Is My Parent Drinking Too Much?

Worried about a parent’s drinking habits? Get help and advice here. 

If you have concerns about a parent’s drinking habits, it can be difficult to know what to do for the best. Living with someone who has an addiction can be very stressful and upsetting. You may feel embarrassed, ashamed, worried and isolated, and you may even blame yourself. It’s important to realise that having an alcoholic-dependent person is not your fault and you have nothing to be ashamed of. Alcoholism is an illness, a disease that can affect anyone in society at any time.  

How Much Is Too Much? 

These guidelines are designed to help people stay in control of their drinking. If your parent is regularly drinking more than the recommended amounts, they may have a problem with alcohol. Both men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week and to spread these units over the week, rather than ‘binge’ drink them in one session. Here’s a handy guide to show how many units are in alcoholic drinks: 

  • Single 25ml shot of spirits (vodka, whisky etc.) – 1 unit 
  • Alcopop 275ml (WKD, Smirnoff Ice etc.) – 1.5 units 
  • Small glass of red/white/rosé wine – 1.5 units 
  • Large glass of red/white/rosé wine – 3 units 
  • Bottle of lager/cider/beer – 1.7 units 
  • Pint of lager/beer/cider (lower-strength ABV 3.6%) – 2 units 
  • Pint of lager /beer/cider (higher strength ABV 5.2%) – 3 units 

What Are The Signs That Someone Is An Alcoholic? 

People who have a problem with drinking will often take great steps to hide it, but there are behavioural changes and signs you can look out for. These include: 

  • Hidden bottles and cans of alcohol in the house 
  • Slurred speech 
  • Smelling of alcohol  
  • Drinking early in the morning or as soon as they’re up for the day 
  • Spending money on alcohol instead of clothing and food 
  • Mood swings and emotional outbursts 
  • Not looking after your needs – clean house, laundered clothes, food to eat etc. 
  • Shaking and sweating 

How To Get Help 

Sadly, the only person who can help an alcoholic is themselves. Like any addiction, only that person can take the steps needed to fight back. Dealing with an addiction is a very difficult journey, and many people find it impossible to stop. You may have already tried talking to your parent about their drinking, only to be met with denial or arguments. This is often the case, and can leave you feeling more helpless and isolated than ever before.  

If you’re in this situation, the best thing you can do is to talk to an adult you trust about your concerns. You could reach out to a family member or a teacher at school. This may feel like a betrayal to your parent, but please know that you are doing the right thing. You need to be safe and cared for, and if your parent is unable to meet these needs because of their drinking problem, then it’s important to make this known, for your own safety and wellbeing, and theirs. Only by facing up to addiction and getting everything out into the open will a person be ready to accept they have a problem and seek help – although sadly this isn’t always the case. Many people will continue to live in denial and refuse the help offered to them. The sad truth is that it could take many years for a person to face up to their addiction, while others will never manage it in their lifetime. That’s why it’s so crucially important to look out for yourself in the meantime and seek support.  

We know that asking for help isn’t always easy. It’s a difficult first step, but it’s a positive move in the right direction. That’s why we’ve written this helpful guide – How To Ask For Help – and you can read it here.

Support For You 

You can reach out to Childline on 0800 11 11 if you’d like to speak to a trained counsellor anonymously. You can also get more information and find local alcohol support on the NHS website here

Alateen meetings are for 12-17-year-olds in England. They meet to share their experiences of having, or having had, a problem drinker in their lives. They help and support each other. To find out more information, you can email enquiries@aol-anonuk.org.uk  


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