Alcohol & Health
Helping Alcoholics
Where Does My Call Go?
Updated on February 2, 2023
8 min read

8 Ways to Help An Alcoholic Son

Signs Your Son May Be an Alcoholic

For many people, alcohol is just an ordinary part of life. Alcohol can be enjoyed recreationally without necessarily leading to alcoholism or substance abuse. This can make it hard to determine if your son is an alcoholic.

However, there are a few signs you can look out for:

  • Alcohol presence: having easy access to alcohol
  • Mood changes: irritability, temper, and defensiveness over drinking
  • Changes in friend circles: switching friends and being secretive about them
  • Poor performance: low grades, poor attendance, school problems, and delinquent behavior
  • Personality changes: low energy, lack of interest, and suspicious behavior (sneaking out)
  • Physical or mental problems: lack of coordination, poor concentration, slurred speech, and memory loss

Addiction wreaks havoc on many families. It can leave many people feeling isolated, vulnerable, and afraid. Knowing what to do with an alcoholic son can help you and your family heal from the effects of alcoholism.


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What Can Cause Your Son to Become an Alcoholic?

Many factors can contribute to your son’s alcoholism, including:

  • Gender: Men are more likely to binge drink than women. On the other hand, women can get drunk faster than men because they have less body water.
  • Frequency of alcohol use: People who drink frequently are at risk of abusing alcohol and developing an alcohol use disorder.
  • Altered brain chemistry: Excessive drinking can alter a person's brain chemistry, causing dopamine to trigger when drinking
  • Genetic disposition: Some people are genetically predisposed to becoming an alcoholic, especially if it is hereditary.
  • Social pressure: Peer pressure, stress, and other environmental factors can cause someone to drink more.
  • Personality traits: Certain personality traits like impulsiveness are associated with heavy drinking.
  • Drinking at a young age: Exposure to alcohol at a young age can put you at risk for alcohol use disorder.

8 Ways to Deal With an Alcoholic Son

Coping with a son’s alcoholism is one of the most challenging experiences a parent can have. When you have a child with alcohol use disorder (AUD), it tests boundaries, affects your well-being, and puts a strain on your marriage.

It can also negatively impact your relationship with other family members, especially children. Understanding substance use and alcoholism is one of the most important things you can do if your child struggles with addiction.

There are many things you can do to help your alcoholic son, including:

1. Taking Care of Yourself

When your son is experiencing alcoholism, you will do more harm than good if you do not take care of yourself. You must practice good self-care during this period. Self-care may involve:

  • Eating well
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Exercising as much as possible

When you consider these needs, you protect your immune system, energy levels, and cognitive abilities. These strengthen your resiliency, making you effective in managing the bigger problem.

2. Educate Yourself About Alcoholism

If your son struggles with alcoholism, it's important to know as much about the condition as possible. There are plenty of nuances that go into addiction and alcoholism. For example, problem drinking doesn't necessarily mean someone has an alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Alcohol can have a significant impact on the brain and the body. It's also important to know the symptoms of alcoholism and alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

Knowing what to expect with alcoholism can help you better prepare yourself and your son for it. Most importantly, educating yourself can be vital in ensuring your son's safety.

3. Seeking Support and Treatment

There are many programs created to help people who struggle with alcoholism. These include:

Finding the right treatment program for your son can help increase the chances of a successful recovery. Ensuring that they have the appropriate support and aftercare treatment is also important.

4. Avoiding Denial

Most parents don’t want to accept or believe their son is an alcoholic. They may tell themselves various things to reject or account for their son’s drinking, including:

  • It is normal to experiment at this age
  • It is not as bad as I think
  • It will work itself out over time
  • He has always been a good kid
  • I am a good parent

However, by living in denial, you are not helping your son when he requires it most. As a parent, it is essential to come to terms with your son’s alcoholism. Do your best to remove feelings of guilt or shame so you can get your son the help he needs.

5. Planning An Intervention

Intervention is one of the most effective tools parents and other family members have for dealing with an alcoholic loved one. This is especially true if the alcoholic loved one doesn’t want help. 

Interventions led by an addiction professional increase the odds that the person with AUD will enter treatment and that treatment will be successful.

6. Avoid Enabling Environment

An environment with easy access to alcohol can be a detriment to recovery. To ensure the best possible chance of recovery, it's best to avoid situations or places where your son can be tempted to start drinking.

These situations and environments involve:

  • Enabling peers
  • Drinking spots or hangouts
  • Bars or clubs
  • Parties with alcohol
  • Toxic or upsetting people
  • Situations that can trigger cravings (stress, pressure, negativity)

7. Engage in New Hobbies or Interests

Developing a healthy interest in something new can help your son avoid alcohol. These new hobbies or interests can help them distract themselves from alcohol and lessen the chance of crossing paths with enabling situations.

Furthermore, hobbies can help them explore new places, meet new people, and find happiness in new things. These activities can provide an outlet to have fun and express themselves outside of alcohol.

8. Empathy Over Enabling

Empathy and enabling can easily go hand-in-hand. Both often come from a place of compassion and a place to help. However, the outcomes are different.

Enabling allows unhealthy and self-destructive behaviors to continue. This may worsen the problem rather than solve it.

On the other hand, empathetic parents offer emotional support and encourage their children to confide in them about stress and other issues related to their drinking. 

Do's and Don'ts of Dealing With An Alcoholic Son

While empathy is important, you also need to understand where to draw the line. You should never enable your son’s drinking. Enabling comes in various forms:

  • Giving someone money so they don’t steal
  • Creating excuses for someone’s behavior
  • Not showing how you feel to avoid someone becoming upset or leaving
  • Ignoring unacceptable behavior

Some ways to stop enabling your alcoholic son may include:

  • Giving him food when he is hungry rather than providing him with money that can be spent on alcohol and other substances
  • Not cleaning up after him⁠—leaving his mess for him to see and deal with
  • Continue following through on plans even if your son does not participate or engage
  • Take back autonomy by prioritizing your needs

Understanding the distinction between empathy and enabling is challenging for parents. It might help to seek counseling to help you manage your role in your son’s life.

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Can Alcoholism Run in Families?

Yes. Both genetic and environmental factors play a major role in someone’s risk of developing alcoholism. For example, a male with an alcoholic parent, especially a father, has a high risk of being an alcoholic. Men are twice as likely as women to develop alcoholism.7

This is due to genetic factors that biologically increase the odds of alcoholism.  In addition, environmental factors, such as living with an alcoholic, can make someone more prone to alcoholism.

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How to Convince an Alcoholic Loved One to Get Help

You might not convince your alcoholic son to get help, but there are things you can do to encourage him to take that road himself. 

Adjust Your Expectations

Accept that you might face resistance if you confront him about his drinking or suggest that he get help. That doesn’t mean he won’t eventually enter recovery.

Realize You Can’t Control Them

You need to realize you cannot control his behavior. The only thing you control is how you respond to his drinking and whether or not you enable his alcoholism.

Plan Out Your Conversation

If you choose to confront your alcoholic son, think carefully about what you want to say. The goal is to open the door to effective communication while respecting whatever boundaries you set with him.

Try Not To Blame or Attack

Begin the conversation when your son is sober and do not attack or place blame. Explain how his actions affect you and the rest of the family and suggest treatment options. Loved ones are a big reason for alcoholics to seek help.

Support Groups for Parents of Alcoholic Children

There is support available for parents of alcoholic sons. Al-Anon is one of the most accessible and effective support groups available.

The Al-Anon program is based on the 12-steps developed by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and provides a peer support environment for those who care about people with AUD.

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Updated on February 2, 2023
7 sources cited
Updated on February 2, 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. “Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).” Nih.Gov, 2017.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Principles of Effective Treatment.” Drugabuse.Gov, 2018.
  3. “Coping With an Alcoholic Child | Meetings: 888-425-2666.” Al-Anon Family Groups.
  4. Lander, Laura, et al. “The impact of substance use disorders on families and children: from theory to practice.” Social work in public health, 2013.
  5. Nehring SM, Freeman AM. “Alcohol Use Disorder.” StatPearls Publishing, 2021.
  6. Rehm, Jürgen. “The risks associated with alcohol use and alcoholism.” Alcohol research & health: the journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2011.
  7. Elisabeth, A. et al "Overview of the Genetics of Alcohol Use Disorder." Alcohol and Alcoholism, 2016.

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