Mar 15, 2012

When the addict in the home is the parent

What do you do? As a child you are the one to get advice from your parents, not the other way. At the same time you have the unpleasant task of having to tell your parent that what he is doing is destroying the family and that he has to stop. What a position to be in. Parents are to correct and teach their children right from wrong and not vice versa. How does the child tell the parent that he is a liar and a thief, that he never keeps a promise to sober up, and that unless he seeks help and does something about his drinking that you are going to ask him to leave? How do you do this without creating embarrassment and without causing hurt? Addicts are in denial and will lie about their addiction even if you find them red-handed with the whiskey bottle.

Stepping in and taking charge

Usually the first step would be to attend Alcoholics Anonymous and go to the meetings every week. If the person refuses to acknowledge his addiction and argues and tells you to shut up as you are the child and he is the father, don’t get into a whole brawling session. Addiction, whether alcohol, sex, or drugs is a disease and he needs help. It is clear if your mother or father is the addict that you involve their brother or sister – your uncle or aunt – and plan an intervention. Your uncle could head up the group and you invite the addict to come and have some tea with you, and when he arrives at the house he is confronted by you and the relatives and the friends who all come prepared with a letter that they have penned for the addict. The addict will offer up excuses and try to get away, but you will persist in your efforts to get him to go to rehab.

The intervention

Addicts are some of the wiliest characters you will meet. They can be friendly and affable, but will turn on you in a second if you have what they want. Unfortunately also when the addict is a parent or someone in a position of authority it makes it harder to be firm as you do not want to lose respect. Prepare to kick all that parental respect to the curb. It is crunch time; you have a tough decision to make; either help your parent by giving tough love support, or be taken in by the fact that the uncle is older than you and you should agree with him. Here is what you do: whether it is your mother, father, brother, sister, or uncle do NOT budge from what you have set out to do and carry out the promise you have made to yourself. If your adult family member does not want intervention, does not want to acknowledge that he is an addict and needs help, and refuses your offer, very simply ask him where you can drop him off with his clothes as he is no longer welcome in the home. Hand his suitcase to him which has already been packed by one of the family members and let him go. This may seem harsh, but not half as harsh as what might happen to all of you if his alcoholism goes untreated. You cannot destroy a whole family with your disease.