Your Father Is Addicted -- So Speak Up Now

By Dr. Robert Wallace

August 25, 2020 5 min read

DR. WALLACE: I'm 16 and have a father who has been in jail twice because he was arrested for drunk driving. He and I are close, but the last time he went to jail, he missed my birthday because it was his second offense and he had to spend several days in jail.

My mom and I keep pleading with him to stop drinking, but all he says is that there is nothing wrong with him having a couple of beers after a hard day of work or to relax on a weekend afternoon. When he got out of jail the last time, he promised us he wouldn't drink anymore. He actually was good for a few weeks, but then he started drinking again, and once he cracked open the first can of cold beer, several other cans were drained in short order.

I love my mother and father very much, but it hurts me to watch my father seemingly go down a road that could destroy our family. Please give me some advice, or at least some words of encouragement, to help me help him with this problem. — Worried Son, via email

WORRIED SON: It sadly sounds as though your father is addicted to alcohol and won't be able to overcome his drinking habits without some help from outside the family. Try to get him to join Alcoholics Anonymous and find a sponsor to help him.

I do feel that, at 16, you are old enough to sit down with him and ask him to seek this help because you love him and are concerned for him and your family.

Do let your mother know in advance that you plan to have this conversation with your father, in case she can provide you with some ideas or strategies to pursue such a conversation. She has known him a lot longer than you have, so lean on your mother for council and advice. Perhaps you and your mother can locate a trusted family friend or acquaintance who might volunteer to take a telephone call from your father to help him get started.

I know this sounds like it might be a risky strategy to pursue, but I can tell you that some of the most powerful and memorable success stories I have heard involve children who had a tough conversation with a parent. The child earnestly asked that parent to seek help in a nonjudgmental way while simultaneously giving the parent a big hug and saying, "I love you, and I care so much about you." Don't be afraid to try this; at the very least, your father will respect your courage and know how much you love him.

DON'T LET DIVA MOM HOLD YOU BACK

DR. WALLACE: I am a frustrated 20-year-old who needs some advice. My mother often acts in a very immature manner, and she is known to demand a lot of attention. She manages the house poorly, and she doesn't know how to drive. When we go grocery shopping, I usually end up selecting all of the food. She keeps telling me that she couldn't function without my help. I'm working, and so is my best friend. We had part-time jobs earlier this year, but over the summer, our computer skills have created full time opportunities for each of us due to COVID-19. It turns out that so many businesses in our town need help with online marketing, and we have those skills!

We both want to rent an apartment, but I'm afraid to leave my mother, because she's such a diva, and I just know she will throw a guilt trip on me once I tell her of my plans. What should I do? Is there a good way to break this news to her? — Daughter of a Diva, via email

DAUGHTER OF A DIVA: Leave home when you find the right place and when your potential new roommate is in a good position to do the same. Don't rush to move out, but don't drag your heels only because your mother will object.

Tell your mother that you will visit her often — and keep your word! It's very important that when a child moves out of a family home, the lines of communication are kept open and intact.

She will gradually learn how to keep her house up and how to function without you there.

Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: Republica at Pixabay

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