As a parent of an adult child who has a drinking problem, you want the best for your child.
Unfortunately, things are not as simple as they once seemed and life now is very confusing. Although you still have the same love for your child, once they reach their 18th birthday they are legally considered an adult.
Feelings of Helplessness
Watching an adult child, whether they are 18, 28, or 48, slip into active alcoholism or addiction is devastating. It can be one of the greatest challenges and weigh heavier on your heart than anything else that you have faced in your life.
When your child is a grown adult, parents do not have the same control they had when their child was young. Although you don’t have the control, you still have the same paternal and maternal feelings, worries, and instincts. Parents often feel helpless and hopeless, but there are things you can do to provide support and stress the need for treatment.
Learn About Substance Abuse and Addiction
Alcoholism is a disease. If your child was sick with a disease such as cancer, heart disease, or diabetes, you as a parent would probably try to learn as much about the disease as possible. Read and learn as much as you can about alcohol and how it affects the brain to better understand what you can do to support your child during this difficult time.
Acknowledge that Your Child Is an Adult
Parents must accept the fact that their child is an adult and has the power and responsibility for their own decisions. They do not have the right to blame you, the parent, for their situation. They have the right to their own choices, even if they are harmful.
Is your child choosing to drink over rehab? You must keep in mind that it is their choice. The decision does not stem from something in their childhood that you did or didn’t do.
Making the right choice is their responsibility, even if they try to blame you. When a parent or parents accept the blame for their child’s substance addiction, they take the ownership of the problem away from the child. The adult child sees the “other person” as the one responsible for their drinking problem.
Learn the Difference Between Helping and Enabling
It is very important to learn the difference between helping and enabling. Oftentimes, when a person is trying to help an alcoholic, they are actually enabling them.
According to Very Well Mind, enabling is doing things for a person that they should and could be doing themselves. Helping is doing something for a person that they are incapable of doing themselves. When you enable an alcoholic, you are creating an atmosphere where the person feels comfortable and can continue behaviors that are unacceptable.
Keep in mind that loving your child does not mean enabling them. Always hold them accountable for their actions and behaviors. Do not give them the power to wreak havoc on, or destroy, the family.
Be Cautious with Financial Support
Stop giving your adult child money regardless of what they tell you they need it for. Offer assistance and financial support only to the degree you can afford it and only if the assistance will move them towards a better life.
Don’t give them money that you know will take them farther away from recovery. For example, if your son or daughter says they need money for food but you are not sure if they are going to use the money for that purpose, buy them groceries instead.
When you minimize financial support, you stop shielding them from the natural repercussions of their actions and behaviors. They won’t change if there are no consequences for their actions.
Provide Treatment Options
Learn about the help that is available for your child. Be prepared to answer questions and provide real information. Offer to help your adult child find support groups, rehabilitation programs, or other support services. However, don’t be upset or blame yourself if your adult son or daughter refuses to use them or get the help you know they need. Remember that you cannot help someone that does not want to help themselves.
Although your child is grown and responsible for their own decisions, they need to hear from you. They need to know that they are not alone and that you are aware of what is going on. They need to know that there is help for them, but they have to take the necessary steps to get the help they need.
A Few More Tips
- Separate your child and the addiction. The addiction is not your child, and your child is not the addition. You can love your son or daughter and hate the alcohol addiction.
- Be concerned, caring, and non-judgmental.
- Let your son or daughter know how their actions are affecting you.
- Manage your expectations.
- Keep yourself and the rest of your family protected.
- Love yourself, draw your boundaries, accept your limits, and keep yourself healthy.