When you’re a child, it’s hard to recognize the signs of alcohol use disorder. All you know is that your dad gets angry easily. You know to stay out of his way when you smell that telltale liquor on his breath. As you get older, it’s bound to dawn on you — “my father is addicted to alcohol.” While this revelation may bring some understanding, it doesn’t change the trauma you may have experienced growing up.
Alcohol use disorder is a disease. If left untreated, your father will continue to risk serious consequences to his health, his safety and his relationships. As you heal from the experience of growing up in an environment of alcohol addiction, you may find the strength to help your dad. In this post, we offer advice on how to help an aging father who is addicted to alcohol.
Is My Father Addicted to Alcohol?
“Is my dad addicted to alcohol?” If you’re wondering if your father has a drinking problem, he probably does. While there’s no quiz that you can take to answer this question, there are a few signs to look out for that could indicate alcohol addiction:
- He drinks alone or in secret.
- He prioritizes drinking over other obligations.
- He frequently has hangovers.
- He isolates himself from family and friends.
- He’s encountering difficulties at work or with his finances because of his drinking.
- He’s experienced blackouts or memory loss.
- He’s prone to irritability and mood swings.
- You’ve noticed changes in his appearance, behavior and social circle.
How to Deal With a Father Who Has an Alcohol Addiction as an Adult
Alcohol addiction doesn’t just affect the person drinking. Families also suffer. From a young age, you may have learned to fear the person who was supposed to keep you safe.If he was abusive, then verbal, emotional or even physical harm might have been the norm in your home.
Now, as an adult, you have to learn how to emotionally deal with the ramifications of having a father who is addicted to alcohol. Whether through therapy or a support group of others who grew up in a similar environment, support is essential for healing. During these times, you will:
- Address the fears and anxieties that stem from growing up in an environment of addiction.
- Learn that you are not alone in your experiences.
- Find hope for a happier future.
- Understand that you did not cause your father’s problem with alcohol.
Most importantly, these times of healing will enable you to understand that it is not your job to fix your father. All you can do is encourage him to get help.
How to Deal With a Father Who Is in Denial About Alcohol Addiction
Denial is common for those who struggle with alcohol use disorder. Your father may even get angry or defensive when you try to point out that he has a drinking problem. The truth is, your dad probably knows, but he doesn’t want to admit it.
While you can’t cure your father’s addiction, you can help guide him towards a life of recovery. Here is some advice on how to confront a parent with alcohol addiction:
- Address the problem head-on. You have the chance to be open and honest with your father about his addiction before it’s too late. This conversation will be difficult, but he needs to hear how his drinking has impacted your life and your relationship with him. Your words could be what finally makes him get the help he needs.
- Enlist other loved ones. Tell other family members and friends what’s going on. Having their extra support may help your dad realize how his addiction is impacting those he cares for.
- Set boundaries. Healthy boundaries protect you and can help your father realize the damaging effect alcohol is having on his life. Boundaries are not punishments. They are consequences for his drinking. The limits you set could include not letting your dad be around your children when he is drinking or refusing to bail him out if he gets in trouble. Just be sure to stick to your boundaries.
- Find treatment options: You can’t force your father to get help. However, you can research different treatment options so that your dad knows what help is available. Tell him that when he is ready to seek treatment, you will support him.
Treatment for Fathers With Alcohol Use Disorder
Sometimes all it takes is a little help to find a lifetime of healing. Gateway Foundation is proud to offer more than 50 years of experience to those looking to break free from addiction. We specialize in treating alcohol use disorder with safe, effective and evidence-based treatments. If you would like advice on how to approach your father about treatment, we invite you to contact us to speak with a member of our team.