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One of my parents drinks… What can I do?

Your parents aren’t only… parents! They’re also human beings. Just like you, they may go through hard times or feel emotions they find difficult to manage. Some people seek comfort in alcohol instead of solving their problems. Not only are they not facing up to the situation but they might even become dependent on alcohol. Here are 10 points to watch to find out what to do.

1) It’s no joke!

If one of your parents has a drinking problem, your emotions might be in turmoil. You might feel:

  • disappointed
  • angry
  • powerless
  • ashamed
  • sad
  • anxious
  • scared (if his/her behaviour changes under the influence of alcohol)
  • like your own parent’s parent

 2) “Not a problem!”

It’s possible that your parent is denying that he/she has a drinking problem. He/she might feel afraid of disappointing you, worried about what people will say, or unable to overcome his/her problems.

3) Side-effects

Alcohol affects thought and logical reasoning. If your parent is under the influence of alcohol, he/she might:

  • say hurtful things
  • act irrationally
  • not take good care of you or handle important issues
  • get angry for no real reason
  • no longer care about anything
  • make empty promises

 4) Will I have the same problem?

You undoubtedly have different tastes, interests, and goals than your parents. But if you think you might be at risk, don’t hesitate to talk to a counsellor at your school or at Tel-jeunes.

5) What can I do to help him/her?

In order to stop drinking, a person first has to recognize that he/she has a problem, and that can take time! If you feel up to talking to your parent, choose a good time (ideally, when he/she is sober) to tell him/her what you feel.

6) He/she refuses to deal with the problem

Recognizing a problem is one thing; solving it is another. A person might not be ready to stop drinking because his/her body or mind craves alcohol or because he/she doesn’t know any other way to handle distress.

7) He/she doesn’t love me enough

It’s not a question of love. The motivation has to come from the person who has a drinking problem. You’re not responsible for his/her drinking or motivation. You’re neither the problem nor the solution. And it’s normal for you to feel powerless in this situation.

8) You’d think I was the parent!

If your parent has an addiction problem, he/she might have trouble managing time, money, emotions, or even housework. But the fact remains that it’s not your role to take care of your parent or assume the whole burden. You’re not the parent!

9) So what can I do?

Don’t keep this to yourself. Talk about it to adults you trust, such as another family member, a counsellor at your school, a teacher, or Tel-jeunes.

10) Make sure you’re safe

If your parent drinks often or in large amounts, you might not feel safe because:

  • you’re left at home alone frequently or at night
  • you’re experiencing physical or psychological violence
  • you’re being neglected
  • your parent takes you to places that are inappropriate for your age

Your safety is important. You can talk about it to a trusted adult, a support person, or Tel-jeunes. You can also contact the Director of Youth Protection (DYP) for your area.

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