How To Cope With Alcohol-Dependent Parents

Updated July 20, 2021

Alcohol (or intoxicant) dependence is more than the excessive intake of liquor. It is an addiction disorder that affects the everyday functioning across all spheres of the individual’s life and those around them. Living with an addicted caretaker is not a comfortable experience, and no child or adult should be subject to it.

Some days may be harder than most, and sometimes you could despair. In this article, we will help you understand the concept of this common disorder and how to live in the care of an addict. Some might ask, ‘Instead of telling me to live with my caretaker, why don’t they just stop drinking?’ The chances are that it is not easy to stop anymore. Some parts of their brains are wired to drink at the slightest convenience and inconvenience. Moreover, your caretakers’ habits come with a lot of struggle, which directly or indirectly affects you. You also require just as much care and therapy as your caretakers as they embark on the road to recovery.

When Drinking Becomes A Problem


Intoxicant dependence is a chronic medical condition characterized by the inability to control intoxicant intake because of its physical and emotional dependence. Addicts are preoccupied with not only consumption of it but thoughts of acquiring any type of it as well. In 2018, it was reported by National Survey on Drug use and Health (NSDUH) that 14.4 million adults aged 18 years and older had usage disorder in the United States alone. According to the World Health Organization, ICD-10, most people with intoxicant dependence present with at least 3 of the following features in one year to be diagnosed:

  • A strong desire to drink in this case, they feel that they cannot help it.
  • They find it difficult to control the amount of intoxicants they consume when they start and stop the intake.
  • They experience withdrawal symptoms like vomiting, tremors, sweat, etc. when their intoxication level is low or has stopped.
  • They try to increase the amount they consume because they become more tolerant of lower doses to achieve the effects they were getting from lower doses.
  • There is gradual neglect of alternative sources of pleasure, and their interests in other activities reduce.
  • They continue intake, even when there is evidence of the harmful effects, whether physical or emotional.

Suppose you suspect that any/both of your caretakers have such a disorder. Chances are they are going to need a lot of professional help. Sheer will power and motivation are not enough.

Impact Of Addiction Disorder On The Family

This specific type of addiction has a ton of adverse effects. Its consequences not only resonate in the lives of people who have the condition, but also on their children, friends, and loved ones. Some of them are:

Destroy the family relationship and dynamic.

Coping with a loved one who is battling with addiction is not a work in the park. Oftentimes, it can destroy the relationship you had with the person. Addiction causes the individual to neglect their regular everyday duties. For example, a person who usually remembers picking their kids from school does not do so anymore, because he/she was out drinking till late and forgot. The individual is also unable to stop at will, which further frustrates and strains the relationship, especially if they promise they would.

  • Marital discord
  • Divorce
  • Stress
  • Jealousy
  • Codependency
  • Infidelity
  • Domestic violence
  • Worsening of domestic issues.

Ruin family finances


In this case, the family’s finances are used to fuel the addiction. All the trouble that comes with poor financial decisions falls on the other family members, leading to debt and even legal issues. To top it all, the person could have low productivity at work and risk termination, further worsening the economic problems the family would face. Others are:

  • Poor credit card history
  • Overdue bills as a result of inadequate finances or forgetfulness
  • Treatment of any health-related problems
Child neglect

Growing up with a caretaker with an addiction has a widespread and lifelong impact on the child. It affects many aspects of how they relate with their peers, teachers, and authority figures. Some of them may experience a rollercoaster of emotions and behavioral changes to help them cope with the situation. some of them include:

  • Self-blame, feeling guilty that they are the cause of the addiction
  • Attention seeking behavior
  • Depression
  • Continually worrying about their caretakers drinking, getting into fights and legal troubles
  • Having trust issues
  • Feeling embarrassed by their caretakers
  • Feeling emotionally detached
  • They may have trouble at school like failing in school, being disruptive in school
  • Withdrawing from peers, friends
  • Feel emotionally numb
  • May have low self-esteem
  • They could develop impulsive nature

How Then Do I Cope With My Caretakers If They're Addicts?

Coping with caretakers who are intoxicant-dependent might seem challenging. However, there are certain things you should understand to help you ease stress or cope with the situation much better.

  • It Is Not Your Fault
Say it with us, ‘I am not the reason for anyone else's drinking habit.’ Often, children of addicts think they are the ones who drove their caretakers to substance abuse. You cannot solve the problem for them, so why be hard on yourself? The best you can do is provide support.
  • Talk To Someone About It


Having a caretaker who is struggling with addiction can make one feel so isolated and withdrawn. It may not be so easy to tell your caretakers that their intoxicant abuse is affecting you. Even when you do, it is not a guarantee that everything would go back to normal. Try to talk to someone about the issues you face at home. It may not necessarily be an authority figure, your friends, a support group, even a mental health specialist. It can do well to relieve the stress from home, and if there is any case of abuse, you can get help faster.
  • Acknowledge That Your Caretakers Might Need Help
Addiction is not a one-time thing or just a passing phase if the individual involved is not ready to put in the necessary work to get better. Most children may not understand this. Some may even deny the extent of their caretaker’s addiction to protect them or shield themselves from embarrassment. It is entirely understandable that this happens. However, this does not help your caretakers in any way, and it may further prolong the problem. Owning up to the fact that your caretaker has an addiction is one of the first steps in taking charge of your life.
  • Show Them You Are Concerned
Most child and adult children of intoxicant addicts may not find it easy talking to their caretakers about their dependence. We understand that some caretakers would take a defensive stance, and some may flat out deny that they have a problem. Regardless, they need to know how it makes you feel and the effects it has had on you so far, it may even help motivate them to seek help faster.
  • Be Informed About the Disorder
To cope with your caretaker’s alcoholism, you need to understand what it is, the role or part to play in their recovery, and its consequences. This helps you avoid certain unhealthy emotions. It could give you insight and some assurances along the way, allowing you to support your caretakers in the best way you could.
  • Develop A Healthy Coping Mechanism
Earlier in this article, we went through the unhealthy ways in which children with caretakers who are addicts cope. Substituting those habits little by little for healthier ones such as journaling, self-assurance that you are not at fault, talking about the problem, dancing, and so on could help you.
  • Acknowledge The Feelings You Have About It
Sweeping away or neglecting your feelings about your caretaker’s dependence is quite common. It is entirely reasonable to want to resent your caretakers at that point or feel bad. Do not try to stifle, talk to friends, close relatives even. You deserve to feel the way you do.
  • Accompany Them To Seek Help
You could show your caretakers more support by accompanying them to see the mental health physician or professional, especially if they feel embarrassed. It is a significant confidence boost for them and a sign that they are trying to do the right thing.
  • Find A Safe Place


On a final note, if you know staying with your caretakers is becoming increasingly dangerous or you cannot cope with the living conditions, you could stay with a trusted friend or relative. If that is not available, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE or call 911.

At BetterHelp, we are committed to helping you and your loved one get through this trying time. Living with alcoholic caretakers can have negative, lifelong impacts on families and children. So seeking professional help, such as BetterHelp's therapy services, promptly is crucial to the recovery process.


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