How to Help an Alcoholic Father
Is My Dad Addicted to Alcohol?
Alcoholism may not be easy to detect. People with alcohol use disorder (AUD) tend to downplay the extent of their drinking or seem to function normally, even while intoxicated, so it may not be obvious that they have a problem. While only a doctor or a licensed addiction specialist can diagnose someone with an AUD, there are some signs that may mean your father has a problem with alcohol. These signs include:
- Drinking alone or hiding excessive drinking
- Dramatic mood shifts
- Using alcohol to take the edge off or to self-medicate when feeling anxious
- Interpersonal problems
- Driving under the influence
- Inability to work or carry out other responsibilities
How to Help a Father Struggling with Alcohol Misuse
If you’re thinking, “my dad is an alcoholic,” talk to your father about it in a supportive way. Don’t nag or judge him; express your concern and kindly let him know that you want to help. Alcoholics often are in denial about their condition, so be prepared for him to tell you that he does not need help. You can’t force your dad to seek treatment, but you can make him aware of some resources that might help him and give him the opportunity to turn to you or another trusted friend, family member, or professional for help.
How to Talk to Your Dad about Alcoholism
When talking to your dad about his substance use, you should be aware that there may not be a “right time” for the conversation. Your father may not want to talk about it, but that doesn’t mean you should put off the talk. Starting the conversation is the first step to getting help.
Plan to sit down with your dad when he’s sober. Try to remain relaxed and nonjudgmental, and tell him how you feel. You can try using “I” statements that let them know what you’ve noticed, such as:
- “I’m worried about you. Can we talk?”
- “I’ve noticed that you call in sick to work a lot. Do you want to talk about what is going on?”
- “I’m concerned that you wake up hungover every morning and I’m worried about the impact of your drinking on your health.”
- “I’ve noticed you don’t seem like yourself lately. How can I help?”
How to Be Supportive for a Dad with AUD
You can’t make your father go to treatment or force him to stop drinking. However, you can offer support. This might look like:
- Helping your dad research treatment options.
- Suggesting your parent talk to a doctor if they won’t talk to you.
- Going with them to family/group therapy or any other appointments.
Support for Families of Alcoholics
Alcoholism affects the entire family, and supporting your father involves helping yourself and finding ways to cope with his addiction. Options to support yourself or other family members includes:
- Individual counseling.
- Family therapy.
- Support groups, such as Al-Anon, where you meet with other children of alcoholic parents.
How to Help My Dad Find Alcohol Addiction Treatment
There are many different treatment options for alcohol use disorder, such as:
- Detox, which helps your father safely undergo alcohol withdrawal and prepares them for further treatment.
- Inpatient rehab, which means your dad lives onsite and gets 24/7 care, support, and treatment.
- Outpatient rehab, which means your parent can continue to live at home but will travel to rehab on a set schedule for treatment.
No matter which treatment setting your dad chooses, treatment will likely include one or more evidence-based therapies. Common evidence based therapies and other treatments for alcohol use disorder (AUD) include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which may help your parent identify and change harmful thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that lead to unhealthy alcohol use.
- Motivational interviewing/motivational enhancement, which can help your father increase his motivation to change and stay in treatment.
- Contingency management (CM) or motivational incentives (MI) uses vouchers or other prizes to reward patients for healthy behavior, such as negative breath or urine tests.
- AUD treatment medicines, including naltrexone, acamprosate, and disulfiram.
If you want to learn more about how to help an alcoholic father and what to do if your dad is an alcoholic, call us at . This confidential hotline is free and provides information about resources for alcoholics and their loved ones. You will be able to reach someone at any time of day, making it easy to find your father the help he needs.