Parents Seeking Help: What To Say to an Alcoholic Son or Daughter

In the first step of Alcoholics Anonymous the addict admits a sense of powerlessness over alcohol and acknowledges that life has become unmanageable. Honestly, this step can be just as pertinent to the parents of the alcoholic, as those words ring profoundly true for them, too. Nothing is so disheartening than to find oneself the parent of an alcoholic young adult. After painstakingly raising your child, doing the very best parenting job you could muster, you now witness your grown child’s life going up in smoke as it becomes clear that he or she has an alcohol problem.

At this juncture the knee jerk response is often one born of frustration and anger. Parents simply cannot understand why their child has chosen to drink so excessively that consecutive negative consequences are quickly piling up. Parents find themselves feeling exasperated and lost, not knowing how to help their son or daughter right the ship. Learning what to say to an alcoholic son or daughter that will result in positive action, versus rejection or denial, is key to them taking the first important steps toward recovery.

Helping Versus Enabling

As a parent, it is natural to want to help mitigate the fallout from a child’s alcoholism. Parents only want the best for their son or daughter, and may instinctively make grandiose efforts to rescue their grown child from the consequences of the disease. These reflexive actions are fueled out of fear—Will he have any food to eat?; Where will he live if he loses his apartment?; What if he doesn’t pay that ticket he got?; How will he keep the lights on?—fear that their child may suffer. The conundrum for parents is that they must allow the alcoholic to fall down and experience the consequences of their disease and allow them to own their recovery. Through suffering they may be more inclined to get the help they need, versus parents constantly bailing them out and providing a soft landing.

Enabling behaviors involve the steps that parents take to do the things that their son or daughter should be, and can be, doing for themselves. Enabling behaviors might include:

  • Giving your son or daughter money. While it is tempting to offer them some cash for food or to help pay rent or utility bills, in reality that cash will often be used to buy alcohol instead. Or, just having the parents taking care of the essentials allows the alcoholic to not feel the need to work or be productive and fuels the addiction.
  • Covering for them. A parent may contact their child’s employer or professor to make excuses for an absence. By trying to cover up the alcoholic’s behaviors, the parent is only teaching their child how to manipulate them in the future, and also deters them from being accountable for their actions.
  • Taking over for their responsibilities. Parents may feel tempted to step in and help when there are young children involved when the alcoholic is neglecting their parental responsibilities. This can be true for other neglected responsibilities, such as cleaning their apartment, handling their finances, or arranging for appointments.

Become Educated About the Disease of Alcoholism

Before approaching your son or daughter about their drinking, it is helpful to become informed first. Alcoholism is a complex, chronic disease. It is wise to have a basic understanding of the signs of addiction and the trajectory that the disease takes. The alcoholic does not want you to be informed, as they can manipulate uninformed parents much more easily.

Also, prior to addressing the alcoholism, do some research about detox and treatment options so you will be prepared when/if your son or daughter agrees to get help. This will save a lot of time and allow the parent to be able to move quickly toward securing treatment for their child in a timely manner, giving the son or daughter less time to change their mind.

What to Say to an Alcoholic Son or Daughter

When wondering what to say to an alcoholic son or daughter, it is important to use certain tactics when approaching them. These include:

  • Alcoholics of all ages will recoil if the approach is forceful and anger-driven. It is much more effective to approach them with compassion and understanding. They hate that they are alcoholic. They feel ashamed, guilty, and weak due to this disease.
  • Have evidence of their alcoholism ready to present to them, as alcoholics love to deny and lie about their disease. Have a few concrete examples of how the son or daughter is exhibiting the telltale signs of alcoholism, and that they need to get some help for it.
  • Offer constructive ideas. To just accuse the son or daughter of being an alcoholic is ineffective. Gently reveal the things that you understand, from your research, are indicative of alcoholism, and then offer them solutions. This means specific treatment options to consider, types of rehabs, what to do about detox, and how to plan for treatment.
  • Consider an intervention. If the parent is not confident in their abilities to approach their child about the alcoholism, a professional intervention is a good option. These interventionists are trained to smoothly manage the group meeting where family members and/or close friends convey to the alcoholic how his or her disease has negatively impacted their life, and then guide the person towards treatment.

Preparing for Recovery

In the best-case scenario, the loved one will agree to enter treatment for the alcohol use disorder. This acquiescence may be due to the obvious deterioration of the young adult’s life that is attributed directly to the alcohol abuse. Maybe they have hit their bottom and sincerely desire to change their life. Whatever the reason, the fact that a son or daughter has agreed to get professional help is reason to celebrate.

Prior to the beginning of treatment it is helpful to begin preparing them for the recovery process. This may mean researching different rehab programs together before deciding which is the most appropriate level of care. If the adult child is employed, suggest that they get a medical leave of absence from the employer. They will need to also inquire about their insurance benefits so they can be aware of the out-of-pocket costs of treatment.

Medical Detox Process

The first important step in recovery involves the process through which the body will expel all toxins and chemicals related to the alcoholism. Alcohol detox and withdrawal is a challenging aspect of early recovery, one that often deters many from even entering treatment. However, the benefit of a medically monitored detox program is that a trained team of detox specialists will attend to their needs throughout the process.

During a medical detox, the body struggles to regain equilibrium without the usual alcohol consumption. Brain pathways have adapted to the alcohol, so when it is withheld it causes intense physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol detox can be perilous, which is why a medical team is always important. These experts will consistently monitor vital signs and withdrawal symptoms, allowing them to offer medical interventions as needed to help minimize health risks and the symptoms themselves. The detox specialists, who help keep the individual focused on the end game—recovery, also provide important psychological support.

Comprehensive Addiction Treatment

After detox and withdrawal, the individual will transition to active recovery treatment. This can be obtained in either an outpatient or residential treatment setting, which is largely determined by the severity of the alcoholism. The outpatient option allows for the individual to remain living at home while participating in outpatient therapy for anywhere from 9-25 hours per week. A residential setting provides housing and involves a 24-hour support during an extended stay. The residential option offers the higher level of care, with a more intensive daily saturation of therapeutic activities.

Treatment elements for alcohol addiction recovery include:

  • Psychotherapy. Getting to the root of the addiction behaviors and transforming them is key to overcoming alcoholism. This is accomplished through individual psychotherapy sessions using evidence-based therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and short-term psychodynamic therapy.
  • Group therapy. Individuals in recovery tend to enjoy hearing from peers during group therapy. These sessions allow participants to share personal experiences and offer mutual support.
  • Family therapy. Family members are encouraged to participate in the recovery process by engaging in family-focused group therapy sessions.
  • Medication. Some individuals in alcoholism recovery benefit from medication assisted treatment (MAT) through the use of naltrexone. In some cases, a co-occurring mental health diagnosis may necessitate medication as well.
  • 12-step meetings. Many rehabs will integrate A.A.’s 12-step programming into the treatment plan, involving 12-step meetings (or similar type recovery community) and guest speakers.
  • Complimentary activities. Various activities will enhance the recovery process, such as participating in holistic therapies like yoga, acupuncture, meditation, or art therapy, and recreational activities. Nutritional counseling also falls under this category.

Quest 2 Recovery is a Residential Alcohol Treatment Program in Los Angeles

Quest 2 Recovery understands the needs, both emotional and physical, of someone recovering from alcoholism. The compassionate staff at Quest 2 Recovery considers themselves partners with the client, walking the journey toward renewal and healing right along with them. The intimate and family-like treatment setting provides a sense of warmth and comfort to clients at a difficult time in their lives.

At Quest 2 Recovery, our program is base on proven therapies that work in tandem to help clients make important behavioral changes that will support long-term sobriety. As part of the therapeutic process, our therapists also help clients explore any underlying emotional issues that may be factors in the addictive reflex to drink. If you are wondering what to say to an alcoholic son or daughter to get them into treatment, contact our admissions desk for guidance and support. Contact Quest 2 Recovery today at (888) 453-9396.