Need Advice - Alcoholic Parent

Updated on January 04, 2018
J.M. asks from Fox River Grove, IL
15 answers

Hello Mamas,

Haven't been on this site in years but I am in need of advice on how to deal with my mother who is an alcoholic. I will try to keep the details concise even though I could write a book about what I have been through with her. She is a life-long alcoholic who has gotten progressively worse. In the last 3 years I have had to send her by ambulance to the hospital at least 10 times, and each time she has been beyond the fatal BAC. My life has consisted of constantly monitoring her to determine when she is on the brink of death, getting her to the hospital where she sobers up for a day (or if I am lucky a week or two), then her coming back home to begin the process over again. In the last year she has now lost her job due to showing up drunk, and 4 months ago was diagnosed with Wernike- Korsakoff Syndrome which basically means that she has permanent mild brain damage due to an alcohol-induced thiamine deficiency. This brain damage affects her memory and causes her to feel dizzy much of the time. Despite this, she continues to drink.

She could not remember how to get on her delivery accounts until about 4 weeks ago, and as soon as she discovered how, she ordered 11 boxes of wine. She sits at her home (lives alone) and drinks all day and all night. She does not shower and I have had to wash her with a washcloth by hand. She doesn't eat unless I drive there and feed her. She tells me that she refuses to go to the hospital and refuses to go to a rehab. She tells me that she wants to stay there and drink and if she dies then she has lived her life and she doesn't really care. Now it is even worse because she knows that her brain is damaged and says if she can't drive or live a normal life then there is nothing to live for. However, she has made these types of statements long before her current diagnosis. I have forced her to go to rehab on 3 different occasions and each time she remains sober for only a couple of months before the cycle starts again. I am tired. No, I am exhausted. I am angry, and I am breaking. She told me tonight (when I went to make her eat) that she chooses to do this and she's sorry for all that she has put me through but that she will never stop drinking. I am an only child and she is not married so this all falls on me.

So my long-winded question is, what do I do? I have tried to convince her to go to an assisted living, to a rehab, to have a caregiver come in each day... but she wants nothing to do with any of it. She says she has no desire to live with other people and wants to basically sit at home and drink until she dies. I have three children who all play multiple sports, I coach, and I work full time. I do not have time to go to her house every single day and I am becoming so resentful. I have spent so many years of my life trying to keep her alive and she has no desire to do her part. I throw all her alcohol away and she always finds a way to get more even though I have already taken all of her cards (she has payment info saved on several sites). I have had her committed on a 72-hour hold but they never even keep her the full 72 because she tells them, "Oh I was just drunk, I would never harm myself on purpose." I feel like if I just stop going to her house she will die and it will be my fault. Thank you so much for reading, and thanks in advance for any advice.

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answers from Norfolk on

Please join your local Al-Anon support group.
You will have people to talk these things over with - and they've been through it all.

I'm sorry.
You can't save your mom.
She's an addict - and she worships the booze more than anything else in her life.
She is going to die - and it will not be your fault.
She's an adult - she's made her choices - and she will live and die as she wants to.
Please have her funeral plans in place and ready.
You will need your Al-Anon group and a grief support group as well.
A therapist and/or grief counselor might go a long way to help you through the trauma your mom is putting your through.

14 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on


Welcome to mamapedia.

You need to stop enabling your mom. As much as it hurts to do so, you are NOT helping her, you are only enabling her.

You need to stop taking care of her. I know that hurts to read. But you really need to. You need to join a support group for children of alcoholics - it's called Al-ANon (

You have EVERY right to be angry. You really need help. Please, let go of your mom and tell her that she's on her own. You cannot help someone who does NOT want to be helped. She turns to alcohol to deal with pain or whatever she feels is tormenting her. You can no longer allow her to use you as a life line.

You are a wonderful daughter who has cared for her mom. Now it's time for you to take care of you.

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

I am so sorry you are going through this. How horribly painful.

Go to an Al-Anon Meeting. Everyone there will have a loved on in their life who is an alcoholic or facing an addiction. It might be a sibling or parent or spouse or child, but they will be dealing with someone who has an addiction. They are going to know better than anyone else what you are dealing with.

Keep in mind that not every meeting is the same and it might take 2 or 3 tries before you find a meeting that feels right, but it will be worth the time and effort.

My husband is a recovering alcoholic. He hasn't had a drink in over 25 years, but he still goes to an AA Meeting every week - usually he goes to 2 meetings each week. He even finds a meeting when we go on vacation. He has become friends with some of the people he has met and really built a community of support. When he comes home after going to a meeting, I can actually tell that some of the weight has been lifted.

You might also decide to see a counselor. It might be good for you to talk to someone who can help you sort everything out and help you see what your role in all this is. You might want to look critically at everything you are doing and consider whether it's helping your mom or enabling her.

It's obvious that you love your mother very much, but you need to take care of you! I hope you are able to find an Al-Anon Meeting that feels right to you, and I would seriously think about finding a counselor. You need someone to help you take care of you!

ETA - Here's the link for Al-Anon

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I’m sorry you are going through this J.. But the others are right. There is nothing you can do to save your mother. She has to fully commit to sobriety. Until SHE decides to, you are enabling her.

You are an ACOA (Adult Child of an Alcoholic). While there are many positives that come from being an ACOA, there are also a few negatives because the adult child develops a belief that s/he is responsible for the parents addiction and must take care of that parent no matter what. The adult child even puts s/he own life on hold to take care of an addicted parent and starts to form an identity of becoming the hero to save this parent often, sacrificing her or his own finances, job and other relationships to help the Alcoholic.

This enabling has been so normalized to you as a child that you may not even recognize what it is doing to you. It’s easy to believe that this is what a ‘good child’ would do to help her parent (to always stand by her and help her), but it is the exact opposite of helping her.

You need to put yourself first here and contact a therapist who specializes in family addiction and ACOA issues. Do not feel guilty getting yourself help, and you are not betraying your mother by doing so. You need professional help to learn how detach from the alcoholism, examine codependency and understand the dynamics of alcoholism.

There are a lot of good resources for ACOA’s.

Please understand that someone who is abusing a depressant (alcohol) cannot be diagnosed as having an underlying issue of depression until they are at least 3 months sober and have been diagnosed by a professional experienced in Dual Diagnosis. Believing an alcoholic drinks because they are depressed is enabling.

Please get professional help.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

Join Al-Anon. Learn how to deal with her addiction.
***You are powerless to control her drinking.**** @@@It's not you fault nor is it your [email protected]@@
I see an underlying issue here. I think the drinking is a symptom of a mental illness. It sounds as though she is in deep depression and is drinking to relieve the depression. Have you talked to Social (Human) Services? If she is a danger to herself or others she could be placed on a 72 hour hold in a Psych ward. After a diagnosis she may be held longer until medication and counseling can help her.

Of course she doesn't want to go to an assisted living home or have anyone checking up on her. She stubbornly wants to do as she pleases with no thought to the consequences.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

the first thing you have to realize is that you do not have the power to make her stop drinking. it's not your fault she drinks, it won't be your fault when she dies, and you have to give up the idea that this is yours to fix.

at least if you want to remain sane through this.

you clearly have not been to Al-Anon. you need to go. they will help you develop the tools you need to cope, and by coping i mean accepting that your mother has the right and the power to commit suicide by bottle if she wants to.

i'm the wife and daughter and sister of recovering alcoholics, and one who isn't recovering. i feel your pain and resentment. i get it.

it won't help you.

i have zero advice for you to get your mom to stop drinking. she's not going to. the only sane and intelligent thing for you to do is to learn how to set boundaries so that your life is not controlled by her drinking, and to learn how to mourn her.

i'm so sorry. best of luck to you.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

I can't tell you how sorry I am that you are going through this.

You need to get into a support group, Al-Anon or some other group for adult children of alcoholics. You need to know this is NOT your fault. You cannot stop her drinking. You cannot fix her. She has to want to get clean and sober. You cannot make her, force her, bargain with her, plead with her, barter, anything you say or do will be for naught. UNTIL SHE IS READY TO GET SOBER.

You need to stop enabling her. She knows you are there. I know it sounds so easy to do. You love her. You feel guilt. Please stop feeling guilty. You did NOT do this. YOU DID NOT cause her to drink. People who drink do it for many reasons. Their own demons that follow them. You cannot allow yourself to be caught up in it any more.

If your mom dies, it will NOT be your fault. These are HER actions and on HER. PLEASE find a support group for children of alcoholics. You will see you are not alone. You can get help to break the cycle of enabling her.

Many prayers for peace to you.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

This situation reminds me of the saying “you can walk a horse to water but you can’t make them drink it”. You can not save your mom and she doesn’t want to be saved anyway, If your mom drinks herself to death it will not be your fault. You need help to understand this. Guilt is not something you should have either. Please get help for yourself. You should not have to live with the burdened of your thoughts as well. <<hugs>>

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

J., it will not be your fault. Why do you beat yourself up over this?

Your mother wants what she wants. Give her food and let that be it. Let her live the remainder of her days the way she wants. You are not in control of her.

It's hard to let someone go. But it is what she wants. Go to Alanon meetings. You need it.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I don't have any advice - I just wanted to say hang in there, and I hope you reach out to the organization the moms all suggest who have had experience in this sort of thing. I can't imagine how hard this must be. Be good to yourself. Your mom would want you to put yourself first of course - she loves you, and wouldn't want you to sacrifice yourself in this way. Take that step and reach out for help. Best to you

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I guess I live in a "shell", I didn't know you could get wine delivered to your door. I thought alcohol needed to be purchased in person due to age constraints. thanks for teaching me something new today.

I'm truly sorry you are going through this. I don't know how to help you other than tell you this is NOT your fault. Please seek a support group for yourself. There's more than just Al-Anon. Call your local chamber of commerce and find out where support groups are that can help you through this. Maybe you can get the courts to declare her incompetent and she can become a ward of the state. I know that sounds really rough, but you can't save her.

you need to learn how to NOT enable her and rush when the stuff hits the fan. That's going to be the hard part. Saying "no, I can't be there".

You need to learn and accept that this is NOT your fault. The support group will help you with that. I think I would be angry too.

I wish you peace. I wish you grace. this is not easy.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I'm so sorry. I can see the ultimate trap she has you in (or rather her disease has you both in) and the incredible guilt that goes along with whatever choice you make.

I don't have any good advice, mostly because there isn't any. Knee jerk reactions say save yourself, but at what cost? Making the decision to walk away might be the smart one, but can a person really do it?

What about taking control of her and her affairs based on her diagnosis of Wernike-Korsakoff Syndrome? If you have total control over her finances, her medical stuff, etc., I don't know if you would be able to make any more progress than you are right now, but at a minimum, you could "force" care on her at least relieving you of the forcing her to eat, going over and checking on her.

Perhaps another option would be just setting SOME boundaries to start - ones that you can live with. Like - you will drop groceries off 2 twice a week but not feed her, or you will check on her physically on Tues and Fridays for your own piece of mind, but that is it. Maybe once you feel like YOU have some control over this, you will be in a better place to make the decisions you need to make for yourself.

You know this isn't your fault - say that daily, write it on stickies on your car, get a therapist to help you remember it, tattoo it on your arm if you need to . . .

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I would like for you to call the area agency on aging, talk to them to see if there are any resources for her, depending on her age, and see if you can commit her due to her extreme alcoholism.

I would also suggest you talk to an attorney about taking her rights away. Become her legal guardian. Then you can at least have complete control of her finances and credit cards and stuff.

If you legally can't do anything then chances are this is your life. Or you can choose to let her end her own life. Sad as it is she is making her choice over and over, every day.

I'm so sorry you're going through this.

Since she did get the Wernike- Korsakoff Syndrome diagnosis you have more pull, meaning you have a medical diagnosis that she's not capable of taking care of herself. Ask that doc if he'd write a letter stating her life is in danger unless someone is appointed her power of attorney and that she is institutionalized for her own safety.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boca Raton on

I'm so sorry. I wouldn't give up on her completely. You need to put your family first, then if you have time go see her. My heart goes out to you.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Not your fault. Absolutely not your fault. And a lot of good advice about going to alanon. So may I add this, consider getting a church also. It is a wonderful way to find spiritual forgiveness if you are blaming yourself for anything. You are doing what you humanly can. And what your mother's outcome is you need to know most definitely it is not your fault.

1 mom found this helpful
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