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struggling to cope with my alcoholic dad :-(

(19 Posts)
geekgirl Sat 04-Oct-08 07:43:36

(This will be long - apologies)
My mum sadly died 10 months ago and ever since my dad is just sinking deeper and deeper into alcoholism - tbh I think he's had a problem with alcohol since his teens/twenties but my mum always managed to keep a lid on it (of sorts, anyway - I remember many instances of him being drunk when I was still living at home).
Anyway, since her death he is just turning more and more into a sad old soak (he's not even really 'old' - just 61) and I just don't know how to handle it. When he came to stay with us at Easter he was secretly knocking back red wine before 9am on dd2's birthday , and I ended up confronting him about his drinking. Of course he promised to sort it out hmm. Of course that just didn't happen.

He came on holiday to France with us in the summer, and it was just awful - he was drunk every single day, obviously starting in the mornings on several days. He went through phenomenal amounts of white wine and beer every day and was always very anxious to make sure we were fully stocked up on boxed wine whenever we went shopping.
He's not a loud or aggressive drunk - he just get sad, quiet, uncoordinated and his speech is slurred so it's not always completely straightforward to tell in the mornings. Some days it can be very obvious though.
His behaviour wasn't great - he's never been one to show much interest in the children (despite always issuing great proclamations of how they mean everything to him hmm). We ended up with a few unpleasant scenes - he shoved ds (4) out of the way roughly at a supermarket checkout and ds banged his head (my dad was drunk that morning), he'd eat sweets in the car, rustling with the wrapper and angrily telling ds, who naturally wanted to know what was being eaten, that it was 'nothing', that sort of thing.
We were immensely relieved when he went home (a few days before us) and I do feel angry that he spoilt our main family holiday to such an extent.
He lives in Germany and I'm in the UK so a lot of our contact is by phone - he sounds drunk every time I talk to him in the evening. He is due to come to ours at the end of November for ds's birthday and the anniversary of my mum's death, and I'm just dreading it.
Naturally he's also coming for Christmas which will no doubt be ruined by his drinking and dh not being able to cope with it. Dh has got very angry about it all (of course with me being on the receiving end) and basically wants me to ban my dad from coming unless he sorts himself out.

Unfortunately my dad sold the house my parents had been in for 30 years as quickly as possible after my mum's death and moved 400 miles away fom the area, to a city where he doesn't know anyone really, so he doesn't have any friends around to support him either. He's been tagging along on holiday with several other members of his family so far (no doubt making it fun for them, toohmm).

He keeps fishing for an invitation to come here before ds's birthday, but tbh I just can't cope with it. It puts an immense strain on my marriage and feels like having another child to look after (he's the kind of house guest who can't do anything for himself). I will go and visit him some time before, but I really think he needs to stay at his new place for a reasonable amount of time for a change to actually meet some new people, rather than always running off and staying with family or going on holiday with them.

I just don't know how to handle him. I feel so sorry for him and am very worried, but I am dreading having him here.

Buda Sat 04-Oct-08 07:50:51

Hard as it may be I think you need to tell him that you do not want him to come if he is drinking. It is not good for your DCs to witness.

You may need to try to get him in to a rehab place.

geekgirl Sat 04-Oct-08 07:52:39

buda that's what dh says

I'm such a bloody coward and peacemaker and useless at confrontation.

foxinsocks Sat 04-Oct-08 07:55:44

sad poor you

the only advice I can give you is that
a) he's not your responsibility
b) there's very little you can do anyway
c) eventually, you learn to tolerate it...with gritted teeth

I don't know...a) is hard because it takes some time to get to that conclusion but alcoholism is a horrid illness. He has to want to change himself so it HAS to be him that accesses the help and agrees to go along with any sort of programme. Despite the fact that you are hundreds of miles away, even if you were right next door to him, there's no way on earth you can force an alcoholic to get help unless they want to themselves.

And therein lies the crux of it. I suspect your mum's death has tipped him over the edge and he probably needs some bereavement counselling too and is possibly depressed and that is very hard to sort out he is drinking like that.

It is a hard hard situation but in many ways, you need to get to a point where you toughen your resolve.

Come up with some rules that make you happy. Perhaps tell him he can come but he stays in a hotel and you see him for a meal rather than the whole day.

And tell him how you feel. That you love him. That you care about him. That you know you can't change him but you'll help him find help if he'd like to access it. That you understand how hard it is to take the first step. That all of you miss your mum and perhaps he'd like to talk about it.

It's difficult having these sorts of conversations with your parents but you may find it makes YOU feel better to have least got it off your chest.

I can't really tell you how to feel but I do hope you don't take this all on your shoulders because it's a very heavy burden to bear.

ImnotMamaGbutsheLovesMe Sat 04-Oct-08 07:55:56

Your dad sounds so sad. sad

He has lost his wife and then all his friends and drinking probably blocks out the pain. However, your children and your marriage have to come first and I think you should have a talk before he comes in Novemeber and make it clear if he can't stop drinking to excess he won't be able to visit at Christmas.

zippitippitoes Sat 04-Oct-08 08:05:33

its very hard

i guess he is retired is he?

clearly he has been destroyed by the death of his symoathy to you for the loss of your mum

the more alone and drunk he gets the less able he will be to cope and rehabilitate himself

it sounds like he has given up any attempt he may have previously been making to keep his drinking under control

hard as it may be i dont think you can/should go down the refuse contact route in an attempt to preserve your family and force him to either seek help or sink lower....i am not at all convinced from what you write that will help you or him

i think you should write to him...does he use email? can you go to stay with him on your own? are you close?

from what you write he deosnt sound like someone who cant get through this

and neither do you sound like you dont want to try as hard as you can

his grief gets covered by alcohol so he re experiences his loss whenever he is sober and of course alcohol is a depressant

apart from the alcohol is he fit?

his motivation to recover equilibrium needs to come from him and the image of your mum and his feelings for you and your family are potentially motivators

geekgirl Sat 04-Oct-08 08:16:02

thank you for the lovely replies - yes he's fit and healthy overall and actually spends several hours in the gym every day. And he retired 3 months after losing my mum.

I have just booked a flight to go and see him at the end of this month. I think I need to talk to him about this face to face and without the distractions of the dc or dh there.

You're all right - he is very depressed and I think he often feels that it wouldn't really matter if he drank himself to death. I asked him if he would go for grief counselling (he'd done a few group sessions in the early days and found them very helpful, but then he moved...) but he told me he doesn't feel he needs to (uhm. yeah. he's in tears almost every time we talk...).

I think he finds his behaviour normal. That's how he acts, anywayhmm.

ImnotMamaGbutsheLovesMe Sat 04-Oct-08 08:18:14

He probably feels he has nothing to live for and that is nothing critical about you or your children, just that a love between husband and wife is different.

geekgirl Sat 04-Oct-08 08:20:48

I find it really hard to talk to him about my mum. He was in denial for most of last year (she was diagnosed completely out of the blue with v. aggressive ovarian cancer in January and died in November) and it made things so hard for my mum. He refused to talk to her about her fears and I guess I still feel bitter about it all, and then when he does talk about her he never acknowledges that it's not just him who lost a loved one - I loved my mum so much and it all just seems to be about his loss. He was surprised that dd1 wants to visit my mum's grave - dd1 was very close to her and still misses her terribly and cries for her occasionally, but he obviously doesn't understand that other people are sad too.

zippitippitoes Sat 04-Oct-08 08:25:57

have yoiu had grief counselling?

i dont know if it helps as i have never had it although i have had bereavements

but you are experiencing a double loss..of your mum and of the dad you felt you had prior to this

giving support to someone you need strong support to return to yourself

your dh needs to know that you need that from him

seeing your dad could be a turning point

a cathartic and traumatic one maybe

excellent that he is exercising as that should help a lot you have something to work with if he is fit

AttilaTheMeerkat Sat 04-Oct-08 08:27:11


Am very sorry to read of your Mum's passing; this likely was the catalyst for your Dad's drinking to escalate.

You need to remember the 3c's when it comes to alcoholism:-

1. You cannot control it.
2. You did not cause it.
3. You cannot cure it.

My counsel to you is to seek support for your own self through Al-anon as they are there to help family members of problem drinkers. They are very good and won't judge at all.

Was not really surprised unfortunately about his protestations that he is interested in the grandchildren when he is not - his primary relationship is now with alcohol.

I would agree with Foxinsocks with the rehab - you could live next door to such a facility and your Dad still would not go there. He has to want to help his own self - no-one can do it for him. Any attempt your family make to get him into rehab is doomed to failure.

There are no guarantees here; he could lose everything and still continue to drink.

Do not have him in your house - if you do meet you need to go without your children present and to choose a neutral venue. I say without your children as it does them no favours at all to see their drunk grandfather.

You need to be firm and set clear boundaries re any future visits (which I would not countenance now as he's screwed up these already by being drunk. If he does visit your house needs to be an alcohol free zone and no-one can drink with him) otherwise you'll all end up being caught further in his mealstrom of alcoholism if you are not already being dragged into all this already.

You CANNOT and MUST NOT act as your Dad's enabler. Its all too easy to fall into that trap and ultimately he is not your responsibility. Your primary responsibility is to your own family unit.

I will put up the details of Al-anon for you and I would urge you to contact them.

foxinsocks Sat 04-Oct-08 08:27:49

aww but if he's depressed geek, he's almost certainly not recognising other people's deep feelings like that so it's probably a side effect of that rather than him being uncaring (without meaning to offend anyone with depression, from what I've seen of it, it can make you appear very self obsessed with your own feelings iyswim)

AttilaTheMeerkat Sat 04-Oct-08 08:29:50

Al-Anon Family Groups UK & Eire
61 Great Dover Street
Tel: 020 7403 0888 (Helpline 10am - 10pm, 365 days a year)
Fax: 020 7378 9910

zippitippitoes Sat 04-Oct-08 08:30:54

geek i think you have the spread of views there


i am optimistic that he could get through this

easy to say but not easy for him to do i know

geekgirl Sat 04-Oct-08 08:33:09

Attila, thank you, I remember you talking to me about Al Anon before. I was going to go and then I thought 'no, he will sort himself out, he promised he would hmm'

AttilaTheMeerkat Sat 04-Oct-08 08:41:59


His depression too can also be a result of his inherent alcoholism; alcohol acts as a depressant. Your Dad is perhaps also underestimating how much he is actually drinking and thus denial is also commonplace in these situations. Denial as well is a powerful force.

Your Dad could certainly benefit from going to AA and having bereavement counselling but only HE can make these choices. You unfortunately cannot make these choices for him.

Please talk to Al-anon asap. You can certainly talk to your Dad and I see you are planning to see him soon but even face to face he may not want to listen to your entreaties or tell you what you want to hear and deny, deny, deny the problems. You need to be prepared for those possibilities.

AttilaTheMeerkat Sat 04-Oct-08 08:48:04

Hi geekgirl,

Call them today and particularly so before you fly out to see your Dad. You need support for your own self and you can call them anytime.

Remember the 3c's as well:-
1. You cannot control it.
2. You did not cause it.
3. You cannot cure it.

With best wishes


bellavita Sat 04-Oct-08 08:48:43


I haven't experienced any of what you have,so I really don't know what to say, but just wanted to send you some........


Your children are lovely by the way.

geekgirl Sat 04-Oct-08 08:52:08

thank you bellavita

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