How to Confront an Alcoholic Parent: 5 Tips

Written by Chloe Nicosia

If you need help knowing how to confront an alcoholic parent, we’ve got answers.

It’s not easy to know how to confront an alcoholic parent. It’s particularly challenging to know how to help an alcoholic parent in denial or how to deal with elderly alcoholic parents. Here are five tips that will help you help your parent. 

1. Understand addiction.

The first step in understanding how to confront an alcoholic parent is to understand addiction. If you don’t understand how addiction works, there is little chance you can help your addicted parent.

Addiction is the result of changes in the brain’s physical structures and chemical functions that affect thought and behavior. Once an addiction sets in, willpower and good intentions are not enough to end the addiction for the long-term. It almost always requires professional help to overcome.

Addiction almost always has underlying causes, and these must be addressed in order to successfully treat the addiction. Common underlying causes include chronic stress, a history of trauma, and a co-occurring mental illness. Successful recovery also requires re-learning healthy ways of thinking and behaving and developing essential skills and strategies to cope with triggers like stress and cravings.

Learn everything you can about alcohol addiction before you confront your parent.

2. Have a chat.

When your parent is sober, have a friendly chat. Tell your parent that you are worried about her drinking. Gently point out how you see the addiction affecting her–the toll it’s taking on her health, finances, or relationships. Let her know how the addiction is affecting you. Ask her to consider getting help to end the addiction.

If your parent gets defensive or angry or insists that her drinking isn’t a problem, leave it for now. There’s a chance that she’ll mull over your words and come to the realization on her own that she needs help. In the meantime, examine your own role in the situation to determine whether you’re enabling your parent’s addiction.

3. Don’t enable.

Enabling behaviors are those that make it easier for your parent to continue drinking unchecked. Enabling behaviors include procuring alcohol for your parent, giving him rides when he is under the influence, taking over his responsibilities at home, and making excuses for his drinking and behavior.

These enabling behaviors remove the natural consequences of the addiction and make it more difficult for your parent to come to the conclusion that he needs help.

When you stop enabling, your parent is forced to deal with the consequences of the addiction, and this often leads individuals to realize that they need help overcoming the addiction. Support and therapy can help you identify your own enabling behaviors and work to end them.

4. Get support and therapy.

A support group for children of alcoholics can be invaluable when you’re working out how to confront an alcoholic parent. A support group offers moral support, helpful tips, and proven strategies for getting your loved one to come to the conclusion that she needs help. A support group also helps you cope with negative emotions surrounding your parent’s addiction, and it can help you understand how not to enable the addiction.

Dealing with an alcoholic parent takes a toll on your own happiness and wellbeing, and getting help for yourself can reduce your stress, help you develop healthier coping skills and strategies, and improve your quality of life. In addition to joining a support group, engaging with individual therapy can go a long way in helping you help your parent.

5. Consider an intervention.

An intervention is a meeting between concerned loved ones and a person who is addicted. Interventions that are planned and facilitated by a professional interventionist have a 90 percent success rate in getting the loved one into treatment. The interventionist will help you and other concerned loved ones understand how to help an alcoholic parent in denial come to the realization that she needs help addressing the addiction.

For more help for knowing how to confront an alcoholic parent, BAC can connect you with a high quality treatment center that can help you decide how to deal with elderly alcoholic parents who may be in denial or simply uninterested in getting help for the addiction. Call us today at 1.800.429.7690.