How do I handle the topic with him?



My dad has had a serious alcohol addiction for as long as I can remember. He is self aware that it’s a problem and tries to take steps but one thing leads to another and he struggles again. What do I do to help? I want to bring it up but it’s a touchy subject. Kind of the whole thing where everyone knows its happening but we just don’t talk about it. How do I go from that to talking about it?


As someone that has parents who are alcoholics, my first suggestion is to find an ally. You mentioned that everybody knows it’s happening - speak to one of those people one-on-one and start coming up with a plan to speak to your Dad about it. When speaking with your ally about this conversation, figure out exactly how you want to bring it up (maybe even practice what you would want to say) and decide on what your suggested outcomes of the conversation are going to be. Whether it be setting boundaries moving forward or asking him to check into a rehabilitation center.

The conversation in bringing this up is always uncomfortable due to the power dynamics that often exist between Parents and Children. It’s key to emphasize that the conversation is coming from a place of love and caring for them. The conversation will be significantly easier since he’s already self-aware that he has a problem and hearing from other family members that they also recognize it’s a problem (particularly one of his children), can be an even stronger indication that the alcoholism is something that needs to be addressed. At the end of the conversation, try to establish actionable steps with your Dad moving forward to ensure that you’re on the same page and can move towards recovery together.


I’m sorry to hear this. My mom has been an alcoholic as long as I can remember. I never lived with her so I’ve never had the chance to get to know her on a personal level until just recently when I decided to reach out. It sounds like your dad does want to change so that’s a good start. Bringing up the subject is so hard. Honestly the only times I feel comfortable bringing it up is when my mom has an “episode” as my family calls it, where she gets super drunk and she usually calls me or other family members when she does. So I’ve been using those situations to bring it up. I’ll say something like “I know you weren’t feeling too good yesterday. What happened? What do you think triggered you to drink?” It was kind of scary and awkward the first time I asked my mom that but I’m so glad I did because it allowed me to see how she would react when I asked her point blank. At first, I could tell she didn’t want to tell me but I told her “It’s ok. You can tell me. You don’t have to pretend that everything is perfect all the time. I’ll still love you.” And she actually opened up to me about it and she told me she had some issues with her ex-boyfriend. I’m just trying to figure out what triggers my mom to drink in the first place to try and understand her addiction a little better. I told her the next time she is feeling triggered to call me. She usually doesn’t call me until after she’s started drinking but she does still open up to me about why she started drinking in the first place that day. I’m hoping with time she’ll call me before she starts drinking and we can talk it out. I don’t know what your relationship is like with your dad but maybe you can try something like that. Sometimes just saying it is the best thing we can do. Find the right time of course but maybe just start with something like Hey dad there’s something I’d like to talk to you about. Is now a good time? And if he says yes you guys can talk about it. And just reassure him that you’ll always love him. I’ve found that my mom needed to hear that a lot. I hope this helps. :heart:


Agreed, @emma!
In my experience it’s alway helped to come from a place of love, not tough love. Show compassion towards him, emphasize that you want to help and you are in this together and want to be an ally in encouraging positive change. He knows his alcohol use is a problem, so you can show curiosity about his alcohol use by asking him what purpose alcohol serves in his life. If it’s to numb pain, brainstorm other ways to manage whatever pain he is experiencing. If it’s because he’s bored, you can come up with ideas such as hiking, biking, walking, puzzling together (there are endless fun activities you can engage in together :)). In those moments you spend quality time together which reinforces connection and gradually alcohol becomes just an option amongst many to deal with boredom! Below is a list you can follow as you prepare for the conversation:

  1. Express empathy and acceptance toward their concerns
  2. Find a distinction between present moment behavior and the end result they actually want. (ex: if I know that the person I’m concerned about wants to feel connected (as we all do) and I speak to them in a way that divides us, I am actually reinforcing intoxication. This motivates me to find a different approach, regardless of how attached my ego is to my point in the conflict.)
  3. Choose something other than arguing. No matter what. Confrontation forces a win/lose situation. A divide. A hierarchy, an inequality. Reinforcing intoxication.
  4. Flow with their resistance instead of pushing against it. Assume that the person you care about is a valuable resource in finding solutions, so there is a validity in their resistance. Our intention is to help shift their perspective so that what seems impossible is possible.
  5. Remember that the person you’re concerned about IS CAPABLE OF CHANGE. And ultimately, they are responsible for choosing it and walking the slow, steady path toward it. Keeping this in mind helps facilitate the process of change.

A few more tips since it’s a touchy subject that everyone knows is happening but won’t talk about is to come together before speaking with your dad and discuss concerns with other family members/loved ones. That way you will all feel a bit more comfortable discussing this with him when the time comes. He’s aware he has a problem, and may be ashamed and have guilt about his struggles so when you prepare to have the talk, ask him permission so he doesn’t feel ambushed. Hopefully this will allow him to feel like an active participant who has a voice in the discussion. Then you can provide him with information for ways he can get help. Offer, try to avoid imposing. Provide options to achieve the goal (to stop drinking he can go to AA (you can offer to go with him if you’re comfortable)), go to an addiction therapist, talk to his doctor, go to group therapy, etc), if there is disagreement flow with it so it reinforces that you want to be an ally in helping positive change for the both of you. Check back in with him by asking “does that make sense to you”, or “I just want to check back in about…”

Have others experienced similar struggles with their loved ones? If so, how have you found success in bringing up the uncomfortable stuff with them?


One thing I have found helps, and I must admit, it took a long time to get here BUT really the more we do this the better I think we all feel, and the less scary addiction seems and the more it feels like a fluid thing that we can change.

The more we as a family or group of friends talk about it the better - and ‘we’ includes the loved one you’re worried about.

Talking about it together in an empathetic way - not an inquisition (easier said than done I know!), and constantly reinforcing that we’re coming from a place of understanding that 1. our loved one is likely not highly motivated to change their substance use because it serves a purpose for them, 2. it doesn’t change the way we feel about them, we still believe they are worthy of love and life and have heaps of potential!

Sometimes in families not everyone will hold this positive and empathetic stance, so in group conversations I always work hard to be his ally and make sure we are supporting him, even when we are discussing a tough topic. I try to put myself in his shoes - reminding myself that addiction is a habit affecting brain chemistry and is incredibly hard (but not impossible) to change, and that there’s a pain it is numbing. This person is in pain! I do my best to guid my family as a group to remember this and talk a bit more empathetically if needed.

I believe the more we can have casual conversations about it. Less “intervention-y” and more exploratory and collaborative - attempting to learn about how the person is doing and why / when they choose to use more or less etc. This can help soften defenses and create some space to question and consider things.

It also breaks down the stigma and makes future conversations easier. I used to always be preparing for the conversation to change everything but the reality is - recovery takes a lifetime. A few years ‘clean’ and my husband, just like myself, has work to do on his stress tolerance and coping behaviors. So just because the substance is gone, doesn’t mean everything gets fixed. We’re going to have many many many conversations :slight_smile: and things will change slowly.

Even to this day, as my husband does better and better with his coping behaviors and his use of substances, sometimes he still prickles when I question a behavior - finding times when he’s open and up for chatting about it always goes better than persisting when he prickles.


Maybe try going meta and talk to him about talking to him about it. “Sometime soon I want to have a talk about your drinking.” Allow him to adjust to the fact that you want to have a conversation. Be persistent but stay at this level until you get feedback that he’s ready to go to the next step and actually talk.