What to do when caring for/living with a parent misusing alcohol

What to do when caring for/living with a parent misusing alcohol
Many of you maybe wondering what to do when caring for/living with a parent misusing alcohol.  I can tell you there is no easy answer and I appreciate there are lots of different and complex situations. 
I see this a lot in my Daughters of Alcoholics Facebook group. Many daughters not knowing how to handle their parents drinking. Whether to move out, move in, stay in touch or break contact. There is much to process and the decisions are difficult to make. 
When we have difficult decisions to make, getting information, feeling well informed can help. Also knowing you wouldn’t purposely make a bad decision is good to remember.  Yes things may not turn out as you hope (that’s expectation), that doesn’t mean YOU were wrong, it means your decision didn’t work. You can’t get it right all the time. Sometimes, there are consequences and that isn’t to punish you, but see it as a learning. 
Sometimes you have to take calculated risks, because not doing that can be worse.
When you can start to see life as a learning opportunity and change your thinking to match that, you’ll probably feel a lot less pressure, criticism and a lot less at risk of negatively impacting your self-esteem.
You probably currently believe it’s your responsibility to look after your parent, that if you don’t do the things I’ve listed below, you’re bad (shame), you’re not a good person, you’d never forgive yourself. WOW that’s a lot of burden.
  • Answer their calls at all hours
  • Go to them when they request it
  • Buy alcohol for them
  • Take them to appointments
  • Cover for them
  • Feed them, general care for all their needs


When you focus on your needs (again I know that’s not natural and normal for you), then you can start to see that you have needs, you have things you want to do, have or be.  For those that don’t, it’s out there you just haven’t ever done it or had it so know no different. 
I’ve been in the headspace where I felt I was stuck, a victim (although wouldn’t think I was or like to think I was), I would sabotage my own happiness because I didn’t believe I deserved better. 
It didn’t help me. Please don’t make the same mistakes.
I know you want answers, you want someone (in some cases) to tell you what’s the best thing to do. No one knows your history and situation like you do, so unless they have more accurate information, their advice isn’t based on the full picture. I know it can be frustrating when you don’t get the answers you want, or that it’s easy and doable. 
Please keep going, if you really want to make some changes because you believe your life is worth it, then keep looking for ways to help yourself. 

Practical Advice

Obviously it’s hard for me to give specific advice without knowing your exact situation and also facilities and services available in your specific area. 
Here are some thoughts for you to consider.
  • Get support from people you know, like and trust – having someone to talk to, make connection with is hugely important
  • Find local services that maybe able to help – whether that’s care/social services/doctor/alcohol services 
  • Look online for support for yourself – there are many groups, details of mine is below. Al-Anon, Adult Children of Alcoholics another
  • Make sure you’re physically safe  
  • Look at your boundaries – see this post about boundaries
  • Start to look at your needs and wants – guess if you don’t know – give yourself time for it to come
  • Start to look at what you can and can’t control
  • Reflect on what you’ve done so far, what is working, what isn’t. Stop doing what isn’t.
If you want to see the changes you haven’t had yet, you need to do something you haven’t done yet.


  • If you live with the drinker, consider moving out or getting space somehow if that’s possible, that doesn’t mean you have to abandon them, but it gives you your own time and space and it’ll be less intense
  • Think about yourself, I know that may not be as fulfilling or easy to do, and you’re gut is telling you to focus on the drinker, but they don’t necessarily want your help, they may do, but you need to help yourself first
  • Few people would appreciate help from a place of guilt, duty and resentment.  If you do help the drinker, if they’re asking for it, then do it because you want to andit’s not putting you in danger or negatively impacting you
  • You are the child and not responsible for your parents. Apart from that, you aren’t reponsible (few exceptions) for another human being.
I know that won’t sit well with some of you and you may think “yes that’s easier said than done”. Maybe. The thing is, that story you keep telling yourself whenever anyone says the same as me, is keeping you stuck and I’m guessing unhappy. 
Many people hate the situation they’re in, but then sabotage themselves to stay stuck (for all sorts of reasons). 
I hope you’ve found this helpful, do make any comments and if you need support you know where I am.


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Next Steps

If you’d like to chat then do get in touch, I’m happy to gift you some time. Simply email jo@johuey.co.uk or call (07732) 403305. 
Remember you aren’t alone and you can always join my Daughters of Alcoholics Facebook group, where other daughters of alcoholics support each other with challenges they experience from the past or present.  You may have lived with an alcoholic in your past, but it’s still impacting you in the present. 
I also run the Two Roads Travelled podcast with my sister, click here to find out more. 

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