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How to Handle Your Alcoholic Children

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The term “Alcoholic Children” can have a lot of different meanings. Children can be adults or young in age. Alcoholism does not discriminate. Alcoholism is often genetic, and actions seen can become actions learned. A child of an alcoholic is likely to grow up and be an alcoholic themselves. 

This article will discuss how to best handle having children who are alcoholics. 

What Makes Someone an Alcoholic?

An alcoholic is a person who has a desire or physical need to consume alcohol, despite knowing that it harms their life.  Mental health professionals often refer to this as alcohol use disorder (AUD). They have a problem controlling how much they drink and how often they drink, even though drinking causes problems at home, work, financially, physically, psychologically, and socially.

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH),  15.1 million American adults, which makes about 6.2 percent of the population, were alcoholics. World Health Organization (WHO) statistics show that globally, there are   3.3 million deaths every year due to alcohol addiction. Alcohol addiction may take several years to develop without realizing the harm it has already been causing. 

Seeing a family member, a child, friend, or coworker with substance abuse and mental health issues can be difficult; you might wonder what you can do to help change the situation. Despite many struggles and challenges, you can still provide love and support to your loved ones and bring them back to life. Early interventions and alcoholism treatment programs offer many services when the addict is ready, such as:

  • Detoxification Programs
  • Support Groups (i.e., Al-Anon)
  • Inpatient Rehab Programs
  • Outpatient Rehab Programs
  • Sponsorships


Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction

Moderate alcohol consumption at parties or celebrations is socially acceptable and generally not any cause of concern. However, these events are a good time to spot warning signs, as people with alcoholism tend to be the ones drinking the most.
Here are some signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction: 

  1. Drinking alone or secretively
  2. Not being able to limit and stop drinking.
  3. Drinking as a coping mechanism.
  4. Built-up tolerance for alcohol.
  5. Withdrawal symptoms when not drinking.
  6. Picking alcohol over being productive or other hobbies.
  7. Having issues with relationships, the law, finances, or work

Stages of Alcohol Addiction

Drug rehab centers have found that alcoholism progresses in 5 stages:

Stage 1: Occasional Abuse and Binge drinking

This is an experimentation stage that is commonly seen in young adults. These experimental drinkers frequently engage in binge drinking. Many binge drinkers exceed this amount and are on the way to become potential alcohol addicts. Many people think that binge drinking is safe when you only do it occasionally, but this is the first stepping stone toward alcoholism.

Stage 2: Increased Drinking

When alcohol consumption becomes more frequent and drinkers leave the experimental stage, they increase their alcohol consumption. Regularly drinking alcohol is often due to the higher emotional and physical attachment to it. As drinking continues to increase, you become more dependent on alcohol and are at a greater risk of developing an addiction.

Stage 3: Problem Drinking

Frequent, uncontrolled alcohol consumption finally becomes problem drinking. Though all forms of alcohol abuse are problematic, problem drinking starts impacting the habits of a drinker. A “problem drinker” becomes more depressed, more anxious, and starts losing sleep. Heavy drinking can also make you sick, but the temporary enjoyment is too tempting to care. 

Stage 4: Alcohol Dependence

Alcoholism has two facets: dependence and addiction. It is possible that a person may be reliant on alcohol but may not have become an alcohol addict yet. After the problem drinking stage, alcohol dependence starts to develop. This develops an attachment to alcohol, and even though you might be aware of the adverse effects, you no longer have control over your alcohol consumption. When you have an alcohol dependence, withdrawal symptoms appear when you aren’t drinking. 

Stage 5: Addiction and Alcoholism

The final stage of alcoholism is addiction. Alcohol addiction is a physical and psychological need to drink. Alcohol addicts physically dependent on the substance often become severely irritated and/or agitated until they start drinking again. 

It is also important to understand the type of addiction they might be suffering from to care for their loved ones. 

Types of Alcoholics

Researchers have found that there are five types of alcoholics. These types are based on the age of the individual, the age they started drinking, the age they developed alcohol dependence, their family history of alcohol consumption, the presence or absence of co-occurring psychological conditions, and other substance abuse disorders. 

Type 1: Young Adult Subtype

Roughly 31.5% of alcoholics are young adults, which is the largest single group. This group begins drinking at an early age (around  19) and develops an alcohol dependence very early on in life (approximately 24). 

Alcoholics in this group are less likely to have a full-time job and unlikely ever to have been married. This group is very likely to engage in binge drinking. 

Type 2: Functional Subtype

Around 19.5% of alcoholics belong to this group. As the name suggests,  they are holding down jobs and relationships. This group tends to be middle-aged (around 41). Individuals from this group generally start drinking and build up an alcohol dependence later (approximately 37). This group experiences moderate depression. 

Type 3: Intermediate Familial Subtype

The intermediate familial subtype represents 18.8% of alcoholic children. This group tends to start drinking younger (around 17) and develops an alcohol dependence earlier (approximately 32). They also have a high probability of suffering from an antisocial personality disorder, depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. This group also suffers from high rates of nicotine, marijuana, and cocaine addiction. This subtype often aligns with adult children of alcoholic parents. 

Type 4: Young Antisocial Subtype

The young antisocial subtype constitutes about 21.1% of alcoholics. This group starts drinking at the youngest age (around 15) and develops alcohol dependence at the earliest age (approximately 18). More than 50% of this group have traits of antisocial personality disorder. They also have high rates of depression, bipolar disorder, social phobia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

Type 5: Chronic Severe Subtype

The most deadly, severe chronic subtype makes up only 9.2%, the smallest percentage of alcoholics. This group tends to start drinking at a young age (around 15) but typically develops an alcohol dependence at an intermediate age (approximately 29). This subtype is likely to experience major depression, dysthymia, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, and panic disorder. This group also is very likely to experience addiction to cigarettes, marijuana, cocaine, and opioids. 


Addressing the problem

When expressing yourself and your intentions to your child, do it carefully. Let them know that you care, you stand by them, and would always support them. Try to practice your statements carefully that are positive and supportive; avoid being negative, hurtful, or presumptuous. It is essential to understand that they are going through a tricky time in their life and need your support more than ever. 

Prepare yourself, they may sound irritated or even act furious at times, but you have to stay calm and composed in the face of resistance. Assure your child that they have your respect and support. Do not take it personally. 

Avoid playing the blame game. Instead, speak from a place of concern; try saying things like, “I love you and care for you; you’re very important to me. I’m concerned about how much you’re drinking, and it may be harming your health .

Listen with honesty and compassion and Offer your Support

The best thing you can do is be open and honest with your children about alcohol addiction.  Hoping that the person will get better on their own will never change the situation. Give them time and space to make an ethical decision, and listen to what they have to say. You must not look down upon them if you want to help them out.

Accept the fact that you can’t force someone who doesn’t want to go into treatment to get help, even if they’re suffering. All you can do is offer your support and let them decide for themselves when they are ready. 

Your child may also promise to cut back on their own and reduce their consumption slowly. However, you must urge them to get into formal drug and alcohol rehab.

Intervene, but don’t force

Confrontation is never the answer. Intervention is sometimes necessary to get through to a person battling addiction, but when done right will come from a place of caring. Intervention is often done with the help of a professional counselor from a drug and alcohol rehab

Remember, treatment of alcohol addiction is an ongoing process. Standing by your child’s progress during and after treatment is important, too. You have to stay invested in their long-term recovery and adjust your life accordingly. 

Supportive Tips to help your child on the journey to recovery

  • Be empathetic when approaching your child
  • Be honest and open in your communication
  • Do not create any barriers. Let your child know they can talk to you
  • Offer to accompany them to meetings for drug and alcohol rehab
  • Practice patience

Listen to your alcoholic children and make sure they feel heard. Do not compare them to other people or belittle them for not doing as well as someone else you know. Having lost all confidence in themselves and now prone to depression and anxiety more than ever, they may attempt self-harm or even try to commit suicide. 

Finding the right way to approach your alcoholic child can be challenging. Before talking with them, try to put yourself in their shoes. The most important thing is to let them know that you care and that you’ll be there when they need your help. 

All is Not Lost

History is full of successful people who were previously drug and alcohol addicts. With the proper treatment and the desire to get help, they could beat alcohol addiction and excel in other life areas. 

Keep an eye on your family if they are falling into this trap.
Be open in your communication about drug addiction. 

If your child is struggling with addiction, Call Us to talk to a care coordinator. We will educate you and develop a strategy to handle the situation based on their addiction stage properly and help you guide them back to a healthy, happy life. 

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