February 5, 2024

My Son Is an Alcoholic, What Do I Do?

an image of someone wondering "my son is an alcoholic, what do i do?"

If you are a parent grappling with an adult child’s alcohol use, it’s perfectly normal to feel a mix of concern, confusion, and even anger. These feelings will be intensified if you have an alcoholic son living at home. 

You are not alone in this challenging situation, though. Taking steps to guide your son or daughter toward seeking help can significantly reduce their risk of enduring severe mental and physical health issues, and mitigate potential family, work, and legal problems. By encouraging them to embrace recovery, you can help them regain control over their life. This guide explores the following issues:

  • I think my son is an alcoholic, now what?
  • How to deal with an alcoholic son.
  • How to help an alcoholic son engage with addiction treatment.
  • My son is killing himself with alcohol: how can I get help right away?

Is My Son an Alcoholic?

Only a medical professional or mental health specialist can diagnose someone with alcohol use disorder (the clinical term for alcoholism). They use the diagnostic criteria outlined in DSM-5-TR. Alcoholism is diagnosed according to the number of criteria that present as mild (2 to 3), moderate (4 to 5), or severe (6 or more). Consider the following questions based on your son’s patterns of alcohol consumption over the previous year:

  1. Does your son frequently drink more alcohol than he intended or drink for longer than planned?
  2. Has your son made unsuccessful attempts to stop drinking?
  3. Does your son spend lots of time drinking or recovering from the effects of drinking?
  4. Have you noticed your son experience intense urges to drink alcohol?
  5. Is your son failing to meet his personal or professional commitments due to alcohol use?
  6. Is alcohol abuse causing problems in your son’s closest relationships?
  7. Has your son abandoned hobbies and interests to spend more time drinking?
  8. Does your son consume alcohol in dangerous situations?
  9. Is your son drinking even though it is causing or inflaming a physical or mental health issue?
  10. Does your son need more alcohol than before due to the formation of tolerance?
  11. If your son stops drinking, does he experience withdrawal symptoms?

While answering these questions will not constitute a formal diagnosis, it will nevertheless give you an accurate idea of whether or not your son might be drinking too much. If so, how can you help your alcoholic son, then?

How to Talk to Your Son About Drinking Too Much

Approaching a conversation with your son about his excessive drinking requires sensitivity, understanding, and planning. Here are some guidelines to help you navigate this delicate discussion:

  • Pick an appropriate time and place: Find a quiet, private setting where you can speak without interruptions. Ensure that he is sober and both of you are in a calm state of mind.
  • Express concern, not judgment: Start the conversation from a place of concern and love. Use “I” statements to express your feelings – “I feel worried when I see you drinking heavily,” for instance,  instead of accusatory “you” statements.
  • Be specific: Mention specific instances where his drinking has caused problems or raised concerns. This helps to keep the conversation grounded in reality.
  • Listen actively: Give your son the space to share his perspective. Listen without interrupting or arguing, showing that you value his feelings and point of view.
  • Avoid lecturing: Keep the conversation two-way and avoid turning it into a lecture. The goal is to open a dialogue, not to preach.
  • Discuss the impact of alcohol abuse: Talk about how his drinking affects him, you, and others around him. Be honest but empathetic in discussing the consequences.
  • Offer support and resources: Let him know that you’re there to support him and discuss possible solutions or treatment options. Offer to help him find professional assistance or support groups.
  • Prepare for resistance: He may be in denial or react defensively. Stay calm and reiterate your concern and willingness to support.
  • Set boundaries: If applicable, communicate any boundaries or consequences related to his drinking behavior – more on this below. Your son needs to understand the seriousness of the situation.
  • Follow-up: Make it clear that this conversation is not a one-time event but the beginning of an ongoing dialogue. Regular check-ins show your continuous support and concern.

Keep in mind that while this conversation is important, it may not immediately lead to change. Patience and persistent, loving support are key when trying to work out how to help alcoholic son.

How Can I Help My Alcoholic Son?

How to talk to my son about drinking too much should start by establishing boundaries that protect your well-being and don’t enable his drinking behaviors. Make it clear which behaviors you will not tolerate and what the consequences will be if these boundaries are crossed.

Understanding alcoholism and its impacts can better equip you to support your son. Education also helps inform effective and empathetic communication. Familiarize yourself with various treatment options, including inpatient and outpatient programs, therapy, and support groups. Offer to help him explore these options, but remember that the decision to seek treatment should ultimately come from him. 

That said, an intervention can be a powerful tool when someone who demonstrably needs help with substance abuse denies the existence of a problem. An intervention involves gathering close friends and family to confront your son about his alcohol use in a structured manner. The goal is to encourage him to seek help. Consider consulting a professional interventionist to guide this process effectively.

Recovery is an ongoing process. Offer your support throughout this journey, whether it’s attending meetings with him, listening without judgment, or encouraging healthy lifestyle changes.

Keep in mind that if your son is under 26 years old, he may be eligible to use your health insurance plan. This can reduce the costs of treatment programs and therapies.

Supporting someone with alcohol use disorder can be emotionally taxing. Ensure that you also seek support for yourself, whether it’s through counseling, support groups for families of alcoholics, or simply maintaining your own health and well-being. Your role is to be supportive, loving, and firm in your boundaries, guiding your son toward recognizing the need for change and taking action to achieve this.

How to Set Boundaries with an Alcoholic Son

Setting boundaries with an alcoholic son is vital for both your well-being and his journey toward recovery. Here’s how you can establish effective boundaries:

  • Define your limits: Identify which behaviors you can and cannot tolerate. These may include not allowing alcohol in the house, not providing financial support for alcohol purchases, or not tolerating disruptive behavior at home.
  • Avoid enabling behaviors: Isolate actions that may enable your son’s addiction ­– giving him money or making excuses for his behavior, for instance – and commit to stopping these enabling behaviors.
  • Communicate clearly: Initiate an open and honest conversation with your son about your boundaries. Be specific about boundaries and consequences for breaching boundaries.
  • Be consistent: Consistency is key in boundary setting. Ensure that you follow through with the consequences you’ve set if your boundaries are violated. This consistency reinforces the seriousness of your limits.
  • Separate the person from the behavior: Remember that your boundaries are in response to your son’s behavior. Boundaries are not a judgment of him as a person. Make it clear that it’s the alcohol-related actions you’re addressing here.
  • Prioritize your safety and well-being: If certain behaviors are harmful or threatening to you or others in your home, prioritize safety. This may involve calling authorities or removing yourself from dangerous situations.
  • Support recovery efforts: While setting boundaries, also express your willingness to support his journey to recovery. Offer to help him find treatment options or attend support meetings.
  • Take care of yourself: Setting boundaries can be emotionally draining. Ensure that you are also seeking support for self-care.
  • Be flexible: Be open to adjusting your boundaries as situations change. This may be necessary as your son progresses in his recovery journey.
  • Stand firm in love: Remember that setting boundaries is an act of love and care, both for yourself and your son. It’s about creating a healthy environment where recovery is possible.

FAQs

My son is an alcoholic, what do I do?

Begin by educating yourself about alcoholism to understand the challenges your son faces. Encourage him to seek professional help and consider arranging an intervention if necessary, while also ensuring that you have support for yourself throughout this process.

How can I help my alcoholic son if he denies that he has a problem with alcohol?

Focus on maintaining open, non-confrontational communication and express your concerns without judgment. Consider seeking guidance from a professional therapist or counselor who specializes in addiction to strategize the best approach for your son’s denial.

Get Treatment for Alcohol Addiction at Gratitude Lodge

We treat alcohol addiction from detox to discharge and beyond at Gratitude Lodge in Southern California. Our inclusive and pet-friendly treatment centers are located in Long Beach and Newport Beach, CA, providing an environment without triggers or distractions in which you can focus fully on recovery from alcohol use disorder.

Get your recovery journey started the right way with medical detox at one of our beachside facilities. Take advantage of medications and continuous care to streamline the alcohol withdrawal process and help you overcome alcohol dependence. After about one week, you can move into ongoing inpatient treatment.

All Gratitude Lodge treatment programs offer individualized treatments that include:

  • Talk therapies
  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic treatments
  • Group therapy
  • Individual counseling
  • Aftercare planning

When you are committed to tackling alcohol abuse head-on, call 888-861-1658 for on-the-spot assistance.

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Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
Jenni Bussi

Jenni Busse MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

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