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Relapsed and isolated alcoholic dad don’t know how to get him to get help

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My father has been an alcoholic my whole entire life. He has caused my family and myself a lot of trauma, despite this my heart breaks for him because it all stems from his own issues he never got help for. He went to rehab and came out early claiming to be capable. He unfortunately released and I have put on a brave face and do the best I can to be there without triggering my own mental health struggles. He doesn’t eat, he doesn’t shower or take care of himself, he locks himself in his room, his health is fine but he makes excuses that his health is bad and he is too unwell to do anything. Which, yes mentally he is unwell but won’t get help. He attempted to come off his medication alone and I believe that to be the reason for why he is starting to believe things that he has made up in his own mind thinking everyone is against him. He claims he wants to move away and start another life but he has nothing to his name and he will go and just blow all his last remaining money to end up with absolutely nothing. It breaks my heart and I just don’t know what to do. I can’t personally help him because it’s too painful, as well as the fact it’s professional help he desperately needs that we can’t provide ourselves. We have tried to get him to get help but he doesn’t want to go help and his narcissistic tendencies due to the alcohol causes a lot of distress to the family that we are at a loss of what to do. His behaviours tigger my ptsd that I have worked on and am still working on. It makes me feel so guilty that I can’t do more because when I do it takes a massive toll on my own mental health. I want him to get the help he needs and be better for his own health and for my family and myself to be able to build our relationships back up with him. 

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Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi Hailey


You're obviously a beautiful, highly conscious, deeply feeling and loving person and your dad's so blessed to have you in his life. 


While there can be the biology and chemistry of addiction, which can help explain some of the struggle, there can also be a massive emotional component. One of the things that makes you such an incredibly conscious person is the fact that you recognise a lot of the emotions your dad struggles with, given his own life challenges in the past. There are plenty of people who wouldn't give that a second thought, yet you think about this deeply and compassionately.


As a gal who's an ex drinker and as someone who's married to a guy who you could call a high functioning alcoholic, I've experienced alcoholism from both sides of the fence. While I don't drink outside of maybe once or twice a year, I can relate to why my husband and others do drink every day, based on my own experience. Emotional regulation would be a key element. If someone doesn't want to feel stressful or depressing thoughts or emotions, they'll drink. If they don't want to feel seriously depressing inner dialogue, they'll drink to drown it out. If they don't want to feel social anxiety, they'll drink. If they want to feel relaxed or feel a sense of peace and if there are no resources other than alcohol for feeling peace, they'll turn to alcohol. The list goes on when it comes to all the feelings or emotions that need to be sought or avoided. So while someone can be led to rehab, unless underlying feelings (for drinking) are addressed, that person may feel the compulsion to turn to emotional drinking. Personally, I stopped drinking the day I came out of long term depression. The feelings that led me to drink were no longer there.


While there are a lot of obvious differences between a drunk person and a sober person, there can also be some not so obvious differences. For example, while a sober person may easily be able to channel the sage in themself, a drunk person simply can't do it. While sober but extremely fatigued, you may go to get into your car and drive somewhere when the sage in you says 'You know you shouldn't be driving. It's dangerous. You're too tired to drive'. When drunk, there's no sage to say 'You're too drunk to drive. Whatever you do, don't drive'. There are other facets to us too that can only be channeled when sober, such as parts of us that relate to accurate analysis/logistics/clear thinking or mental calculation, unselfishness, responsibility etc. Doesn't matter how much you try appealing to these facets in a drunk person, that person is not conscious enough to be able to access or channel such facets. If you can catch them in moments of sobriety/full consciousness, you can try speaking to those facets then. One of the things I've learned is you typically can't reason with a person when they're drunk because no reasonable part of them is conscious. The other thing too is certain unwanted facets will be channeled: 'The self righteous know it all', 'the stubborn so and so', 'the careless risk taker', a part that refuses to face any constructive challenge and so on.


I've learned to emotionally switch of from my husband after he's had a certain amount of beers. This is one of the ways I manage my mental health. A good boundary setter is 'I will not speak to you about this while you're drunk. Go away and only come back when you're sober'. Sounds a bit harsh but trying to reason with a drunk person is a time waster and it can be frustrating, depressing and/or angering. Allowing a drinker to express painful emotions can be a whole other story. Then it's about gaining greater insight into their sufferance, so that you can work out better ways to help them. I think a large part of the challenge can come down to determining the best time and the worst time to speak to an alcoholic. Again, you're dad is so blessed to have you in his life. ❤️