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Alcohol & Health
Helping Alcoholics
Where Does My Call Go?
Updated on September 14, 2023
6 min read

How to Help an Alcoholic Parent

Signs Your Parent is an Alcoholic

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), one in five adults has lived with an alcoholic parent or relative growing up.1 Recognizing the signs of alcohol addiction is crucial in seeking addiction treatment.

Signs of alcohol use disorder (AUD) can begin subtly but worsen over time. They include:

  • Excessive drinking, including during the day
  • Blackout drinking
  • Bad behavior worsened by drinking
  • Declining physical health because of substance abuse problems
  • Co-occurring mental health disorders, such as depression or anxiety
  • Legal issues caused by alcohol addiction
  • Loss of job or income due to alcohol addiction
  • Smelling like alcohol 
  • Hiding alcohol 
  • Denying alcohol abuse issues or substance use disorders (SUDs)

All these symptoms are signs that might indicate your parent’s drinking problem. In this case, you should consider helping them seek treatment.


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6 Ways You Can Help an Alcoholic Parent

Adult children of alcoholics can still carry the effects of their parent's drinking. You shouldn’t feel obligated to help your parent if you feel like it’ll be detrimental to your life.

Research has shown that adult children of alcoholics have higher rates of mental health issues.4 You should only help your parent if you’re comfortable with it.

If you’re planning on helping your alcoholic parent, there are a few things you can do. These include:

1. Offer Emotional Support

Some people use alcohol as a form of escape or self-medication for:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Trauma

If your parent is using alcohol to cope with these issues, it’s important to address these first. Ask your parent when they developed a drinking problem and the factors contributing to substance abuse.

Most parents might not want to worry about their children or talk about their problems and instead turn to substances. Offering emotional support makes it easier for your parent to trust you. This might be helpful to do with the guidance of a mental health professional.

2. Talk to Other Family Members

Your parent might be hiding their substance abuse from other family members. Although you don’t want to make them uncomfortable, you want to show them that other family members can support them during this difficult time.

Only confide in family members you feel would understand your parent’s struggles empathetically. Studies have shown that a lack of family support leads to a higher risk of relapse and damages the chances of a successful recovery. 6

Reaching out to a supportive family member can create a sense of hope. It can also help encourage them to be more receptive to addiction treatment. 

3. Invest in Professional Therapy

Professional counselors are a trustworthy resource for handling your parent’s mental health and substance abuse treatment. Credentialed medical providers specializing in addiction can create a personalized treatment program to address the root of your parent’s alcoholism.

They may also offer family therapy or other treatment practices as necessary. In addition, treatment providers can also recommend and prescribe medications as needed. 

Remember, sessions between a treatment provider and your parent are confidential. Never probe or interfere with your parent’s counseling without permission.

4. Discuss Other Treatment Options 

Outpatient therapy might not be right for your parent. Encouraging your parent to seek addiction treatment is a significant step towards recovery.

However, if your parent seeks a solution other than therapy, discuss different treatment options. Various treatment programs can provide a private and convenient solution.

For example, your parent might be willing to accept treatment in a facility located in another city. By helping your parent explore additional treatment options, you can reassure them that they’ll receive the professional help they need to stop drinking and achieve sobriety. 

5. Wait Until They’re Sober To Talk

Children of alcoholics know just how difficult it is to talk to their parents when they’re under the influence of alcohol. Because alcoholism has severe withdrawal symptoms, your parent might not want to quit drinking. 

Further, they might not want to pursue treatment for their addiction. For this reason, it’s best to address them when they’re sober.

6. Never Force Them Into Recovery

Always come from a place of love and understanding when you speak to your parent about alcohol addiction. Forcing your parent into treatment is never a good idea, despite the danger their drinking causes.

Evidence shows that forcing someone into treatment is ineffective in helping them recover from their alcohol or drug addiction.7 Doing so can cause your parent to resent you and prevent them from attending treatment.

How Alcoholic Parents Affect Children

Studies have shown that AUD runs in families.Genes play a significant role in the development of alcohol abuse. An estimated 50 to 65% of people who have a parent with AUD will also develop the disorder.

Children of alcoholics have an increased likelihood of developing AUD and other co-occurring mental health disorders. This is because the children of alcoholics are at higher risk of experiencing negative events.

These events include:

  • Abuse
  • Trauma
  • Dysfunctional homes
  • Poverty
  • Instability
  • Emotional neglect
  • Witnessing violence

If these events occur in your life, seek out professional help or support groups for guidance. You should always prioritize your own health and well-being.


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How to Talk to an Alcoholic Parent in Denial

If your parent is in denial about their drinking, encourage them to seek individual therapy. A trained therapist can help them understand their problem by providing a safe space to discuss them openly.

Here are some ways that can help you talk to your alcoholic parent:

  • Talk to them in a safe, private, and comfortable environment
  • Use “I” statements like “I am worried about you” or “I’m concerned about your health” 
  • Avoid using accusatory or judgmental language
  • Mention specific instances or events of their problematic drinking 
  • Avoid using generic labels like ‘alcoholic’ or ‘addict’
  • Try to keep your parent relaxed during the conversation
  • Approach the subject with sincere and genuine concern
  • Offer solutions and plans that can help them on their journey to sobriety
  • Set healthy boundaries
  • Don’t enable their behavior

If you need more support or guidance on dealing with an alcoholic parent, talk to a mental health or addiction treatment provider. There are self-help groups like Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA) that can help you.


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Treatment Options for Alcohol Use Disorder

Helping your parent understand their treatment options can encourage them to get help.

Various AUD treatments include:

  1. Medical detox: A treatment center that specializes in medical detox will have a medical professional to help your parent safely stop drinking. They’ll help minimize the risk of withdrawal symptoms after someone stops using substances.
  2. Inpatient treatment: Depending on the rehab center, an inpatient facility will offer 24/7 monitoring and daily support groups to help your parent in their beginning stages of recovery.
  3. Intensive outpatient treatment (IOP): This treatment can benefit people who still need treatment but have less-severe AUD. IOPs allow your parent to live at home, attend support group meetings, and gain daily coping skills.
  4. Outpatient treatment: These programs are the last stage of treatment for people with alcohol or drug abuse. Outpatient programs offer schedule flexibility and are an excellent way to help your parent maintain sobriety.


An alcohol use disorder (AUD) has negative consequences for both the parent and child. It can cause long-term health issues, mental health problems, and relationship problems.

You may also develop AUD because of your parent’s alcohol addiction. Fortunately, there are ways to help your alcoholic parent seek rehab. 

There are high-quality behavioral healthcare programs that can help your parent curb their drinking habits. However, you’ll need to approach them with care and compassion to help them get help and stick to the program.

Updated on September 14, 2023
7 sources cited
Updated on September 14, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. Aacap. “Alcohol Use in Families.” Alcohol use in families. 
  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Genetics of Alcohol Use Disorder.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
  3. Advanced Solutions International, I.” Children of Alcoholics.” Children of alcoholics. 
  4. Tweed SH. & Ryff CD.Adult children of alcoholics: Profiles of wellness amidst distress.” Journal of studies on alcohol.
  5. Turner et al. “Self-medication with alcohol or drugs for mood and anxiety disorders: A narrative review of the epidemiological literature.“ Depression and anxiety, 2018.
  6. Baharudin et al. ”The Experiences of Family Support by People in Recovery from Drug Addiction.” 2012.
  7. Werb et al. “The effectiveness of compulsory drug treatment: A systematic review.” International Journal of Drug Policy, 2015.
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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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