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to be concerned about how much my parents drink.

(35 Posts)
justwondering72 Thu 09-May-13 09:10:23

I seem to have lost my perspective on this.

My parents have, for a very long time - at least 20 years - had a glass of wine while cooking / pre-dinner, drunk the rest of the bottle with dinner, then gone on to have 3 or 4 drinks (whisky or rum) in the evening, pretty much every night. They are never drunk, as in slurring or staggering, though I have had a couple of phone calls from my mum where I can tell she's a bit pissed because her voice sounds different and she's snippier than usual. They never go out drinking - except, of course, wine with food if eating out.

DH is from a family where they would be more likely to have a cup of tea with 'tea' in the evening rather than wine - and they would never drink spirits in the evening. They crack out the wine when we go to visit, and my FIL probably has an occasional beer at the weekend or at the pub with his football mates. Dh has always made it clear that he thinks my parents drink too much, though he often has a few whiskies in the evening when they are staying with us.

My DSis is concerned about how much they drink. She lives closer, so sees them more often, and tends to take the Guardian health columns as gospel, and is a self confessed control freak and she's concerned because they are drinking way over the 'safe limits'. She has voiced her concerns to them, they have reacted defensively - though my dad does take it on board and reduce his alcohol intake for a while, then it creeps back up. My mum gets very defensive though. She tends to believe that guidelines are written for everyone else - not her.

Healthwise they both seem in ok nick for their ages. My dad was recommended for a specific reason to cut back on alcohol intake by the Dr, which he did, but since that particular health issue passed, he's reverted to the norm. My mum probably does not tell anything like the truth if asked by a medic - and she has several conditions that I suspect are caused by or exacerbated by too much alcohol - insommnia, stomach ulcers, overweight.

And me? I like a small glass of wine while cooking dinner, and another one while eating, and that's pretty much it. I very very occasionally (once a month maybe) have a whisky in the evening (very small, with water) once the children are in bed.

So are my parents drinking too much? Are the safe limits guidelines the important ones - or are they grown ups who can make their own decisions? Should my sister and I butt out or intervene by talking to them? I personally would rather leave them to work it out for themselves, only going as far as to tell them that I personally sleep badly when I drink too much, that I find it really helps weight loss when I stop drinking altogether, to turn down their offers of a drink and have a cup of tea instead. My sister favours a more direct approach - and would like me to back her up.

Whaddya think?

Callisto Thu 09-May-13 09:20:16

Leave them alone and stop being so holier than thou and tell your sister to keep her beak out. If they are happy and can afford it, it really is none of your business how much they drink.

CelticPixie Thu 09-May-13 09:23:11

YANBU. In fact I could have written this myself. My parents are both big drinkers, they never drink during the day but once the clock hits 7pm my dad will hit the beer my mum will hit the wine or Bacardi depending what mood she is in. I know that my mum can get though a bottle of wine an evening sometimes and my dad several cans of lager and often he'll have a glass of whisky before he goes to bed.

Its not healthy but like your parents they are incredibly defensive when its brought up. My mum deflects by commenting on the drinking habits of other family members and I always find this hypocritical because she's almost as bad as they are.

My dad has cut down a lot to be fair to him and has one alcohol free day a week now. But mums still nocking it back and claims it helps her "unwind"
Whatever, if you need alcohol to unwind you have a problem in my opinion.

adeucalione Thu 09-May-13 09:24:50

If they are regularly exceeding safe drinking guidelines (2-3 units for women, 3-4 units for men, daily), have been asked to cut back by their GP and have medical conditions being caused or exacerbated by alcohol consumption, then I think that it is rather obvious that they need to do something about it.

However, they are not going to cut back because they are told to (as your sister's approach has shown), they have to want to do it for themselves.

Personally, in your situation, I would never forgive myself if I didn't voice my concerns, but once you have said your piece there is nothing you can do but back off and let them know how you feel (implicitly, as you have been doing) and that you are willing to support them.

ChewingOnLifesGristle Thu 09-May-13 09:28:16

Maybe they are having too much, but my approach would be to leave them to it. They're adults and can decide for themselves. (Providing no-one's drinking and driving or getting violent and drunk) As you say it's done in their own home, they seem aware of the guidlines so it's their choice.

What more can your sister say or do that won't get their backs up since she's already mentioned it?confused

I think at some point people have to be left to take responsibilty for themsleves even if the choices they make aren't the ones we'd choose. Regarding diet, execise and lifestyle you can't make or nag grown up independant people change what they're doing if they don't want to.

jacks365 Thu 09-May-13 09:31:34

My parents are the same but seem to think i drink more than they do. I tend to have say one drink a week unless i'm with them but of course they don't see my normal drinking habits.

Your parents are into the serious drinking levels and will be damaging their health but i doubt talking will do much. Encouraging them to do other things might be more productive

CelticPixie Thu 09-May-13 09:33:53

It's very interesting how it seems to be "older" people who drink heavily in the week. I rarely drink on a week night, and may have one or two on a weekend. But often ill go weeks on end without a drink and it doesn't bother me in the slightest. Most of the heavy drinkers I know are people aged 50 and above, there does seem to be a bit of a pattern here.

My parents have always drunk though, I don't remember a time when they didn't.

OrbisNonSufficit Thu 09-May-13 09:44:42

Difficult. My parents have the same issues with drinking, mum particularly. And I've inherited them, to the point where I'm seriously wondering if I need to stop drinking forever since I can't seem to self-regulate.

IME if the topic is raised it will cause great defensiveness, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't say anything - it was other people's observations about how I am when I'm drinking regularly that made me seriously consider my behaviour.

If you do say something, coming across as "the parent" and telling them what to do is a bad idea. People have tried that with me in the past and my reaction was "fuck you". What really made me sit up and think was people saying things like "you're so much less moody and easier to live with when you're not drinking" (ie the affect I was having on others) or "I'm worried about you".

Good luck. It's not an easy conversation. It may land more successfully if they're hungover too... (not joking)

justwondering72 Thu 09-May-13 09:45:01

I used to drink a lot more, and it was always fun having a few drinks with them at dinner and into the evening, but since having the DC i've drunk a lot lot less - down to BF and too little sleep mostly. DH tends to not drink much at all usually - then join in with gusto when they stay with her (possibly he's a closet enabler - he disapproves but still makes it very easy for them!)

No violence, no drinking and driving, no financial issues, no children around, no reason not to as far as they are concerned except that they are probably shortening their own lives I guess. My mum seems to have this idea that because they've drunk like that for so long, she's somehow immune to the effects of alcohol on her body - but she's like that about eating rubbish food, not eating vegetables / fruit and not exercising as well! As I said, the guidelines are written for other people, not her!

I agree that they have to decide for themselves, don't they, being grown ups and all.

mrsjay Thu 09-May-13 09:45:04

would leave them alone they seem to be having a few drinks at night it would be far too much for me but just leave them be you could say something but tbh it really isn't an awful lot. they maybe didnt drink when they had children at home now they are free to do as they like

squeakytoy Thu 09-May-13 11:47:40

none of your business... at all.

they are adults and it is up to them what they do in an evening..

EldritchCleavage Thu 09-May-13 12:03:06

You're describing my FIL. His doctors have warned him he is well on course for liver disease unless he cuts down. He doesn't and you know what? We don't say anything to him about it any more.

DH can't understand why he won't stop drinking given the known risk to his health, but he accepts his father won't, and I think you probably need to do the same, hard though it is.

This almost certainly isn't a case of not knowing they drink to much, or that it is causing them issues. In other words, all the advice in the world isn't going to make them suddenly stop if they don't want to.

Equally, I wouldn't do anything that helps your parents normalise their level of drinking. With FIL DH and I both detached and made sure that our stays with him couldn't be used by him to enable drinking, so we refused all but minimal alcohol, never bought alcohol as part of our contribution to the holiday and declined most invitations to pop down to the local bar.

DaisyBD Thu 09-May-13 12:10:37

I think at some point people have to be left to take responsibilty for themsleves even if the choices they make aren't the ones we'd choose.


Yes, they are probably drinking more than is good for them. You have to ask yourself, is it causing you a problem? If it is, you can only address how you deal with it for yourself. You can't change what they do. You can tell them how you feel about it, but it's probably not helpful to keep telling them. And it's probably best to simply tell them what your concerns are, how you are affected (worry about them etc) rather than telling them what to do.

In any case, telling people to drink less never works, people do what they want to do and until (and unless) it becomes a problem for them, they won't change. And only if carrying on drinking becomes worse than not drinking. And maybe not even then.

If this is really causing you a lot of worry, I would try Al-Anon. They are brilliant at helping people to work out what is their stuff, and what they can deal with, and how to leave alone the stuff that belongs to other people (and that you can't affect anyway).

Good luck. X

cassgate Thu 09-May-13 12:25:39

This was my parents to an extent when they were alive. They both liked a drink. My dad was more of a social drinker and rarely had a drink at home, just at xmas. He was out a lot 4 or 5 times a week. But my mum would drink in the evenings at home every evening. She would have at least 6 whiskey and cokes a day sometimes more. I remember being concerned more about my mum than my dad although it was my dad who died first. He was 58 when he died. My mum died 9 months later and was 62. Both had heart attacks.

I look back now and wonder if I should have said something but I doubt they would have cut down even if I had. I do remember about 5 years before they died having a conversation with my dad. At the time my uncle was ill with bowel cancer with no hope of a recovery as it had spread to his liver. I was very upset as my uncle was like a second dad to me. He was also a very big drinker. My dad said that despite my uncle only being 61 at the time he had had a very good and enjoyable life and would not have changed anything and I should be prepared that given my mum and his life styles (drinking and with my mum also smoking) that it was unlikely that they would live into a ripe old age.

Its hard to know what to do for the best. It really boils down to if you can live with it if god forbid you say nothing and something happens to them. With my parents the conversation that I had with my dad at the time of my uncles illness has helped me no end as I know in my heart that even if I had expressed my concern at the level of their drinking they wouldnt have changed anything.

chillynose Thu 09-May-13 12:30:20

How can it be none of her buisness u have every right to be worried they r u parents

Potteresque97 Thu 09-May-13 12:52:02

Gosh I'm so surprised many posters don't think this is a problem - it's way too much to drink on a daily basis & will be making them more tired, more prone to illness etc. Mind you, I consider both my parents to have drink problems - but they drink slightly more than your parents, at least a bottle each every night, spirits/more bottles too a few times a week. I don't think anything you do is likely to change it - my parents were confronted about it ages ago & got very nasty but dug in and can't/won't change. My parents dismissed us all (4 adult children) as over-reacting and various shades of mad but then they sometimes allude to the fact they know they have a problem.

KellyElly Thu 09-May-13 13:56:27

I don't think YABU to be worried but I don't really think there's a lot you can do about it. Many people drink like this and don't see themselves as heavy drinkers as they aren't sitting alone downing a bottle or two of wine to themselves each night. It seems normal, civilized drinking to them as they aren't really getting drunk. Many people probably do drink like this and escape liver problems.

Try to encourage them to have a couple of nights off a week? I still don't think they'll listen though. If they were smokers, they would probably be the same and tell you to mind your own business. People don't change their habits unless they are forced to or want to. Pressure from others will just make them defensive.

squalorvictoria Thu 09-May-13 14:44:17

I'm surprised so many people are laying into you, saying it's none of your business. If it were my parents I would be very worried indeed. Half a bottle of wine plus 3-4 measures of spirits, every day. That's a lot, and it WILL be having a detrimental effect on their health.

Sadly, there isn't much you can do. My aunt and uncle have been functioning alcoholics for years. Have cut down after health scares, but soon slip back to old habits. To pull them up on it would result in massive rows and family rifts. I know they're heading for early deaths though. It's just grim.

thebody Thu 09-May-13 14:47:25

I think it's absolutely none of your business or that of your sister either.

I am sure tour parents are well able to make their own decisions and as long as they aren't drink driving or aggressive then its the way it is.

My mil never drank. Or smoked excersised and take thin she died of cancer at 64.
Fil drank, smoked and was morbidly obese, died at 76.

She suffered and he died in seconds from a heart attack.

Life is to be enjoyed. I suspect your parents are doing that, as are you so in the nicest way, butt out.

maddening Thu 09-May-13 14:49:50

As long as they are able to care for themselves in the event of illnesses brought on by alcahol then don't worry about it.

Obviously it is fine to air your concerns as a concerned relative but you can't force them to do anything anyway.

Fwiw their drinking is excessive.

lydiajones Thu 09-May-13 14:56:13

YANBU - but I don't know what you can do to change what they are doing. I don't agree with people who say it is not your business they are your parents and you are worried about them.

TigOldBitties Thu 09-May-13 14:59:33

My parents drink like this, as do my grandparents, although they also smoke like chimneys. My grandparents are into their nineties, some people are just lucky and some aren't, you can predict who it will be, they could giv duo the drink, go on a health kick and then have a horrendous car crash the next day.

I think that you can be worried, but privately, same for your sister.

I drink less but I'm just imagining if my DC told me they were concerned etc or that they felt I was eating too much junk (despite being slim and exercising), I would tell them to mind their own.

I'd personally take the view in regards to your parents that they are intelligent adults, who are aware of the risks, if they want to drink its their choice.

justwondering72 Thu 09-May-13 15:10:52

I am kind of worried about it because they are my parents and I love them, and I want them around and able to enjoy their lives and their grandchildren for as long as they possibly can. At the same time I don't follow every health guideline to the letter in my own life, so why should I expect my parents to?

My sister OTOH tends to take health guidelines very seriously, and she has a very healthy lifestyle, I think that's why she is more actively concerned than I am. I know she is motivated by her love for them too though.

Fwiw their drinking is excessive.

I think this is what I was really asking.. It is a lot, isn't it? I mean it's going to be having a negative impact on their health isn't it, whether or not they are functioning just fine in their day to day lives - and they are. They never drink during the day, never have hangovers etc. My mum tends to get very naggy and a bit rude when she's had too many which makes her very annoying, but that's unusual and is as far as it goes. So the impact for them is absolutely minimal - except in terms of their future (and current) health.

Thanks all for your input.

EuroShaggleton Thu 09-May-13 15:15:30

They are certainly drinking more than the guideline amount. They are undoubtedly aware of that - you say your mother doesn't tell your dr the truth. They are adults - it is their decision to make. Perhaps they would rather live X more years the way they enjoy than X + 5 depriving themselves of something from which they derive pleasure.

Quilty Thu 09-May-13 15:25:17

Bloody hell Callisto, how is it none of her business? They're her parents not just some couple five doors down or something! Plus I think her concerns are about their health not whether they can afford it or not!

I think if you and your sister talk to them together it would perhaps send a stronger message. Sounds like your mum will be very difficult to get through to though!

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