My Mom’s an Alcoholic

Question: My mom drinks alcohol a lot. When she’s drunk, she acts stupid, like being silly or having accidents in the car. Sometimes we get into fights because I’m so mad at her for not acting normal or being like other moms. When we fight, I hurt her but I don’t let her hurt me. My dad gets really mad at her too. He calls her an alcoholic and says they’re getting divorced. Both of them talk badly about the other. I don’t know what to do.

Answer: You’re dealing with two of the most difficult situations a child can be in: divorce and a parent who’s addicted to a substance. I imagine both situations leave you feeling angry, helpless and out of control. These are very typical feelings for kids dealing with these problems but most especially addiction. Unfortunately, being affected by addiction is not uncommon. Substance abuse problems plague anywhere from 45–68% of the U.S. population and approximately 19 million children are exposed to parental alcohol dependence, alcohol abuse, or both. So please know that you are not alone.

When dealing with a parent who’s an alcoholic, it’s critical for you to receive help so that you know what to expect and how to behave. Although your father may have been a good resource in the past (and may be again in the future), the divorce is preventing him from being as helpful as he could be right now. Thus, it may be better to find outside resources like Al-Anon or Families Anonymous (groups for the families of loved ones who are addicted). People who attend these groups generally find that talking with others who are experiencing the same type of issues is very beneficial.

You didn’t mention whether the “hurt” you inflict upon your mother is physical or emotional but either way, it’s not helpful for anyone. The situation won’t be improved by hurtful behavior; it will only make things worse. Consequently, it’s very important that you find a way to deal constructively with your anger. Counseling could be of great assistance in learning how to deal with your mother when she’s drinking as well as working through your own feelings of anger about her behavior. In addition to learning new ways of coping, it would be good for you to talk about what’s going on and realize that you’re not alone because addiction can be such an isolating illness.

Counseling also could be useful in helping you deal with the divorce. Although divorce is never fun or ideal, healthy divorces occur when parents don’t put their kids in the middle. You shouldn’t have to listen to either parent talking negatively about the other one. It’s their divorce, not yours, and you have every right to love both parents equally. Consequently, whenever they want to talk about the other parent, it may be best to ask not to be put in the middle and change the subject or simply end the conversation. Counseling can help you deal with the emotions you have toward the divorce. If you have a family counselor, she or he may also be able to work with your parents to make the divorce process a smoother one. However, if counseling isn’t an option, a lot of communities have groups for children dealing with divorce.

Whatever you choose to do, please do get help. It can make a huge difference.

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