Alcohol - coping with alcohol in the home
alcohol; alcoholism; abuse;
When alcohol in the home is a problem
In many homes alcohol is a part of the lives of families.
- Dad or mum may have a beer or wine or other alcoholic drink when they get home from work, or after working on jobs around the house.
- Adults may have a glass of wine with a special meal or when friends come round.
- Older brothers and sisters may go out for a drink or have friends round for a party.
These are all acceptable social reasons for using alcohol.
Alcohol in the home becomes a problem when it is the way of life for an adult or young person to drink a lot of alcohol.
- It is a problem when excessive use of alcohol becomes an addiction, when the person cannot live without alcohol.
- It is a problem when people's behaviour changes – they may become violent or depressed for example.
Then it becomes a problem for everyone in the family.
Alcoholism is a disease and like any other disease it needs to be diagnosed and worked on for the person to get better. Alcohol abuse has some base in what is happening around the person (maybe their friends drink heavily too) but it is also a physical addiction – they have to drink alcohol or else they feel very unwell.
Unless the alcoholic gets and sticks to a program for changing their behaviour then the situation will get worse and all the rest of the family will suffer as well.
- Often alcoholics will make excuses or blame someone or something for making them drink. This often means that they don't see any need to change their behaviour.
- Often kids or other members of the family feel guilty, as if it is their fault that mum or dad is drinking too much.
- Often the alcoholic will allow them to feel guilty because then they have an excuse for drinking.
Whatever you do, whatever you say you cannot make an alcoholic change his or her ways. As with any addiction the only person who can do anything about it is the addict. But you can support a person who wants to change.
alcohol addiction can affect your life
Having a parent or caregiver addicted to alcohol can affect your life in many ways.
- feel unsafe in your own home
- become very quiet and withdrawn at home and outside
- feel angry, depressed, sad, ashamed, embarrassed and helpless
- feel really bad about yourself and not want to join in all the fun stuff that other teens do
- not want to go to friends' houses because you feel too embarrassed to ask them to come to yours.
- feel nervous all the time, trying to work out what mood the alcoholic is in
- find yourself having to take care of younger siblings, and even trying to protect them from violence or other abuse
- have to get work to be able to buy food for the family
- find yourself trying to comfort your parent when he or she is feeling sorry for his or her behaviour
- find yourself making excuses all the time to try and cover up what is really happening in your home
- grow to feel that alcoholism is a normal way of life and you may become addicted to alcohol yourself.
you can do
You need to be aware of how your parent's drinking is affecting you.
You are not responsible for your parent's drinking but if you are not being looked after properly you will have to be responsible for your own safety and wellbeing.
Talking with other people can often be a good beginning for you to manage living with a person who abuses alcohol.
You can ask for help
Do you have a list of 'trusted adults'? If not, think about whom you could trust to help you.
- Maybe other members of the family.
- Teachers or school counsellors.
- Sports coaches or instructors.
- Your doctor.
- Your best friend's mum or dad.
- Social workers at a health centre.
- Youth Healthline, if you live in South Australia. 1300 13 17 19.
- Kid's helpline. 1800 55 1800.
- Al-Anon or Alateen are organisations which can help young people who are living with alcoholics.
- Alcoholics anonymous.
- Call the Police if you or other members of your family are in danger of being harmed or abused.
Asking for help is not 'dobbing'. It is not being disloyal to the family. Living with an alcoholic is not something that any young person should have to do.
Getting help for your family could mean that the alcoholic finally admits there is a problem and starts to work towards dealing with this disease.
National Health and Medical Research Council 'Australian Guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol' 2009
KidsHealth, Nemours Foundation 'Coping with an alcoholic parent'.
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Youth Healthline on 1300 13 17 19 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).