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My Dad Is An Alcoholic. What Do I Do?

My Dad Is An Alcoholic. What Do I Do

It is really scary when you realize that your father has a serious problem with alcohol. Chances are, you grew up admiring your dad, even thinking he walked on water. But as you became older you might have noticed that something just wasn’t right. Now, though, it is abundantly clear that your dad is an alcoholic.

This harsh realization is very hard to accept for adult children of an alcoholic. It is possible that the problem was present for years, and now suddenly many things you didn’t grasp in childhood have become clear. Or, it could be that your dad has just in recent years developed an alcohol problem. Either way, you may be wondering what to do about it, if anything.

This is a sensitive topic, for sure. You want to respect your father and not embarrass him, but at the same time you really want to guide him to get some help. There are ways to gingerly approach the subject with your dad, but sometimes it helps to have a professional interventionist to support this effort.

Signs Your Dad Has an Alcohol Use Disorder

If you believe your dad is an alcoholic then you most likely have witnessed some of the signs that are common in people with an alcohol use disorder. When a cluster of these signs and symptoms are present, there is a good chance your parent is struggling with alcoholism.

1. Obsessing about drinking or having enough alcohol on hand.

2. Trying to quit drinking but can’t.

3. Experiencing blackouts.

4. Withdrawing from friends and family.

5. Loss of interest in the activities once enjoyed.

6. Drinking more and more alcohol as tolerance increases.

7. Mood swings.

8. Lying to family members about how much you drink.

9. Hiding alcohol around the house or in the office.

10. Loss of interest in personal appearance and hygiene.

11. Irritability

12. Concentration problems

13. Sleep disturbances

14. Alcohol cravings

15. When alcohol wears off withdrawal symptoms emerge.

Be Prepared For Denial

No one likes to be called out for something, especially by an adult child. The kneejerk response is almost always going to be some form of denial or excuse. Anything to deflect from what is really going on. Your dad may toss out some time-worn excuses that are quite common among people who prefer to remain in denial. Some examples of these excuses include:

  • I can quit drinking whenever I want
  • I work at a job everyday, I am not an alcoholic
  • Everybody drinks
  • I don’t have a problem, the problem must be you
  • I am not hurting anyone but myself, so let me be
  • I don’t have time for treatment

The reason for these deflections is less about admitting the problem and more about not being ready to give up alcohol. All you can do is plant the seed and offer your support. In time, hopefully your father will admit he needs help and is ready to go to treatment.

How to Approach Your Father About His AUD

Approach your parent with kid gloves. Realize that there is a lot of pride and ego wrapped up in this interaction, so take small, gentle steps versus being accusatory. Prior to initiating this conversation, it is a good idea to gather some basic information about treatment options, such as the different types of rehab programs available. Suggestions for the best way to approach your dad include:

1. Find a time when you can be alone with your parent.

2. Do not begin the conversation if he is intoxicated.

3. Have calm responses to his objections.

4. Avoid using a harsh or accusatory tone.

5. Do not be judgmental.

6. Tell him you love him and are concerned about his health.

7. Offer to help him look into insurance coverage.

8. Offer to go with him to the intake session.

9. Assure him you will be available to offer emotional support.

Even taking these precautions you may not be successful in convincing your father that he would benefit from treatment. Consider obtaining the help of an interventionist.

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