Living with Alcoholism: Having an Alcoholic Parent

by | Apr 16, 2024 | Memoir | 0 comments

Photo by Mahrael Boutros

Michael Sanborn’s Recovery from an Alcoholic’s Collateral Damage is a book about life with an alcoholic mother and the far-reaching consequences of it.

Having an alcoholic parent can be a harrowing and confusing experience. Witnessing someone you love struggle with addiction creates a constant undercurrent of worry and instability. 

Living with Alcoholism

It’s important to remember that you’re not alone. 

Millions of people grapple with a parent’s alcohol use disorder, and there are ways to navigate this challenging situation.

Alcoholism is a chronic disease, not a character flaw. Understanding the illness behind your parent’s behavior can help you detach from feeling blame and resentment. 

Remember that addiction is a brain disease. Alcohol changes the chemistry of the brain. It rewires how it functions and makes it challenging to keep oneself from actively consuming untoward substances. An alcoholic doesn’t choose to continue drinking despite adverse consequences. The disease overrides rational thought. They can’t control themselves, as it were.

Recovery from addiction and living with alcoholism is possible, but it requires professional intervention. Alcoholics need professional help, and they should be taught to actively seek it out.

Taking Care of Yourself

Your well-being is paramount. It’s okay to feel angry, sad, frustrated, or scared when you are living with alcoholism. When you try to bottle them up, they only intensify. Having conversations with trusted friends, loved ones, or, if possible, a therapist is critical. You should always have a support group with which to share your feelings openly.

Exercising regularly, eating healthily, and properly sleeping is crucial for maintaining emotional and physical well-being. Activities like reading, spending time in nature, or listening to music are engaging and help the mind from dwelling on dark experiences. These act as a buffer during challenging times.

An alcoholic parent may become manipulative or try to guilt-trip you. Learn to say “no” and establish firm boundaries. This doesn’t mean you don’t love them. It just means protecting yourself from enabling their addiction.

Having an Alcoholic Parent

It’s crucial to understand that you have no control over your parent’s drinking and the fact that you are living with alcoholism. You can’t force them into rehab or prevent them from making bad choices. Trying to control the situation will only create more stress and frustration. Focus on what you can control. Focus on your thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Finding Support

Surrounding yourself with supportive people is vital. 

Seek out and join support groups, both online and in real life. Organizations that deal with alcoholism offer support groups specifically for those affected by someone else’s alcoholism. Sharing experiences with others who understand your situation can be incredibly validating and helpful.

Individual therapy can also equip you with coping mechanisms and emotional support. Consider finding a therapist experienced in working with families affected by addiction.

Detaching with Love

Detaching from enabling behaviors doesn’t mean giving up on your parent. It means setting healthy boundaries to protect yourself. 

  • Don’t Cover Up: Avoid lying to your parent or making excuses for their actions. This allows their addiction to continue unchecked.
  • Don’t Enable Mispending: Don’t loan money you know will be spent on alcohol. This fuels their addiction.
  • Limit Contact Sometimes: If your parent’s behavior is volatile or unsafe when intoxicated, it’s okay to limit contact for your well-being.

Where to Start with Healing

Remember, you cannot fix your parent. Their recovery is their responsibility. However, you can heal from the emotional wounds inflicted by their addiction. This can be done by educating yourself. Learning as much as possible about alcoholism and its effects on families can give you knowledge that empowers you to make informed decisions.

Always forgive yourself. It’s natural to feel angry or resentful. Be lenient with yourself for things you can’t control, and just focus on moving forward.

For a more intimate and in-depth look at having an alcoholic parent, Michael Sanborn’s Recovery from an Alcoholic’s Collateral Damage is a book about life with an alcoholic mother and the far-reaching consequences of it.


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