Learning to Deal with Adult Alcoholic Children

Alcoholic adult childIn one of my articles I talked about how addiction and codependency can be two sides of the same coin. That generated yet another request for an article about dealing with alcoholic children.

It’s a difficult assignment for me because the psychologist who helps others with relationships tainted by any of a myriad of issues, including addiction, codependency and dealing with adult children and parents who abuse alcohol, has himself fallen into many of the same traps.

It seems that objectively goes out the window when it’s your own son or daughter. Dealing with a son’s drug and alcohol abuse has been the most difficult and divisive challenge my wife and I have had to face in our decades together.

He was charming, generous and creative. But like all addicts, he lied easily and took advantage of other people’s generosity. This led to conflicts between my wife and me, especially in those extended periods when he had returned home to live with us.

My wife and I each got professional help, and over time we mended the rift. Our son went into various treatment programs. However, after the years of substance abuse and general neglect, he became disabled through failing health and died at age 40.

This multi-decade experience taught us things we may have already known intellectually, but had never really understood. Here are a few of them.

The hardest lesson of all was accepting the reality of his addiction with all it entails and the reality of his probable early demise. [SIZEWARP]As parents we fought hard to deny this, but we could not change the reality.[/SIZEWARP]

We had to learn to refrain from rescuing him. Each rescue let him off the hook for taking responsibility. When we stopped rescuing him, he became more responsible.

We withdrew direct financial support: no more enabling him with money handouts, no matter how small. However, he was always well fed when he visited and we always took food with us when we visited him.

We stopped letting him stay with us other than for a weekend visit. We stopped enabling him in avoiding responsibility for his life.

We had always listened to him talk about his struggles, but we had to learn to accept our own feelings of helplessness. This was very difficult for two people who seem to be hardwired to jump in and fix things. We attempted to restrict our advice to those times he asked for it.

As we got the lessons and our son came to understand the new reality, our relationships with him became more love-based again. Communication opened up. We had a beautiful mutually-supportive relationship with our son, especially during his last year. It meant a lot to us. It meant a lot to him.

Had we continued to deny reality, to rescue and to enable, we might never have made peace. His early death would have been even more tragic.

Having to deal with adult addicted children is something I could never wish on any parent, but sadly, it is a reality in many parents’ lives.

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Dr. Neill Neill retired his psychology practice at the end of 2013. He maintains an active coaching practice via telephone or Skype with select clients dealing with alcoholic husbands or ex-husbands. Check out his book, Living with a Functioning Alcoholic: A Woman's Survival Guide. http://drneillneill.com

70 thoughts on “Learning to Deal with Adult Alcoholic Children

  1. Dear Neil,

    Thank you for your honesty and genuine heartfelt words.
    Thank you for your continuing work in the field.
    With much love and light.

    Marcella Clinical Psychologist

  2. I am so sorry to hear your story. My daughter has been diagnosed as an addict, alcoholic, self harm, maybe other things, and I don’t know what to do. She is 19, seeing a psychotherapist and quite open with our GP. She lives at home, but has no ambition, plans etc. She has many talents, art, music, languages, and did well at school. Any advice would be much appreciated. Her father, who I divorced 10 years ago, due to his alcoholism moved to South Africa and is dying of emphysema.

  3. Thank you as your article helped after a very difficult holiday with my 27 year old alcoholic son.

  4. I also have a 39 yr old alcoholic son who was in rehab for 24 weeks, he came out and within 6 weeks he has started drinking again. The difference with me this time is that with the help of Alanon, which I started over a year ago, I have been able to stay away from him and let him take responsibility for what he has done. One of his AA friends saw me yesterday and told me to leave him as he has to understand what his actions have done to him.

    He has cleared out his bank account and has no money, but if he comes to me I will have to be strong and say, “NO!” No more enabling for me as this is what I have done in the past and now see it was so wrong for him and for me. I can only trust that his higher power guides him back to AA and he takes control again of his life or he will not have one to care about.

    It if very difficult for a mother to have to carry this out, but I just know this is the right thing to do.
    So if anyone out there is in the same dilemma, please seek out Alanon as they are there for you and the program is for you, not the performing alcoholic.

  5. I watched my mum and dad suffer with my beautiful brother John who died aged 40 due to alcoholism. My 18 year old nephew is also having problems and there is such good support out there, but he feels that he would be ridiculed to go there.

    I also went to Alanon when I visited my mum in Scotland and took mum. It really helped me and I shared it with John. My abiding memory of John is telling me he loved me, but knowing that he had given up. I am crying as I write this but I am so grateful to have this space to share. I also know that the divine energy surrounding us at this time can support us in letting go of the trend of addiction in our families.

    With much love and light always,


  6. Hi. I can relate with the ABOVE. I am not sure if my son is addicted to alcohol, but when he does drink, which is at least 3-4 times a week, he tends to go OVERBOARD and when confronted at that time he defiantly walks out of the house and switches off his mobile. My heart is in my mouth wondering when he will return, so I have learned to ‘let it pass’ at that time and broach the topic the next day when he is sober.

    He is in denial and never admits to the addiction. I don’t know how to tackle this and help him out. He’s an intelligent man of 30 and enslaved to alcohol. I keep telling him, “Why be a slave when you can be a MASTER?”, but he emphasizes that he isn’t dependent on alcohol, but just has it to feel numb and forget certain problems.

    I am living on edge. Unless he ADMITS and wants to be helped, what do I do? I would rather he be at home drinking than outside because if in case there is an emergency, at least we are there for him and can do the needful. I feel helpless and hopeless. Any suggestions shall be truly appreciated.

    Thanks. God Bless.

  7. Your story was very touching and certainly hit home. I have 4 children, 2 of whom have an addiction issue with alcohol. They can’t just have a couple beers. A couple leads to 4, 6, 8. Then of course bad behavior, missed work, loose jobs, etc….. and the cycle repeats.

    When these 2 (identical twins) were 9, their father (a functioning alcoholic) committed suicide. We were in family therapy for some time. The older twin did go to rehab and half way through, my mom died and he came out as they were very close to her. Now it seems they both need help and I don’t know what to do. Both have been to counselors. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  8. Prayers to your family. I have brother that is going through his second relapse with alcohol. It happened 2 months ago (and 2 years ago), this time almost killed him. They diagnosed him with Wernick’s Kirkoff syndrome, but not sure that is correct because of how well he is doing now. The first episode caused him to lose his wife and job. This episode forced my parents to sell his house and move him to a physical therapy place closer to us.

    I am really scared because they are thinking of moving him in with them (we are not sure if he will be able to live alone yet). I would rather see him in assisted living for a while, he has already told a counselor friend of ours that he doesn’t like AA (only went 2 times the 1st episode) and that he can handle it himself! I am so afraid that he will take advantage of my parents and will go back to his old ways!! So sad!

  9. My alcoholic son committed suicide in 1996 at age 36. He had lived with me for fifteen years and it was a nightmare. He was in and out of rehab. In the last year before his death, I had moved to another town, to stay with another son, hoping to make my alcoholic son take responsibility for is addiction. The Salvation Army took him in for nine months, kept him sober, but he never lost his need for alcohol. I returned home and took him to the local mental hospital, telling them my son was suicidal. I didn’t have money for his care. They wouldn’t admit him.

    On the night he died, he called me to tell me he had a bottle of an anti-psychotic given to him by a medical center that had taken him in overnight to sober him up. He had passed out and an ambulance had been called. He had the medication plus a bottle of vodka, and wanted to tell me goodbye. He had reached a point of no return. I understood what he was going to do, and I didn’t call anyone to stop him. I told him I loved him. Yes, I live with guilt. But, I still feel I did the best thing for him. It ended his pain.

    I pray that anyone posting here who is facing this kind of pain, will find the help and support they need.

  10. It helps to read the comments of others going through this pain of having an alcoholic child. My 52 year old son just seemed to get it together, however after three months of sobriety, finding a job, an AA program, a place to live, his drivers license back, his SS card back, looking forward to finding a vehicle, having the support of family and friends, is drinking again to loose it all, again. Pray for us.

  11. My 56 yr old brother who is an active alcoholic and prescription drug abuser is living with our 84 year old parents. He has been living with them for 2 years since he suffered a stroke as a result of his lifestyle. Although my parents are aging they are of sound mind and choose not to force my brother to leave. My family is tragically divided. Some blame my parents for enabling him and being lost in codependency. Some blame my brother for taking advantage of them in their senior years. It is horrible to witness and seems impossible to remedy.

  12. Our 49 yr old son is an alcoholic. He is a good looking and wonderful person, if he is NOT drinking. If he is drinking he is belligerent , nasty, forceful and not a pleasure to have in our home. He is on probation until Nov. 2014. H has a so, so job in hospitality. He is good at what he does, but does not have enough hours. He is trying to start a business, but when he drinks, he has no motivation. He has no money, so how can we ask him to move? Do we have to pay for his apt? Where could we send him? We are in our 70’s and never expected this mess. I Wish there was someone we could talk to/see to get help.

  13. My 45 year old daughter is an alcoholic, and smokes pot daily and takes many different pills. In an effort to help her, I moved her closer to me, thinking having family close would help her. Instead, she got pregnant at 40, right after the move, and now has a four year old son. Because of my grandson I have helped her get apartments, paid rent and bills, and let her stay here intermittently when between homes. The last time she went in to one of her raging fights she picks, and I could take no more and asked her to leave my home. She left the next day and is staying with her child’s father. I believe she also has a narcissistic personality disorder, and I have reached the end of what I can stand, in terms of abuse and being used and taken advantage of. At this time she will not speak to me or allow me any contact with my grandson, who I am extremely close to and worried about. I am trying to grieve this loss, and at the same time feel responsible to help my grandson, even though it is out of my power to do anything at all. I am too old to do this anymore, and people just keep telling me, “you’re co-dependent,” even though the protection of a child is involved. How do I deal with this? Should I have kept allowing her to stay here along with my grandson, and keep getting screamed at, called names and treated horribly as I continue to help? This has been going on for years, but it is WAY worse now that an innocent child is involved.

  14. My 28-year-old niece is an alcoholic and now has to live in her car, because she drank in my home. My sister lives with us and my niece moved in, after her last binge, after going to detox and making an aftercare outpatient plan (with lots of promises to us), which she quickly didn’t follow. She started her road to sobriety less than a year ago and has had frequent lapses. This is so heartbreaking. She is a master at lying and making promises, which I think she probably believes at the time. Her words to me last night were a defiant, “I don’t need to go to a 30-day rehab,” to which I said, “no you need to go longer.” Alcoholics side track the entire family (those that know anyway and the stress of keeping it a secret makes it worse). We are hoping that our tough stance will get her to wake up. She has burned bridges and still seems to feel like the victim. I only hope and pray that she wakes up before something terrible happens to her. It’s a relief not to have her here and the anxiety of not knowing what we will find when we get home. I can’t love this away for her. She is a college educated, witty, amazing person and her life is going absolutely nowhere now. Stay strong, and know that you are not alone.

  15. My wife and I have a 44 year old alcoholic daughter. She lives with her boyfriend. She constantly needs to “borrow” money. Very seldom pays any back. We feel we have helped her enough (through many years). the time has come to close the “bank”. So we have.

  16. The rawness of your story was so stabbing/shocking. I realized it was going to be my own or could be my own story . Over fifteen years of believing that one more time, yes this will be it, this time it will really be different..different for this bright, endearing, loved young man . It is not to be, never will be and the hopes for one’s child are gone. I break, I stall in anger and desire acceptance. It is all a process for am I not as ill as he? Thank you for sharing your acutely down-to-earth story, it somehow has made it all so much clearer (again). We do move forward after time ……and help.

  17. My 27 yr old son has lost every job he has had, steals and lies. I think he believes his lies. He is an angry, hostile drunk. He has hit 2 of his live in girlfriends. One who has a restraining order against him. We will not let him live with us any more. He is handsome and gets girlfriends easily. He just got his girlfriend pregnant last year and has a 4 month old daughter. He still drinks and his girlfriend is starting to realize what a mess he is. Their wedding is this summer, but I doubt it will happen. They fight all the time when he drinks. Last night he was drunk and told me I will never see my grand daughter again because I was a terrible mom and he does not want her around me. This was after he and his girlfriend went out and drank and got into a fight where she jumped out of the car. I was babysitting the baby and told him he was drinking and could not take her in the car. I am afraid of him because I think he would hit me when he is drinking. This kind of drama happens all the time. I went to Alanon. It helped me know I did not cause it and can not cure it . I pray the rosary and hope for the best for my son and grandchild. Please pray for them all. We don’t know what to do.

  18. My son is 26 and still lives with us. He will go a week or two without drinking, then he will go get a bottle of whiskey and drink it all in one afternoon. He is verbally and physically abusive to my husband and to me. Last night he held my husband down and choked him and held a knife to his throat. He works temp jobs and makes some money and then he’s off for a while. He has no health insurance. We want to kick him out, but we are so afraid of him dying. He has had pancreatitis, has asthma, and spasmodic dystonia, which requires Botox injections in his neck. We have to pay for his medical care out of our pockets. I wish I knew what to do. Most painful thing I’ve ever gone through!

  19. I don’t know what to do. I have a 33 year old son who is addicted to pain pills and alcohol. He only drinks when he takes the pills. I see him drifting away. He is unhappy in his marriage but loves his 3 children, loves his job as a detective, and I want him to stop destroying his life. I need to get him to realize it’s wrong before he can’t turn himself around. I pray every day for answers. What should I do, tell his boss? I don’t want him to hurt anyone or himself, what and how do I help him?!

  20. I have a 33 year old daughter who has been a chronic alcoholic for 15 years. She used to live me me, but then got a housing commission flat. She has been to long term rehabs, also several times to private clinics. I had her locked up in a mental home twice to save herself. She has had two cardiac arrests and at her lowest point she drank metho. She also takes a huge amount of pills and still has an eating disorder. She is also a lovely, caring and beautiful person, which I have not seen for a while, as she continues to drink. What I find amazing is that none of the specialists in all those clinics have made any difference to my daughters life. I have been in touch with the AMA to find out if they can insert a probe into the brain to deactivate the sensation they get when drinking. No response so far. It’s terribly hard!

  21. Next week my 44 year old daughter will be returning to my home after her third stay in a rehab facility.
    She is married, but she and her husband are separated, in part, due to her alcoholism. Basically, she was brought to my house and left here. I have not got much faith that this round of rehab is going to work any more than the other two did. Her father and I are divorced, both of us have recently lost our spouses. Her father says he is willing but reluctant for her to stay with him.

    When my daughter drinks, she shuts herself in her room, not eating and barely drinking any liquid except for vodka for several days at a time. During this time she becomes so dehydrated that she requires ER treatment to detox. Twice she has had seizures while trying to detox without medical assistance. (she is also epileptic and bi-polar). She does not need to live alone, but I am not really wanting her to stay here. Although I am 63 years old, I need to continue working for at least a couple of more years. I am at my wits ends and don’t know what to do. I am not sure I could bear to tell my daughter she is not welcome to stay here, and I know I could not physically kick her out of my home if she refuses to leave. I need a plan in place when she comes home and starts drinking again, which I am sure will happen. I don’t know what to do,

  22. I had an alcoholic father, and an alcoholic first husband. I watched my mother enable my father, I knew what not to do. When I married my first husband I did not know there was a problem, it became apparent after the the first year. I’ve been reading these posts and I can relate. I have a 26 year old alcoholic step-son. My current husband and I married when his son was 15 yrs old.

    He is a trained Chef, has lost more wonderful jobs than I can count, had two DUI’s, spent 9 months in jail on the second charge, has guilted his father and I out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, court costs, car insurance, car payments, health insurance, rent, doctor bills, rehab, dental costs, clothes and the list goes on and on. I love my husband, he is 60, and now dipping into his 401k to help him out.

    I won’t help him. I always tell him no when he asks for money or rides. I tell him, “I’m not the one who lost my license.” My husband gets upset when I do this. I have explained that by picking up after him constantly is just enabling him. We are not helping by doing for him, what he is entirely capable of doing for himself. At this point I am more concerned for my husband than our son! How do I convince him that he must stop supporting him? How do I get him to realize what I already know, that if we don’t stop now, it will never stop! He will always have an excuse for not being able to cope, deal or quit. It’s always someone else’s fault that he has lost his job, someone else’s fault he was misdiagnosed with ADHD when he was a kid, and given the wrong medication, and now he is suffering. GUILT! GUILT! GUILT! I can say no to our son, but how do I save my Husband???

  23. This is so very frightening, but I know that in order for my adult son to begin to accept responsibility
    leaving him on his own must take place. He is addicted to alcohol, uses drugs when his spirit is down and gambles on ballgames. His charming personality and good looks make him an excellent waiter and bartender. However this is an occupational hazard that haunts him. He only works for a few months before quitting and taking a few weeks to find another job. He has been living with his sister and takes advantage of her generosity. I shudder to think of what will happen to him left to his own devices. Please pray for strength for his sister and his Mom to see this through.

  24. Dear Dr. Neill Neill

    I’m a mother of a 24 year old alcoholic son. My son has been abusing alcohol since he was 16 years of age. My husband and I have gone through difficult experiences because of his heavy drinking habits and many a time the police had to intervene due to his aggressiveness towards us and to our property. Up to the time when he was not working, we used to give him pocket money, just enough to socialize with his friends and help him kick the habit. But unfortunately, he used to drink his friend’s drinks or he used to take advantage of their generosity.

    Last November his psychologist advised him that he needed rehabilitative therapy. The following month, knowing himself that he badly needed help, he started a program, but unfortunately stopped half way through it. When once we visited him he informed us that most of the fellows attending the program were relapsers, there for their second or third time. This might have induced lack of confidence in his rehabilitation. Soon after leaving the center he found a job and with money at hand has turned to heavy drinking again. On weekends he often sleeps at a friend’s house to avoid coming home drunk. However, he is very often brought home in a state of unconsciousness, to the extent that he is unable to realize the whereabouts of the house, his bedroom or bathroom, sufficient to say that on one occasion, not realizing where the bathroom is, which is right next to his room, he peed on the floor.

    I am sure you know the usual stories, tending to find excuses for drinking, first because of his studies, then because of his girlfriend, who cared for him dearly but whom he eventually left, then, although a graduate, because he could not find a job, and now? We have tried our best to understand his problem and to help him kick the habit.

    Unfortunately, like you said, objectivity often goes out the window when you’re dealing with your own son. However, we are now at a loss, our lives shattered, to say the least, and are trying to cope with the eventuality that he needs to leave the house. Any suggestions would be very much appreciated.

  25. I have a 48 year old daughter that has drank and done drugs since she was 14. I realize I have always enabled her. Tonight I tried to talk to her because she and her ex are making their oldest sons life hell! I am very close to him and worry about him health wise from dealing wit 2 alcoholic/drug parents. I cannot talk to her and made the big decision that I am done! I love her, but do not want to deal with her any longer. Her younger sister committed suicide which nearly made me want to end my life. Her father, who drinks, but says not a problem because he’s a corporate retiree and very narcissistic, and his wife say my child would be alive if I hadn’t caused her death! Dr. Gave her 5 anti-depressants and destroyed her brain stem! She told me I’ve always been negative and hard to get along with. I made the big decision tonight that I love her but am totally done. My heart has a peace that haven’t had for a long long time. So I pray that you will find your peace also.

  26. To all of you who have had to walk away, I empathize. My heart knows your pain. My husband and I had to do this just 6 weeks ago. This was not out of emotion or anger. This came after 20 years of being on a roller coaster of dealing with, trying to help in every way humanly possible our now 44 year. old son. I am talking about an incredibly brilliant, handsome, educated, had all that life could offer, Christian man. One who was raised with good morals and ethics and no access to alcohol at home. My husband, being a pharmacist, always taught our children the dangers and consequences of chemical addictions. He chose his own path around age 22. It would burn up your computer for me to list all of the wonderful jobs my son has lost, all of the hospitals he has been in to detox, jails from DUI, DWI, and PI’s. All of the many rehabs, mens shelters and ministry recovery programs. He has lost 3 marriages and his beautiful daughter, now 15. Our son can get any jobs he applies for because to look at him or talk to him you would never know he is an alcoholic. His ability to con and manipulate amazes all. If his mouth is moving he is usually lying. He gives our phone number at hospitals and used to our address and all bills were sent to us. We did not pay them. The tax payers did, you and us. Now he puts his aunts address down. She has let him con her into living with her 3 times and finally said, “no more.”

    Recently, after his having his best job in years, working at an amazing company where he had huge responsibilities and dressed in a suit and tie everyday and felt so good about himself, he had finally mended relationships with his daughter and his sister. We got him a used car to go back and forth to work (he lived at a recovery house) he CHOSE to drink. You know the rest. He was fired, ended up in hospital, lost his place to live ended up with p.i and his car impounded and now lives at Salvation Army. After 20 years of this repeated behavior, my husband, our entire family and his daughter have made our CHOICE to stop the madness for ourselves. We told him we are finished. He always finds someone to rescue him through his charm and presenting himself as this poor victim that everyone has done wrong. We finally woke up and decided he will probably live his life out doing this, but we don’t have to. It has damaged us financially and my health, but no more. We have an incredible 40 year old daughter and son in law and 5 amazing granddaughters and we plan to focus on all of us from here on out. I know this sounds cruel and how could parents do this, but we have to even though it hurts like the dickens. I have cried several times writing this, for him and us and for hope and dreams lost. Sometimes they never change, but that doesn’t mean we have to stay the same.

  27. Thank you, Katie! I to am walking away. After years of struggling, rescuing and spending vast amounts of money on our alcoholic son, I am calling it quits. My wake up call was in the Urgent Care Center, having a major anxiety attack. I am now on medication and realize its my turn to live. My son is highly intelligent and will have to find his own path from here on out. My husband and I have done all we can, we’re used up. I love him dearly but must get off this sinking ship.

  28. Sometimes we have to let go of what is killing us, even if it’s killing us to let go.

  29. I lost a son at 29 to suicide. There were a lot of things going on just prior to his decision to take this drastic step. But, I think addiction is what led him down the path to all of it. Now we are struggling with his sister, in her late 30s, who has a serious drinking problem. I am so afraid that we will lose another child…and she has kids of her own. We are trying to get her to counseling, but she is fighting it, lying about the drinking and denying the seriousness of it. She is drinking straight Vodka, lots of it. She never drinks in public. She drinks home alone and hides the liquor from her husband. He has been very supportive, but is understandably frustrated that she won’t take a step to get help. We are at our wits end and very afraid. When she drinks, she sometimes sounds suicidal. It seems that my children had an easier life than I did – at least more opportunity, and more supportive parents. So what happens that makes them not be able to cope and to turn to drugs or alcohol? I grew up in a house with an alcoholic step-father who beat me, and I don’t drink. Am I just lucky that I don’t have those urges? I want to understand why this happens. But most importantly, what can I do to help?

  30. I flew half way across the country yesterday to confront my 22-year old addicted daughter. She graduated college in May and already has been terminated from her first job. I felt I failed yesterday because she would not speak to me. However, I received a text from her late last night stating she had been taken to the ER for suicidal behaviors. She is currently on a 72 hour psych hold. I’m praying this leads to full blown rehab.

    Her text to me said terrible things, but the worst part was that she will never EVER speak to me again. She has great college friends and roommates who are at the hospital now doing what I should be doing.

    I’m still not sure if my trip was a failure or success, but I came here to get her help and she is getting it. I guess I just can’t be picky about the hows and whys or even that I may have to sacrifice my relationship with her. It’s all about the big picture of her getting better. Right?

    Please pray with me that this 72 hour psych hold turns into a successful rehab.

  31. My son is 54 and is drinking all the time. He no longer works, but he stays in bed around the clock. His wife is through with him because this has been going on for years. I fear he is trying to drink himself to death. He refuses to get help.
    My heart is breaking.

  32. I finally got my 37 year old daughter into a 90 day in patient program yesterday. I Got a call from her today, to come and get her. I had to tell her she could not come home. So as she is she is homeless. She has been abusing alcohol and drugs for 25 years and is now on other medications for bipolar and depression. She recently argued with us, left drunk, totaled her car and will now also face jail time. I am a recovered alcoholic (25 years) and just can’t understand why addicts keep fighting sobriety. I could go on about the things she has done and the results on her family relationships. We have to stay firm and stop enabling her using habits.
    Thanks for listening

  33. My daughter is 44 and is an alcoholic. She is a binge drinker, so she stops drinking for a period of time and then relapses for quite some time. She has a husband that is nothing but an enabler. They have 3 kids, a son that was sent to live with his biological father, at age 12, due to her alcoholism, he is now 24. They also have an 18 year old son and a 5 year old daughter. The kids lives are a living hell because she is a very mean drunk and their dad does nothing to protect them from her. She also drives daily with the 5 year old. She got a DUI 18 months ago. I don’t know what to do anymore. It is ruining my life as well as her children’s lives. I do as much as I can to help with the kids, but she runs the show. What can be done? Please advise anyway you can.
    Thank you!

  34. I have just read all your sad stories. I can commiserate as my husband and I are going through a similar situation with our 39 year old beautiful daughter. The scenario of the alcoholic is absolutely exhausting, frustrating and heart wrenching. Until they decide to get off the merry-go-round nothing will change for them, they must make the decision of their destiny. We love our daughter so very much, but we too have had to walk away regretfully, but her actions are so cruel and sole destroying she must be the one and want to be the one to make her life changes and choices.

  35. My son is 27 and on a path of self destruction. He has always drank daily since his early 20’s, but he was always able to hold down a job and be there for his family. Until a couple of months ago when his drinking started to escalate. He passes out. He will be away from his family (wife and daughter) for days at a time and finally come home. His wife told him to get help or leave. He chose to leave. He ended up renting a small travel trailer and a week later, he quit his job and now spends all his time drinking. So much so that he can’t seem to go more than 30 minutes without a drink, doesn’t eat and has the shakes all the time. If he goes too long without a drink, he is hit with anxiety and panic. He can’t sleep well at night so he even drinks every time he wakes up at night. His rent is due today. We have made the painful decision not to “fix it” for him so in a few days, he will be homeless and living in his car. It’s the hardest thing ever, having to watch your child self destruct. He refuses any offers of rehab or detox. He says he doesn’t want to quit. We pray this doesn’t end badly, as he has expressed suicidal thoughts.

  36. As I read these stories I am deeply saddened and disturbed by the reality of it all. My son is very handsome, charming and bright, but he has been slowly killing himself with alcohol for over 10 years. He has been to rehab centers, hospitals, half way houses and prison. I could have purchased a new house with the money spent trying to rescue him. He has had job after job and the last several he has worked only long enough to get his 1st pay check, then quit to stay home and drink it all away. Eight months ago I helped him find an apartment and I moved to another state. He had lived with me for over 10 years and I had finally reached the end of my rope. He is now out of a job & will soon be out on the street with nothing but a car. My heart is breaking, but it is the only thing left to do. Everything else has been done and didn’t work. I hope this works because I don’t even want to think of the alternative outcome if it doesn’t. My heart goes out to all the other people who have written and who are reading these stories. It helps to know you are not alone.

  37. I have a 28 year old son who is an alcoholic. He is in all of these comments. It is very sad.

  38. How sad all these desperate people are. I too have been living with an alcoholic son now aged 30. Years of abuse, very heavy drinking and he has caused me so much pain with the usual smashing the house and having the police called. He uses foul language and blames me for everything. These people are extremely selfish, uncaring and very lazy who expect everything and give nothing. There is no help available if the person does not want it, but causes everyone around them a living hell. They blame failed jobs, relationships, no money etc. on everyone else when its THEM. They need to grow up.

  39. After growing up with an alcoholic mother, I can attest to the destruction wreaked upon the family. She died at the age of 52. Next came my handsome charming brother, had a great job which, he lost after disappearing for 2 weeks, he also died at age 52 due to alcohol related health problems. Now it’s my beautiful daughter, owns her own business but lives with me. After a DUI over 18 mos ago, she did not drink for one year and I was elated, thinking it was a turning point. So wrong, she’s back at it full force, one drink turns into a point of no return. I’ve tried talking to her to no avail and feel She is ruining her life. I am now in my 70’s and cannot take the stress anymore. Sorry, I just needed to vent, but do pray for all of us and our loved ones to heal and find peace.

  40. I have a 26 year old alcoholic bipolar daughter. I could have written the same comments as several of you. It’s heartbreaking to read the comments, but there is some comfort in knowing I’m not alone in this battle. It’s exhausting, but I will continue to pray for my daughter, myself and all of you. Hoping for the best and trying to find peace.

  41. Okay, so what do we do when our son has absolutely no other place to stay, cannot support himself, let alone his 6 children? We brought him to live with us with the expectation that he would remain sober and finish school etc. He has hep c and in my opinion is killing himself. He denies this. He has been to detox and they discharged him!! He needs inpatient care, but he has been able to talk his way out. He lies constantly. He has always been one to play one parent against the other. Tripod-ding is his specialty. We are getting fed up and cannot go on living like this. My other son overdosed on pain medication while he was living with us at age 24. I am afraid he is trying to follow his little brother’s path. I would do anything to save him. What can I do to convince him that he needs inpatient treatment? He says that he knows he needs help, but he is drunk every single day. He doesn’t lack a support system. He has initiated meetings, but couldn’t go because he was drunk. HELP!!!!!!

  42. I am a recovering alcoholic mother with an alcoholic son and can relate to everyone who has posted. Thanks to AA I got sober at 40, about 12 years ago. I had to want it very badly and in the end (I did). No one could get me drunk or keep me sober as the “dis-ease” of alcoholism owns the person at the end. It is hard for non alcoholic’s to understand why we do the things we do, but having gone through it and now watching my son go through it, there is nothing anyone can do to help an alcoholic. The alcoholic must hit their own personal bottom which is sometimes very low and the more you try to help an alcoholic the more you hurt them. Kindness kills many an alcoholic who may have “gotten it” had they been broke and homeless long enough. Alcoholics need to lose everything in their lives and be totally miserable to ask for help and sincerely want it. Being in AA I have met all kinds of alcoholics and we all had one thing in common. It was the way alcohol affected us. We were all doomed in the same way to having alcohol own us lock, stock and barrel. It was only by the Grace of God that I found AA when I became willing to try and become sober. I picked up the phone book and called rehabs and found one that would take me and drove myself there. I needed a medical detox and I did everything they told me to do because I WAS AS WILLING AS THE DYING to get help. My liver was going and I would be dead today if I did not stop drinking. I would have missed my son graduating from high school and so many good things. By the way, AA is not a religious program, but a spiritual one that is like a balm to alcoholics who want recovery. Alanon is a program for the families of alcoholics to help them learn how to take care of themselves and not the alcoholic that still suffers. Families that attend Alanon learn how to help themselves and at the same time help the alcoholics they love by not enabling them any longer. It’s a win win situation even if the alcoholic is still drinking, for the people that love the alcoholic, to attend Alanon. I have seen many miracles and many families reunited. This is not an overnight thing, but with time and working the program people get better. If you really want to help your alcoholic then my suggestion is to attend Alanon and work on healing yourself. Then no matter what happens you will have support and understanding of the situation. Alcoholism is 100 percent curable, but only the alcoholic can initiate the change necessary to stop drinking. I am amazed that someone who drank like I did can be around alcohol today and not have any desire at all to drink. It was lifted from me and I pray the same thing for my son. The worst part for me is to see my 31 year old son lose so much and be in jail for 2 years and know deep down in my heart that when he is released in a few months, he will most likely drink again. All I can do is pray for him and stay out of the way. Alanon taught me I didn’t cause it and I can’t fix it. My son almost died a few times, before going to jail, because I would not help him and saying “no” was hard, but I know he needs to hit his own bottom to become willing. I take care of myself and stay in touch with my son, but I don’t support him with money or lodging. Real love is letting him live his own life and fight this battle on his own even if he loses it. It’s his battle to fight, not mine. I pray for all of us and the still sick and suffering alcoholics out there.

  43. My 48 year old daughter is an alcoholic. She has been to rehab 4 times. One problem is they only kept her for 30 days this last time. The other times she left before 30 days saying she could not stay there they had too many rules. She is a veteran. She can not afford to go to a long term rehab. She has been in jail many times. She lost custody of her 14 year old daughter to the state. She has lost her home, her car and everything she has. She just got out of jail today. I do not know if she is still in the state’s custody. She got kicked out of a halfway house today due to being arrested. She got thrown out of a hotel a month ago due to being drunk. She has now been on a binge for five days.

    She has been put in a coma twice to save her life put on by her boy-friend, a drug addict, who almost beat her to death. She started all this drinking when she started living with him. I do not give her money. She can not come to stay with me. She will not go by any rules. Her step-father and her do not get along at all. She just called me, she is out of jail with no were to go. My life is miserable. I am sitting here crying uncontrollably. I feel like I can not go another day. I have tried to help her. I have gone to get her, taken her shopping for food etc. Now the half way house put all of her belongings on the street. Someone there stole her phone. I told her to call her case worker. Please help me, what do I do? Who can help me? What do I do to make her get the help she needs? Where can she go for help?

  44. Thank you for this excellent post and especially the comment from Kelly, describing her own battle and spiritual awakening from the depths of alcoholism. It has helped give me the resolve (good old codependent me) to continue to allow my own loved one to “make his own way” and not try to “fix things” in other people’s lives that I didn’t because and I can’t control. I need to work on “fixing myself,” and am heading over to Alanon now. Gracias for the reminder!

    Dear God please show us the way.
    Gracias, Amen.

  45. I lost my husband to alcoholism when he was 36. The boys were 5 years and 7 months old. I kept alcohol out of the house and tried to educate them about addiction and genetics, however as I write this, my now, 32 year old son, is upstairs drunk before noon. The stress and sorrow are near unbearable as you watch someone you love so much destroy themselves and scar those around them.

  46. I was reading these comments looking for some kind of comfort. Most of these families have terribly sad outcomes for their loved ones. Now I feel a sense of sadness and depression that there isn’t much hope for my daughter, or us.

  47. I had tears streaming down my face as I read these comments over and over. It was like different scenarios, but yet all the same, describing my life with my 26 year old son.

    He is charming and handsome…has had some of the most amazing, well paying jobs over the last few years…but always loses them. He is arrogant and gets angry when he drinks. If I try to talk to him about it, he just gets angry and starts to yell at me. He has been physical in the past. He has no problem threatening or hurting people.

    What hurts the most is that I know the person deep down inside–the person who can be so very caring. The person who would pick up a stray kitten off the side of the road and bring it home.

    Sadly, sometimes the alcohol seems to actually improve his mood. That’s when I really began to realize just how “addicted” he was, when the alcohol was the only thing that made him seem somewhat “normal.”

    Now at age 26, he has two DUI’s, in and out of jail several times and can’t find a job anymore. He is back to living with me. I feel like I am walking on eggshells in my own home.

  48. This forum is so good; it makes you realize that you are not the only one dealing with an adult child with alcoholism. Our family problem started six years ago. I knew my daughter, who is now 32, liked a drink of wine each evening, but this escalated to a bottle or two of vodka daily. She had a partner, two children, a home, a job, a car. She has lost every one of those things now. Her children were removed from the home a year ago after he came in from work to find her mortal on the sofa. They have never been back. The children are divided between their father and two sets of grandparents. In the last year, she has been in and out of hospital by falls and through fits. Previous to this, she has taken overdoses. Apart from dragging her to various organizations, I have tried everything. I have now had to walk away. I have said when you get the professional help you need I will support you. I am not going to enable her anymore. She is currently with an organization that will try and get her into rehab. We thought it was promising but she has been on a bender for a week now. It cripples the whole family. Even though I have walked, she is on my mind 24 hours a day. I really don’t think there is any hope for her as she is still in denial even after all this time. If losing your children is not rock bottom, what is?

  49. My daughter is 23 and alcoholic, bulimic and smokes weed. She is my youngest child and she chose to live with her father (also an alcoholic) when she was 14. I have been trying to help her for years with money, as she has been in and out of work. I paid for her to do a college course which cost me thousands of pounds and she did not even graduate. I have even offered her a home with me but she always refuses. I have rescued her when she is on an ‘out of control’ ranting binge and have watched her self-harm and destroy her body. She is a beautiful, intelligent charming girl but lately my eyes have been opened to how manipulative she has become. I told her recently that I would not be giving her any more money. I said I would buy her food and cigarettes but that I would not give her money to buy alcohol or drugs. I love her with all my heart but she pushes me away when I go to hug her. I have seen her violent outbursts and she has recently lost her boyfriend because of her drinking.

    So far she has put off detox four times and shows no sign of wanting to quit. She recently tried to get money from her sister and, fortunately, was denied. I have also told my parents to stop giving her money. I never thought I would ever be in this place with her. I am almost expecting her to die, as I cannot see any other way to help her or make her better. Recently, I heard her bad mouthing me behind my back and it hurt me to the core as I have done everything possible to give her the best start in life. She has had more love and attention, time and money than I have been able to give to my older child but she is choosing to destroy her life. I feel as if I am a hostage to her drinking, the same as I felt with her father. I chose to walk away from him, but I am finding it impossible to walk away from her. My heart goes out to anyone who is struggling with this. I hope we eventually find some peace.

  50. Thank you for your honesty. When you mentioned enabling, I do that a lot with my daughter whose an alcoholic. I keep my grandchildren because I don’t want them to get hurt or sexually molested. That’s why I babysit them. What else can I do? I also give her money so that my grandchildren will not go hungry because she drank up her money to buy food. I also help by paying some of her bills. Everything I do is for my grandchildren. I believe she is taking advantage of this, right? What can I do to stop enabling her? Any help or advise is appreciated.

  51. My son is 22 and has two kids. When he married his wife got pregnant with another man and they split. She is with someone else now and takes every opportunity to make my son’s life hell. Now he is drinking and isn’t supposed to because the courts tell him he can’t. Not sure what to do. Any advice?

  52. It was good to read all your replies that are so close home. I feel less alone and scared seeing so many other people in a similar and unforgiving situation. I had an alcoholic father and now a 26 year old alcoholic son living with me. I am lost for words as to how much of my life has been taken by these charming men. My son is all of the above: lovely, gifted, intelligent when not drinking. He just lost his job and girlfriend due to his daily drinks. And, of course, no money for food or paying me rent. He started to drink at the age of 14, went three times to Juvenile rehabilitation. I am loosing my sanity as having absolutely no family support and limited money. It is life in hell and I do not know what to do. Feeling cheated by life and selfish men. May God help us all. May Higher Spirits enlighten all people being taken hostage by addictions and give them strength to change their lives. Please God help family members who suffer so much. Thank you for listening.

  53. Hi,

    I have three children. We have been EXTREMELY close as a family until the last three years. Two of my children, who are 21 and 24 years old, are alcoholics (like their Dad, his Dad, my Dad, etc.) My heart is breaking and I don’t know how to fix it. All I want to do is cry. There have been multiple negative consequences they have both faced–rape, car accidents, failure in college, relationships etc. Unfortunately, I have paid the monetary side of those consequences and have picked up the emotional pieces although I am a single, struggling mom ($10,000.00 for rehab, $10,000 for a new car) I am supporting both and hours upon hours of my life are GONE!). I would say ‘enough’ but I fear they will commit suicide without my emotional support! Both have threatened. They do not follow through with therapists, hospitalization or jobs (all of which have been offered….repeatedly). I have spent my entire life dealing with alcoholism. I am the daughter of an alcoholic and became a Registered Nurse. I am suppose to fix others?! Avoiding the dramatic–this is sheer torture! There are indeed days that I cannot keep from crying over the loss of my children (although they are still here).

    Life is not a straight path and mine is no exception, but addiction destroys logic and lives. Any advise would be appreciated. Thanks.

    So often I feel alone in my losses. So often I feel selfish when I desire to live life without the next dramatic pause!

  54. I don’t get how they say this whole thing is a disease and then the same people say “we told him he couldn’t live here or we aren’t going to help him, etc. As they say alcoholism is a disease then would you send your daughter with a brain tumor away? It is crazy. Do listen to your own heart. Help your child. Chances are their life will be very short as one can’t make a choice off drinking day and day and expect a long life. It is heart wrenching and according to this article – pointless.

  55. Debra I love my son so much and the pain I feel when he is sick is so bad. I grieve for the person I used to know,

  56. My son is alcoholic and takes heroine. He’s gotten so bad I think he’s given up. It breaks my heart to see him like this. I just don’t know what to do any more. I tried getting him help but never got it. He comes to my house in a cab early hours of the morning for money. He’s a mess not eating or bathing. He has overdosed on tablets. When he is drunk he goes around fighting and carrying knifes. I have a disabled son of 16 who a care for all the time. I know if he doesn’t get help now he will end up dead. I’m just waiting for that call that says your son dead.

  57. I have been in the ministry for 40 years and its hard to deal with my son who has a drinking problem, is in rehab and has a problem of seeing reality of where this disease is taking him. I pray and have some guilt issues to deal with but I am determined to see him through this awful addiction. Thank you for these helps and kind words. God help us all!!

  58. I have a 24 year old son who is handsome, charming, intelligent and sadly an alcoholic.
    He is in rehab for the third time but sadly he doesn’t really want to be there so I don’t have great hopes of this turning him around. I am aware of enabling and realize I have done this in the past but he now has a seriously damaged liver and if he continues to drink he will die. The reality of this is not affecting his drinking at all he just doesn’t seem to care. When he comes out of rehab he will need somewhere to stay and it can’t be with me as he wears me down. I will organize a unit for him. I know I am being an enabler but I don’t want to see him on the streets where he will surely die.

  59. I have a 26 year old son about to be 27 and a first time dad that is alcoholic. At age 17 he got into an accident totaled his car. He even had a near death experience seeing Hell and got saved after that. Over the years it got worse and this past summer he stole my car and totaled it surviving the crash. He went into two rehabs. He did great in the second one but as soon as he left, he went back to drinking again and is expecting his first child while living on streets. I had to stop helping him. I dealt with the same thing with my identical twin sister who is still a functioning alcoholic. I HATE IT. It’s so hard.

  60. Wow, I already feel better reading all of your posts and like many, I see my 32 year old son in most of these posts. I thank you all for helping me not feel alone and reinforcing the do not help or enable after so many tries at helping in the right way. I have put off Al-Anon only because of having to care for two elderly parents who are now deceased and so I am thinking to keep me on track for me to not give any money or lodging and this will help. Thank you for this page, very helpful and I needed it today.

  61. I’m not sure if reading these posts has been a help or not. It makes me so sad to hear that so many people are facing the same problems as my husband and I. So what IS the answer? No one knows what to do. Everyone is heartbroken. My 45 year old son is presently in jail on an alcohol related hit And run incident. He has had several DUI’s and was actually out on bond on another DUI charge at the time of this latest fiasco. He was living with us. He was a complete Jekyll and Hyde personality–mean, angry and abusive when drunk, which is most of the time. To make matters worse, we have a dog who has been driven to attack him when he becomes loud and abusive. Its not the dogs fault. He feels he is protecting US but he HAS bitten our son. The situation has truly become a living nightmare.
    Our son is now calling us from jail wanting us to help him get a bond. He expects to return home. I cannot deal with this anymore. I don’t know what to do! I love my son, but I do not like him. He is putting terrible strain on his father and me. Please, somebody tell me how to be strong!!!

  62. I’m sad to read all these stories of pain for all of you! 🙁 I too am the mother of a 34 yr old alcoholic. He works full-time, but has nothing to show for it and comes home from work under the influence most days. He too is a smart handsome young man, throwing away his life and it’s just so sad. He has been staying with us for three months…again. I’m the “tough love” strict one, while my husband, the step father, is the enabler. I kicked him out at the age of 18 when he lived with me for two weeks after the divorce. He is verbally disrespectful of me. He’s leaving this weekend because I told him he has to. It’s best for both of us. He needs to move on and make his own choices. I’ve been going to Alanon for about a month and it does help. If anyone out there reads this and is experiencing this awful disease with someone they love…check out Alanon and/or buy the books they recommend and read them. If you can go to a meeting, go. The people are very understanding and loving. It helps you to concentrate on yourself and “let go” of all the heartache and headaches. It’s still hard and sad, but at least you have some support and help to deal with it. We all have to be careful to take care of our own well being and our health. There’s nothing we can do to “make” our addicted children get help. They have to decide to do it on their own time. Take care and please call Alanon or google for a meeting:)

  63. My 39 year old son has struggled with alcohol for years. He used to be able to function but now once he starts to drink, he cannot stop. I have been to Alanon meetings, and I am learning that my husband and I cannot keep rescuing him. He is going to have to hit rock bottom, I think, before he is going to actually want to stop. Thanks for sharing – it does help to realize my husband and I are not the only ones going through this.

  64. I have a 29 year old daughter addicted to alcohol. Like many other alcoholics, she said smart, funny, passionate about science, artistic and very pretty, but she is letting alcohol destroy her life. She is mean and horrible when she is under the influence, but an angel when she’s sober. My heart is torn after trying to constantly save her for the last 6 years. She’s a college graduate, but decided to continue working retail jobs as she had when she was going to college. Finally she had the courage to venture in her field, life science, and was able to get a 6 month contract job with a very decent salary for entry level. However, she has been heavily drinking for the last 3 to 4 weeks and has been going into work late. I am very concerned she’s going to lose her job and, of course, I’m nagging her to meet her job commitments–as if that is going to help. She lives in a little studio we have on our property. This gives her independency and a little piece of mind to us. We are arguing every time I see her drunk or see her going in to work late. She said she wants to move out and rent a room and I’m so afraid of not knowing what she’s doing but at the same time, I’m so tired. I really want to give her the opportunity she says she wants, let her fail on her own and to learn on her own terms. Logically, it makes sense, emotionally it cripples me, I feel I will lose her forever. It seems rational and simple, but very difficult to do. I’m praying for wisdom and strength to my god. I cannot live for her and make decisions for her but I feel so guilty and contrary to what parents are supposed to do. Blessings for all.

  65. My eldest son has been alcohol dependent for 17 years. I have supported and enabled him too many times. I worked in a mental health ward for many years–detox and rehab care. Emotional attachment takes away your ability to think and act appropriately in these circumstances. I knew the theory. Living with the reality of it is trying to say the least. I have two other younger children who I have had to parent protectively to avoid the ugly experience of the drunk older brother. I went to also to Al-anon. I learned that the personal experience is in fact not personal. The story and process of alcoholism are universally the same. It is something I remind myself of daily by the nasty words and the personal attacks when he is not getting what he wants which I understand from him in lucid moments are his way of feeling better about himself. He feels bad so if he hurts me he feels less crap! I spoiled this child. He had more than any of my boys. Emotionally, physically and psychologically. I did too much.

  66. I woke up at 4:30 a.m. with anxiety again. I read every single comment and rarely do I ever respond to these things. However, I feel compelled to share with strangers. I want you all to know that no matter what…it’s not your fault. We all make mistakes. We all fumble through parenting. We all experience guilt from parenting. No one is perfect. Until addicts take personal responsibility for their actions, they won’t develop the coping skills they need. I want the stranger on the internet reading this right now to not forget who they are. Don’t neglect your needs. Don’t sink into the addict’s toxic games. Life is hard. No question, but we cannot get caught up in something we cannot control or change. My life has become more tolerable since my addict stepson moved in with his Aunt. I feel fleeting guilt, but mostly sad for his half-sister, my daughter who also didn’t ask for any of this. Collateral damage all around for one addict’s behavior. However, I know in my heart if he were to come to us tomorrow begging forgiveness and promising he’s changed, we will believe him. Back on the ride that I’ve come to accept this will never stop. I want to control the situation but feel so out of control. My advice is to find other “family”, friends, coworkers, Al-anon, etc. My heart is with you all, but I am confident you all are stronger than you’ll ever believe possible. You can do this…I promise.

    Stranger from the internet

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