big argument. I’m tried of going up there and she can’t get out of bed or drinking for hours. I had a alcoholic husband who I finally divorced and I now have a great husband who is wonderful. I can’t hardly stand being in that setting again. What should I do?

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
11:37 pm February 2nd, 2016

Hi, Debbie. There is a lot going on for you. I suggest that you look into the CRAFT model for families and interventions. One NGO called Allies in Recovery has some online reading that can help: http://alliesinrecovery.net/about-craft/

ness
12:05 pm February 5th, 2016

my 49 year old son is an alcoholic he lost his partner to cancer before xmas2015 and has got worse and wants to die he has serious health problems and keeps attempting suicide recently tried to jump from a bridge where can i get help before its too late i think his time is running out and myself and his 2 sons and brothers dont know what to do we cried with him been firm with hom screamed at him but he cries and we get nowhere .how do we approach him before its to late .weve planned mysef aone of his brothers and one of his sons to talk to him today .one thing i heard him mutter when he came to my home few nights ago was that the doctor gave him three months to live few wks ago how do we deal with that he had broken down at this point please advise me

Paul
12:34 am April 3rd, 2016

My son is 31 and has dyspraxia. Once again he has been out drinking (also a compulsive gambler) and has come home aggressive, violent and this time his phone is smashed to bits. I had open heart surgery 2 weeks ago and my wife is a nervous wreck because this happens frequently. What can we do, can’t cope much more. Is there any help. Dr just say he is an adult and needs to seek help himself!

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
3:51 pm April 7th, 2016

Hi Paul. There is a lot going on for you. I first suggest that you look into the CRAFT model for families and interventions. One NGO called Allies in Recovery has some online reading that can help:
http://alliesinrecovery.net/about-craft/
I also think it would be worth talking to a trusted spiritual or community leader or to confide in someone that you trust.

Diana
11:36 pm April 13th, 2016

My 27 year old daughter has a drinking problem. She lives in New York 6 hours away from us. How do my husband and I help her. She is in complete denial to us. Came home this weekend and had three bottles of alcohol in her luggage. Broke my heart. We didn’t confront her because it was a family reunion. She has been hospitalized and pulled over for a DUI. Still has a court date to attend. Per our request she came home and entered a weekend detox. She says she doesn’t have a problem. How do we help.

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
12:57 pm April 15th, 2016

Hi Diana. I suggest that you look into the CRAFT model for families and interventions. One NGO called Allies in Recovery has some online reading that can help:
http://alliesinrecovery.net/about-craft/

Janet
7:36 am April 24th, 2016

Hi, I have two of my children who drink. One, she is 23 yrs old and my son is 16 yrs old, this also smoke weed all the time. My daughter has two small boys and a boyfriend who is also an alcoholic. But my son when he drinks and comes home drunk he will yell at all of us in the house. He will try to fight his dad and his younger brother, we had called the RCMP three times on him. We have told him not to drink. I am worried about him the most because he says “why am i alive, why did you born me, I hate being alive, i hate life, i want to die but i’m scared because i don’t want to go to hell, i want to kill people who have called me down, calling me stupid, loser” when he comes home drunk, he cries hard and lots, he is so angry with me and my husband, he did shove me hard. I am afraid for him to kill himself or kill someone and he will end up in prison for the rest of his life. I told him that this stage in his life will pass, i say his hormones are causing him to think like this. He will ask for money all the time and we know what he is going to do with it and yet, we do give him money hoping that he will start being a responsible teen, this is our hope. we guide him, meaning we tell him what alcohol does to a person, all that involves being an alcoholic but it doesn’t seem to affect him. We have stopped drinking ourselves to show our children that there is a better life than drinking a precious life away. My daughter, she knows every trick to get us to keep her children but we know what she is trying to do and we do take our grandchildren so that they don’t have to see their mom drunk and their dad fighting, arguing loud with their mom. Its heartbreaking to see our children do this, and my grandchildren to suffer this kind of life. I hate alcohol so much i wish it never existed. I love my children so much what can i do? the slogan “once your an alcoholic, always an alcoholic” I believe this slogan keeps them in bondage, enslaved to thinking that they will be alcoholics for the rest of their lives. I want to believe that when Jesus died we are forgiven when we are saved, from alcoholism. we are saved new hope new lives

Shelia
8:05 pm June 3rd, 2016

My son is 31! Never held a job! Was kicked out of airforce years ago! Felled drug test! He is a genius! A good honest kid! For the past ten years, this person is not my kid i don’t know where my kid is! We have had him in numerous rehabs! He leaves or gets kicked out! He’s bipolar! Adad! He doesn’t take his medicine right! Nothing ever changes! My heart is broke! I see no end to this! He has never had any friends! I am mad too! What do I do!

JEAN
12:23 am June 8th, 2016

MY SON IS AN ALCOHOLIC. HE IS 31 YEARS OLD AND HAS LIVE WITH US FOR YEARS. MY FATHER WAS AN ALCOHOLIC I WAS AND MY MOTHERS DAD WAS. ALL HIS MONEY GOES TOWARD HIS 30 PACK OF BEER AND CIGARETTES. HE WORKS, NEVER MISSES A DAY OF WORK, BUT HE DOES NOT MAKE ALOT OF MONEY. CAN’T AFORD TO LIVE ON HIS OWN AND DOES NOT HAVE A VEHICLE. HE WAS AN OUT STANDING ATHLETE AND GOOD STUDENT AND HAS HAD MANY FRIENDS. LOT’S OF THEM HAVE GONE THEIR OWN WAY, MARRIED , GIRLFRIENDS ETC. HE JUST STAYS IN HIS ROOM AND WATCHES TV. IT HAS LITERALLY BROKE ME APART, AND HAS AGED ME TERRIBLY. WHAT DO I DO? I’M JUST SICK OVER THIS. I NEED HELP IN ORDER TO HELP HIM.

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
12:59 pm June 10th, 2016

Hi Shelia. There is a lot going on for you. I suggest that you look into the CRAFT model for families and interventions. One NGO called Allies in Recovery has some online reading that can help:
http://alliesinrecovery.net/about-craft/

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
2:04 pm June 10th, 2016

Hi Jean. You may look into the CRAFT model for families and interventions. One NGO called Allies in Recovery has some online reading that can help:
http://alliesinrecovery.net/about-craft/

Rendani
7:13 pm June 20th, 2016

Hi, my two sons aged 19 & 21 are the worst alcoholics problems at home. They steal any valuables at home and sell to get cash, they ads abusive a d dangerous, home is never safe when they are around . I had tried e every trick to stop them with no success. i am now seriously depressed ,

Bonnie
7:10 am June 22nd, 2016

I have a 46 yr old son who is an alcoholic. Alcohol got ahold of him 3 years ago. He has lost his career as an I T project manager, his fiance and home. This all started when he lost custody of his only child to hiis x wife. He moved in our home 6 months ago. The week he moved in he had a seizure and was in hosp for a week drying out. He recently got a management position at a fast food restaurant, but is drinking every time he gets a paycheck. He has wrecked his car, has had a number of omvi’s, and recently the police picked him up passed out in a ditch. We are in our lat 60’s. we have helped him out at every turn with bills, court costs, his child, driving him to his appts and work. I am emotionally exhausted. He doesnt see he needs help and wont go thru recovery. My husband has supported and helped him thru it all. This, of course, is a strain on our personal lives. we have threatened to kick him out if he drinks, but we never do. At least he has times of sobrity here and does try to work. When he was on is own he stayed drunk every day for months and lost everything he had. Are we doing anything right or just enabling him? I dont know how long we can go on like this at our age. Thanks for letting me talk.

Bill
6:24 pm July 10th, 2016

My son 22 years old and an alcoholic. I feel that I have enabled his sickness by giving him money.
My inclination is to cut him off financially until he shows some signs of quitting.
Last weekend he and a friend visited me and I allowed him to drink.
To make a long story short I had to go pick the 2 of them up at 4 thirty in the AM
Tim was so drunk he couldn’t walk or talk.
I didn’t lose my temper but suggested they were a poor example for the younger kids who were at the house.
I said “I think it would be a good idea if they left when they sobered up”
They did, without apologizing or saying good-bye.
I Have not reached out to him since the incident and he has not contacted me.
I feel bad on several different levels.
1. I am upset that he got so drunk
2. I am hurt by the fact that he did not apologize or attempt to contact me. (He is living with my other son (his brother) so I can check to make sure he is reasonably ok) and
3. I am concerned that his drinking will lead him into greater trouble.
What should I do?
Continue to withhold financial support? Swallow my pride and contact him?
Your help and advice is greatly appreciated
Thanks
Bill

Linda
3:56 pm July 14th, 2016

My daughter is 45 and has been an alcoholc for over 20 years. She does not work. All she does is lay in bed and drink all day long. She has been to rehab-and stopped to buy liquor on her way home. She has been hospitalized in the past for alchohol related seizures. I am 68 years old and commue an hour and a half one way to work. I work full time to pay her bills and mine. She will get sober for a couple of weeks and I try to encourage her and help her so she can get a job. I am paying for a car and insurance because she had a job and no transportation. Within one week of buying her the car, she was back in bed drunk. I am tired and disgusted with her. I want peace back in my life. I am 68 years old and can put nothing away for my retirement. At this point I will never be able to retire. I want her out of my house!!!!! How can I accomplish this? I also have my 94 year old father who has suffered a major stroke to care of. Please somebody has to have some way for me to get her out of my house. Hell at this point I want her out of my life. Oh yeh she has also been diagnosed as bipolar when she was in her 30’s. I think she is just drunk and lazy and afraid she will actually have to take care of herself. She is seeing a psychiatrist and has been to AA nothing helps.

Jo
11:07 pm August 20th, 2016

We do not know what to do with our alcoholic son he will not move out he will not stop drinking or get help. It is very difficult for us at the latter end of our lives. He is 44 . What can we do we can’t put him in anywhere. HELP. Jo

2:07 pm August 24th, 2016

Hi Jo. You can see a psychologist or an addiction counselor that works with families of addicts. They always have useful insights and can advise you on what actions you can take.

Gail
6:56 pm August 26th, 2016

Hi – I am and have been in the midst of an alcoholic daughter. She has lived in my house 3 different times. She is 37 with a 9 year old grandson. It is just the 3 of us. When not drinking she is pretty good. But when she does there is a huge change and lots of anger. I have taken to leaving the house for a few day, thank goodness for a dear friend, and then coming back and slowly getting adjusted. I am really afraid for my own safety and my grandsons at times. She changes into a totally different person. I don’t know how to handle this since she is smart and “never wrong”. I don’t know who to contact for help and how to go about talking with her to help her help herself. I have tried Alanon – not good for me – just made me feel worse, and tried at therapist who specialized in this, but I a got was listened to and “Now what are you going to do?” I only wish I knew. I am so at a loss here and very depressed and worried.

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About Brad Girtz

Brad Girtz is a blogger working at Life Works Community, a residential treatment centre. He writes content about mental health, addiction and many other conditions treated at Life Works. Brad enjoys sharing news and information about the latest innovations and ideas in the field of addiction and mental health.

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