Can I Stop My Parents From Drinking Too Much?

As a child of a parent who frequently drinks, you may have heard that alcohol abuse is a disease. Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is indeed an illness, but not one that gives you a cough, fever, or runny nose. Instead, AUD is a substance use disorder (SUD), which means it makes your mind sick, and it can be a lot harder to get better from that.

Researchers estimate that one in every eight children lives in a household where a parent suffers from SUD. One in ten children has at least one parent who has AUD. Having a parent with this disorder is hard, and may leave you with some questions.

If you are living with a parent or guardian who struggles with alcohol abuse, you may have some complicated feelings. You may feel like it is your fault or wonder how you can get them to change.

Alcohol Abuse, Your Parent, and You

When your parent suffers from AUD, it can affect you as well. Children of parents who abuse alcohol are more likely to suffer from abuse, neglect, and indirect effects like having less access to necessary resources growing up.

When a parent suffers from AUD, their relationship with you suffers. Living in a home where this is a prevalent issue can force you to grow up faster than you should and take on more responsibility than you may be ready for. This is because you may need to take care of yourself and chart your own path from a young age. 

Four Facts to Remember

Living with a parent who has AUD is tough, but you are not a part of the problem. Before you do anything else, remember these four important facts as told by the National Association for Children of Addiction (NACoA):

  • You are not alone
  • There are resources available to you if you need to talk
  • AUD is a disease that cannot be cured, and you did not cause it
  • You cannot control your parents or their drinking

AUD is an incurable disease, though it can be treated. Even people who achieve sobriety still have to learn to maintain recovery. The recovery process is not easy and requires constant work. Yet, with the right resources, someone with AUD can stop drinking and enter recovery.

You cannot make your parent want to get sober. They decided to start drinking, so they must be the ones to decide to get help. What you can do is support them if and when they take the initiative to change. 

Q&A About Alcohol Use Disorder

When you have a parent with AUD, you may have some questions about what they are experiencing. Some of these questions may include the following:

What Is AUD?

Alcohol use disorder, or AUD, occurs when someone cannot control or limit themselves once they begin consuming alcohol. In addition, they act differently when under the influence than how they act when they are sober. Long periods without alcohol consumption may make them agitated and angry, which are signs of withdrawal.

How Is AUD a Disease?

When someone consumes alcohol, signals in their brain tell them it feels good. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol makes them feel really good. When they stop drinking, those signals in their brain stop. Eventually, their brain becomes so used to the feeling of alcohol in their system that consuming alcohol becomes the only thing that makes them feel good, and their brain encourages them to drink more. When someone is addicted to alcohol, or any substance, their brain structures have actually changed in similar ways to other mental diseases, making AUD a kind of brain disease.

Who Can Develop AUD?

The truth is anyone can develop AUD. Certain factors can make someone more likely to develop it, but anyone who drinks excessive amounts of alcohol may be at risk for AUD.

How Can I Stop My Parent From Drinking?

Unfortunately, you cannot stop your parent from struggling with AUD. As mentioned above, you did not make your parent start drinking. They did that on their own and because of that, only they can decide to stop. What you can do is tell them how their drinking habits make you feel. Let them know that you love them, that you care about them, and that you want them to get better. Your honesty about the effects of their choices may be the push they need to get help.

What Else Can I Do? 

Talk to someone you trust about your parent's AUD. Contact addiction treatment centers to get help or perhaps start the process of recovery. Know that you have resources around you and people who will listen. Organizations such as NACoA and Alateen also offer resources to help you cope with your situation. 

Now That You Know

Having a parent with an addiction can be hard, but you are not alone. You cannot stop them from drinking or make them get better, but you can take steps to protect yourself, like setting boundaries with your parent if they keep drinking. Seek out the resources you need to get help yourself.

If you are a child or teen struggling with the effects of parental SUD, you are not alone. There are resources available all around you that can offer help. Though it's difficult to know what to do when a parent struggles with alcohol abuse, remember that it's not your fault. Addiction is a disease without a real cure, but there are ways for your parent to treat their disorder and achieve sobriety to give them and yourself a healthier way of living. The helping and caring professionals at NorthStar Transitions are here to help guide you through this difficult time in life. We can tailor treatment plans that fit your parent's needs and help you find resources like family therapy that will repair your relationships as they repair their lives following addiction. Call (303) 558-6400 to speak to us today. 

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