Struggling to cope with Dad’s alcoholism – help

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eh2888

Hi all

I am really struggling to cope with my Dad’s alcoholism and feel at my wits end. I don’t know where to turn anymore because it feels like nothing will help/change him. I will give some background below.

So my Dad has been a bit of a drinker all of his life but up until the last few years it was never problematic (he would have a few cans in the evening after work). Him and my mum split 10 years ago when I was 17 and he moved out. He was quite difficult to live with and was abusive to my mum at times. However, he was still successful and had lots of hobbies. He is educated, has multiple trades (painter, decorator, electrician, black taxi driver) and used to engage in hobbies such as diving and running marathons.

My Dad was sofa surfing for a bit before covid and moved in with my Nan. Unfortunately my Nan passed away in Feb 2020 and I fought for my Dad to be allowed to take over her flat. I really thought that having stable housing would help him, but he stopped working and began relying on drinking more and more. This got so bad that he was becoming very abusive and manipulative on a daily basis to me and my 19 year old brother. This involved regularly threatening to kill himself, which would lead to ambulances being called and his flat door being kicked down. This happened more times than I can count and has been very traumatic for me and my brother. My dad also began to rely on me financially, to a point where I was giving him more money than I could afford. The stress my Dad was putting on me started to have a severe impact on my mental health and I had to take a step back where I did not have much contact with my Dad for a few months. Looking back now I feel guilty about this, however I was at a point where the contstant manipulation and emotional abuse from him was making me so depressed.
Fast forward to this summer, my Dad told myself and whole family that he had terminal cancer. This turned out to be untrue, but caused weeks of anxiety and stress for my family. My Dad has had a psychological assessment, as I do think he has mental health issues but they said they could not diagnose any mental health issues while he is still drinking as much as he is.
My dad’s flat is an absolute mess and he is not looking after himself. I struggle going around to see him because I find the state of his flat and his physical appearance (he has lost so much weight and looks ill) to be very distressing. He is also very abusive and is often rude to me and family members. However, he relies on me more than anyone as I am his eldest child and he does not have anyone else to rely on apart from his 2 brothers.
I am crying writing this now because I am just at my absolute wits end. I have fought to get my dad support from our local alcohol service, but time and time again he refuses to engage in any support. He refuses to go to AA. He had promised me he would attend a meeting yesterday but when it came to it, refused to go. He has been told he needs to go to rehab but has to show some signs of engaging with alcohol support first, but he won’t do this. When the AA workers came around last week, he assured them he would start engaging in help but clearly he hasn’t as he has refused to go to AA appointments.
He has so many health issues as a result of drinking and has already been diagnosed with liver disease and told he will die if he continues as he is. It has really impacted me that he refused to go to the session yesterday, as I feel like I have reached a point where I don’t know what else to do or how else I can possibly help to stop him drinking. I feel like I don’t know where the point will be where I take a step back, as I am so terrified that if I take a step back and he dies, I will not be able to live with the guilt of that.
My dad constantly calls me to tell me he is sick, or has fallen and hit his head but will never answer the phone to the GP or attend any appointments. This places massive worry on me, but then he does not engage in any medical support? Recently he had fallen and my brother took him to the hospital… My brother went to get him some food and came back to find my Dad on the street pulling out the tubes from his arm and shouting abuse at my brother in the street.
This worry is impacting everything I do and I am anxious every day about him. It has also really impacted my younger brother, who has decided to cut my Dad off. I am so scared that I will get a call one day to say my Dad has been found dead in his flat. How can I live a normal, happy life with this worry always in the back of my head?
It is worth noting that, although I am the first to admit that I have had a troubled relationship with my Dad and he has not always been the best father, I still really love him and miss the person he used to be. I don’t want him to die, but I don’t know how much longer I can sit by and watch him drink himself to death. It is so painful.
I feel like there is no hope in sight with my Dad and I am suffering massively with guilt that I have not been able to fix his problems. I feel guilty that I have my own life as well and am not available to stay with him 24/7 to stop him drinking, even if I wanted to (which I don’t because I find it very upsetting and distressing being around my Dad in his current state). I just get so depressed at how helpless the situation is; physically, my Dad looks absolutely terrible due to being so ill and I hate seeing him like that.
Overall, I guess what I am trying to figure out is, is there ever a time where there is no choice but to take a step back? If so, how do I deal with the constant anxiety and worry about his wellbeing? How do I balance being a good daughter and supporting my Dad, with looking after my own emotional well-being and protecting myself from the hurt and pain he is putting me through? I am so scared of him dying and I feel like I will not be able to live with myself if I stepped back and something happened to him, but I don’t know how much more of this I can take before it breaks me.

  • listener

    Hi,

    I am very sorry to hear of the terrible struggle you are going through due to your dad's drinking. This must be horrible for you and your brother. I can only try to imagine what you are going through.

    As his children there is only so much you can do in order to support your dad while he is drinking, until he accepts your help. You might find the following resources useful when talking to your dad, although it sounds like you have tried tirelessly so it may not be new information:

    https://nacoa.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/How-can-I-talk-to-a-friend_family-member-about-their-drinking.pdf

    https://nacoa.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Alcohol-Self-Diagnosis.pdf

    Guilt is a very common feeling to have in these situations, as a family member who is watching a loved one destroy themselves through alcohol. You have nothing to feel guilty about you and you have done nothing wrong at all. Something that could be useful for you to think about is the 6Cs which might help you to put this into perspective.

    • I didn’t cause it
    • I can’t cure it
    • I can’t control it
    • I can take care of myself
    • I can communicate my feelings
    • I can make healthy choices

    Taking a step back is only something you can decide if and when you feel it is right for you. I am unable to advise you one way or the other - each situation for families is very unique and each dilemma will be different. I am very sorry that you are torn in this way and worry that if something happened you could not live with yourself. This must be very traumatic for you and I imagine it is putting you under a great deal of strain.

    Often people with alcoholism will lash out at the people closest to them and your mental health is clearly suffering as a result of this behaviour. It may help you to shift some of the focus onto your own wellbeing and channel some of your energy into that. Dealing with an alcoholic can be very consuming in many ways and is very demanding. Looking after yourself is very important and not something to feel guilty about.

    When you are feeling particularly overwhelmed, do you have any coping mechanisms that you put in place to ease the pressure of what you are going through; maybe a hobby you enjoy doing, or going for a brisk walk, sometimes even some of the little things in life can help us refocus and feel a little better.

    Do you have a support network of friends and family you can turn to when you are feeling overwhelmed by everything that is going on with your dad? Just having someone willing to listen to you can be a massive help and may feel like a weight has been lifted off of your shoulders, just by being able to say these things out loud.

    Take care of yourself,
    Listener

  • williamste

    Hello eh2888

    I’m very sorry to hear about the situation with your Dad. I am in a similar situation with my alcoholic Mum, so can completely sympathise with what is clearly an impossibly difficult situation.

    As listener says, it’s not for us to make a call on whether you should cut contact immediately – doing so works for some children of alcoholics, but not for others. However, it might be useful if I share my experience as it might help you to make your decision.

    As I say, my Mum is in a similar situation to your Dad. She will drink very heavily every day, to the extent that she simply can’t look after herself and regularly ends up in hospital as a result (I’ve genuinely lost count of the times she has been in hospital over the last 3.5 years, but it must be around six or seven).

    I’ve gone from trying to control her drinking, to meticulously dealing with the aftermath to now taking a hands-off approach. I still keep in limited contact with my Mum and will occasionally speak to social services or the NHS, but I’ve extricated myself from my Mum’s day-to-day ‘routine’ and now leave it to her to deal with the consequences of her actions.

    I’ve gone on this journey for a number of reasons. Firstly, I realised that whether I was with my Mum 24/7 or only saw her once a year, I couldn’t control my Mum’s drinking. Attempting to only increased my anxiety and made our already difficult relationship even more fractious. I’m not saying that a more distant relationship doesn’t cause problems – I do sometimes feel guilty as many COAs sadly do – but I genuinely believe that the distress that this guilt causes pales into insignificance compared to the alternative.

    As I say, I don’t want to suggest one course of action or the other. I just hope that this explanation of my own journey helps you to look after yourself.

    Very best wishes for the future. Don't forget that you're not alone.

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