Convincing a Parent that They Need Help for Substance Abuse

Convincing a Parent that They Need Help for Substance Abuse

Be as loving as possible and if your parent doesn’t want to talk about something

When you have a parent who struggles with a substance abuse problem, you may not know what to do. This is understandably a very difficult situation. You may have even tried to say something to your parent about your concerns. The truth is your parent could have been hiding substance abuse for years and you just didn’t know about it. So what can you do?

The first step is to think about who can assist you with this process of getting help for your parent. Your siblings, your spouse, or other close family members can all help you decide how to go about finding the support and resources your parent needs to get sober. Just think about it. You aren’t looking for specific answers yet. Just know you’ll need some help in this process. After you’ve taken some time to figure out who can help support you, here are some specific ideas you can implement.

Get Professional Help

Before talking to your parent, it is often helpful to talk to a mental health professional. This could be a substance abuse specialist or addiction specialist. There are many options available. Contact your doctor for a referral or even call our helpline if you’d like. The outside perspective is very valuable in this case because a professional can provide insight as to what you should do. It is also very wise to get someone to talk to, as talk therapy is a healthy way to express the emotions that come to the surface during this time. You need to take good care of yourself in order to help your parent.

Approach Your Parent with Care

After talking with a professional, it is best to talk to your parent when he or she is less likely to be under the influence. If you know your father drinks heavily on weekends while watching football, talk to him during the week. Maybe meeting him for lunch would be a good way to talk. Keep it informal and don’t be accusatory in tone. Express your concerns in a non-judgmental way. For example, you could say something about how his speech was slurred or that his behavior was not normal. You could also express concerns about drinking with any use of medication or driving. The key is just to express that you care in a non-threatening, informal way. Don’t push. Don’t be aggressive. Be as loving as possible and if your parent doesn’t want to talk about something, respect that.

Go to an Al-Anon Meeting

Al-Anon is a support group for the families of alcoholics. Al-Anon views alcoholism as a “family disease” because it impacts the entire family. According to a 2012 study, more than 10 percent of U.S. children live with a parent with alcohol problems.[1] It is at groups like Al-Anon you can get support and encouragement from other families who know how you feel. There are more than 25,000 Al-Anon/Alateen groups (with a combined membership estimated at more than 340,000) hosting local meetings worldwide.[2]

Consider Doing an Intervention

If you did not have any luck at all with talking to your parent in an informal setting, it is possibly time to consider doing an intervention. Different kinds of interventions with various approaches are available. There is not necessarily one specific kind that is right for all situations, so in many cases it is very wise to call an interventionist. This person works with you to set up an intervention and then helps run it as well. Typically, an intervention is a structured gathering of friends and family members where each person expresses their concerns about the substance abuse that is taking place. The interventionist will help lay out options for next steps, which often include going to treatment.

Don’t Give up

No matter what, know you have the potential to be a vital part of the recovery process for your parent. Do your best to work with them. In many circumstances, this is not easy as trust has been broken or there is fear or even shame there. You cannot do it all on your own. Please keep that in mind. You can only present opportunities for your parent to get help. The severities of the addiction as well as your relationship with your parent are contributing factors that will affect your ability to help. Remember, recovery is a lifelong process. You cannot love your parent into recovery; he or she has to want to get better as well. If you’d like to talk to someone about substance abuse or even if you would like to get help now, please call our toll-free helpline and talk to one of our counselors, any time, 24 hours a day. Our counselors have been trained specifically in the area of substance abuse. If you would like to know more about the treatment process, the counselor will be able to help with that as well. Pick up the phone and get the information needed to move forward.


[1] Alcohol Facts and Statistics

[2] Alcoholism, Family and the Limits of Love. White, William.

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