Dad Drinks Heavily Since Mom Died
"I am the primary caregiver for my father, and he drinks too much. I do not remember this being a problem when I was a child, but since Mom died two years ago, he is drinking a lot more. I never know if I am going to find him drunk when I arrive. I want to simply walk away and leave the situation, but as his caregiver, he relies on me for so much. Where do I turn for help?" - READER
You are caring for someone who abuses alcohol, which is one of the most thankless tasks I can think of.
The first thing I will tell you is that your father and you both need professional support. Alcohol abuse is no joke. The underlying causes are often difficult to fix and do not change overnight. You may believe that you can handle the current situation for the most part, but I must again insist you do not go on this journey alone. Your father has turned to alcohol for reasons he may or may not consciously understand, and he needs professional assistance to alter the new pattern he is developing.
Isolation following the loss of a spouse can be particularly devastating. It is not uncommon for a husband to rely on his wife for social connections, becoming completely isolated upon her death. Your father may be trying to soothe his pain and loneliness. Alcohol may provide temporary relief for a few hours. Of course, the pain returns when the effects of the drug wear off. As a tolerance develops, more alcohol is needed to have the same effect. This feedback loop becomes more deadly as it gains momentum.
What You Can Do
Starting with his primary doctor, I recommend accompanying him to an appointment. Without judgment, express your concern about his increased alcohol use. Heavy drinking that is left unchecked will inevitably have severe consequences, so it is imperative to seek professional help as soon as possible. Since you did not mention visits to a counselor, I also recommend that your father seek counseling. It may take a bit of effort to convince him, but your father likely needs support to process and cope with the loss of his wife, his life companion, your mother. This counseling can be individual or group therapy sessions. Both work. Our Grief Resource Center has experienced tremendous success in helping people process deep loss with these approaches.
You may also need support as a family member of an alcoholic. There are groups in every community, and while you may not have had lifelong experience with alcohol abuse, you are living and dealing with the problem now. Support from others is extremely important here. This is not a journey to take on your own.
Your father needs intervention, and you need the support to help guide him down the path to healing. Please seek out the necessary professionals to guide you.
I wish you the best on this journey with Dad.
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