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Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in
Chicago, Illinois and Northfield, Illinois.

You can contact Dr. Frisch, Psy.D. at
(847) 498-5611.

Recover from chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs free. Learn how to in Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. Recovery book series.


How to Confront a Parent Who Has a Problem With Alcohol and Other Drugs


D
ear Dr. Steve:

I’ve reached my breaking point with my mother. Her life-long abuse of alcohol and prescription pills has gotten totally out of control. This is a heartache that my sister and brother have lived with for over twenty-five years. I used to rationalize her drug abuse by convincing myself that she was only a danger to herself. But I can no longer kid myself. Recently she was watching my five year old and seven year old. When driving the kids back to my house, she ran her car off the road and hit a telephone pool. Thankfully, my kids weren’t hurt. Although the police did not cite her for any driving violations, I know that she was driving under the influence. I know because I’ve been there done that with her my whole life. I’ve promised myself—no more! I’m not going to continue put my children at risk. We’ve all given up on the idea that she’ll get help for her problem. What can I say to her?

Confronting a parent who has a problem with drugs and alcohol can be an overwhelming experience for a child, no matter what the age of the child. Risking the anger and disapproval of your parent(s) can make confronting your parent a risky proposition. No child, no matter what their age, willingly and freely risks alienating the affections of their parent(s). Just the thought of engaging their defensiveness and their denial system can make you feel defeated before you actually confront them.

But you need not be paralyzed with fear. With a little information and a lot of support from your friends and family members, you can hold a constructive conversation with your mother about her alcohol and drug abuse. Here are things to keep in mind when you talk to your mother about her drinking.

1.) Never confront your mother when she is drunk. It is much more likely that she will become defensive, belligerent, and attacking when she is under the influence of alcohol and pills. This would only ensure that her defensiveness, anger, and hostility would escalate.

2.) The tone of your discussion should be love, concern, and support. No judgments. No accusations. No blame. No threats. No invalidation.

3.) Communicate your bottom line(s) with your mother. Your bottom line(s) are those aspects of your mother’s behavior that you are no longer willing to tolerate. For instance: 1.) If you have a concern of leaving your children alone with your mother because she’s under the influence of drugs and alcohol, communicate the fact that if she continues to drink and drug while she is caring for your children, that you will no longer leave them alone in her care, 2.) If you have a concern that your mother drives her car with your children in it while she is under the influence of drugs and alcohol, communicate the fact that you will no longer permit her to drive her car with your children in it, 3.) If you have a concern that your mother drinks and drug on holidays and ruins the holidays for you, communicate the fact that you will no longer spend the holidays with her if she is under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

Just be mindful that there is a difference between threatening and issuing ultimatums and articulating what behaviors are acceptable, what behaviors are not, and what the consequences will be if your mother doesn’t honor your bottom line. Be prepared. Think about this ahead of time. Write it down if you find it helpful. Focus on: 1.) Identifying to yourself what your bottom line(s) are about your mother’s behavior, 2.) Clearly articulating your bottom line(s) to your mother, 3.) Identifying how to measure whether or not your mother has crossed the bottom line(s), 4.) Clearly articulating what the consequences will be when your mother crosses your bottom line, and 5.) Consistently apply consequences when your mother crosses your bottom line.

4.) Your discussion should focus strictly on the facts. Do not judge your mother. Do not condemn your mother. Do not box your mother in to a corner where she has no way out. Always think: 1.) Facts, 2.) Facts, and 3.) Facts.

5.) Emphasize chemical dependency is a disease. You are there for your mother. You will always be there for your mother. You would no sooner turn your back on your mother than she would turn her back on you. But emphasize that she has a disease that needs to be treated for her well-being, for your well-being, and for your entire family’s well-being.

To get more information about how to best cope with and confront your loved one’s use of alcohol and other drugs you can contact Alateen at Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.:

Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.
1600 Corporate Landing Parkway
Virginia Beach, Va. 23454
Tel # 757-563-1600
Fax # 757-563-1655
www.al-anon.alateen.org
1-888-425-2666 for meeting information
Monday-Friday, 8am to 6 pm ET except holidays


Recover from chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs free. Learn how to in Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. Recovery book series—From Insanity to Serenity.

Pathfinder’s Checklist

1.) Don’t ignore what you see, feel, and believe about somebody’s drug and alcohol use
2.) Don’t minimize what you see, feel, and believe about somebody’s drug and alcohol use
3.) Remember that chemical dependency is a progressive disease. If you have your suspicions now about somebody’s drug and alcohol use, things will only get worse with time if your friend or loved one does have a problem
4.) Be clear about what you want to say to somebody whom you have concerns about their drug or alcohol use
5.) Be clear about what actions you will take if your friend or loved one continues to refuse to address their problem. Communicate that consequences in a calm, non-threatening way
6.) Speak only the facts as you know them. Do not inject opinion, judgment, or blame in to your conversation


G.B.U.

Steve



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