Menu icon - click here to toggle the menu

Parents with Alcoholic Children

Recovery Centers of America

Authored by Recovery Centers of America

Is there anything you can do when your adult child drinks too much?

Parents who think their young adult children are problem drinkers are in a difficult place.  First, they generally don’t want to believe their child has a serious problem.  Secondly, by the time they realize they should reach out for help, most parents have already gone through many cycles of “crisis-rescue-new crisis” with their children.

If the parents reach out to Alcoholics Anonymous, they are often guided to attend Al-Anon, a support group for people whose lives have been affected by another person’s drinking.

Do I really need a Twelve-Step program?

I know, you are looking for help for your kids drinking and hearing that someone is suggesting you go to your own group meetings can be frustrating.  But Al-Anon is a group of people who are worried about someone with a drinking problem, just like you.  They share what they’ve tried, what’s worked and mostly – how to take care of yourself when someone’s drinking is causing you problems.  Al-Anon is also geared toward helping alcoholics’ loved ones accept circumstances they often can’t change. This doesn’t mean you give up trying to help, but that you learn to take care of yourself in the process.   When problem drinkers enter a recovery program, their chances for success are improved when their family members are involved!

It’s undeniably difficult to watch a child struggle with a serious drinking problem.  Some parents secretly fear that they’ve caused the problem. Some may also worry that if they don’t help, their child may die – this is a valid worry.  “It doesn’t matter how old he was—as a parent I thought that I should be able to fix it and take care of him,” says Ellen, an Al-Anon member interviewed on the “First Steps to Al-Anon Recovery” podcast. “I wasn’t able to do that.” Al Anon members often say, “You didn’t cause it, you can’t cure it”.

Ways you can help

You can’t make a child get sober, but you can talk to them and influence them, writes Suzanne Degges-White, PhD, in Psychology Today. Interventions can be effective in letting the son or daughter see how their drinking affects everyone in the family and in helping the rest of the family start to move forward in their own recovery, Degges-White writes.

She offers a few other suggestions for parents of alcoholic children:

  • Buy them a bag of food instead of giving them money, if you are afraid they aren’t eating.
  • Offer to help them find support services, but don’t blame yourself if they don’t use the services.
  • Remember that you can’t rescue them and that they are adults with autonomy.

Al-Anon member Joe, who was also interviewed on the First Steps to Recovery podcast, offers one more suggestion:

  • Remember that recovery is one day at a time.

Support, without enabling

“When (my son) came out of the rehab, I said to him, ‘You’re cured now. Don’t ever come back with a drink or a drug or you’ll be thrown out of the house,’” Joe says. “As I realized that alcoholism was only arrested a day at a time, I took back those words. And I was able to say, ‘If you ever need help, come to me first.’”

Al-Anon emphasizes that problem drinking is an illness that affects everyone in the family. “The overwhelming fear and gut-wrenching pain that I experienced as a mother was like nothing I had ever experienced before in my life,” Al-Anon member Sharon says on the podcast. “Al-Anon taught me to detach with love.”

Don’t let addiction tear your family apart. Help is right around the corner – in your neighborhood. Call or text today 1-800-RECOVERY.

Authored by

Recovery Centers of America

Recovery Centers of America



Treatment Advisor
Standing By, 24/7