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Dealing with an alcoholic & depressed dad

Community Member

Hi all,

I am a 32 year old married guy looking for some guidance regarding my father and his drinking. Over the last few years it has become unbearable for my mother to live with him and their relationship is very cold. Her tolerance for his drinking has gradually declined since the loss of my brother to suicide over a decade ago. She wants to leave, and I too want to distance myself from him as the worry is taking a toll on my well-being, effecting my job and marriage. But I don't know if leaving and creating distance is the right thing to do to someone in his position.

What makes this complicated is that he may suffer from depression. He goes to the doctor frequently about it, is on depression medication and will soon start seeing a psychiatrist. However he has not mentioned to the doctor his drinking. I am by no means an expert, but after so many years experience and watching his thinking and judgement deteriorate, my mother and I believe the core issue is his drinking. He does not accept he drinks too much, and any speak of it causes him to go into extreme frustration and distress. He refuses to see a group therapist or take any action related to his drinking.

The reason my mum hasn't left yet is that he is very dependant on her. She feels guilty knowing that he will struggle without her, and he will stay home and drink himself to death. On the other hand, he is damaging and refusing to consider myself and his wife in his actions.

From what I have read, the 'right' thing to do in this situation is to remove ourselves and let him come to a realisation, even if that means letting him fall further. Does his depression change this? Any advice would be great. If I'm confident I am taking the most constructive action, whatever it is, that alone will be a load off my shoulders.

Many thanks,

9 Replies 9

Community Member

Hi inc0gnit0,

Firstly, welcome to the forums.

Very interesting story and I'd be lying if I said I knew what advice to offer you but this is just a little out of my experience, I just wanted to point out some basic information you may wish to read, if you go to the section at the top of the page called "The facts" there is a section about supporting someone with a mental illness, maybe having a read through that section may be of some assistance to you. I will let others comment in regards to more personalised advice to your issue as I do not want to say the wrong thing to you. I just wanted to welcome you to the forums and also point out the section about supporting someone which may be of some use to you.

Always happy to listen if needed as well.

My best for you and your family,


Community Member
Hi incognito, first I want to ask you what kind of father was he to you, were you beaten, touch inappropriately do he treat you like dirt, if so I'm sorry and understand why you would want to distance yourself, but if not instead how about showing him some support but not an enabler, maybe if your mother moved out for a few days he might realise. but he maybe to far gone to care. The loss of your brother may have left him in that place. I don't know, I can't imagine the pain of loosing a child. Dan...

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni
hello IncOgnitO, maybe just briefly I will say what happened to me so this maybe able to explain your situation.
When I was in depression I self medicated using alcohol, firstly being in denial, but really trying to hide the fact I needed help, both my wife and two sons hated to see me drinking all the time and would throw out any grog they found, that's when I became a cupboard drinker and kept changing my hiding spots and if they found one of them, I had another place so I wouldn't miss out.
I needed the grog simply because I was depressed and at that stage nothing was helping me.
I finally decided to go and see a psychologist/psychiatrist but they said they wouldn't do anything unless I stopped drinking, until I found a psychologist who wanted to help me.
She often said that I should cut down, if not quit, but I stuck with her for 20 years as it was a workcover claim and kept drinking.
Finally enough was enough and my wife left me and then divorced me after 25 years of marriage, our sons were adults and not living at home, and she told me that she couldn't anything else to help me and had to start a new life.
I was left alone and really I don't blame her one bit, the house had to be sold and it was up to me to pack everything away in boxes without any help from anybody, but I did it and then decided to rent a property for a short period but have stayed in rentals since for 15 years (?).
I still talk with my ex as if there was nothing wrong, but we couldn't live together again.
Your father will find a way to cope, he may even give up the grog, but both you and your mum must leave him to his own devices.
Incidently I now only drink socially. Geoff.

Thanks for your response BballJ's.
No I wasn't abused, but we were never close. I absolutely do want to support him, but it seems that being there for him and mediating arguments over drinking between my parents on a weekly basis for years has only allowed the situation to get worse, and my mothers mental health to deteriorate. I think that after all this time I do need to consider that it might be best for everyone. But I'm here looking for advice on that decision, I don't want to do what's convenient, just what is best.

Community Member

Hi Geoff, many thanks for sharing your story. I read it this morning and have been rolling it over in my head all day, it's so similar to my situation.

Can I ask, what helped you manage your depression after alcohol? My dad has been seeing a doctor and a psychologist about his depression but is not bringing up his drinking during those sessions-he is adamant that there is no problem with the amount of frequency he drinks.



Hello Incognito

I am not any kind of expert on drinking, with or without taking antidepressants. Just getting that our of the way.

Your mom sounds in a bad way so instead of leaving your dad to manage on his own, why not get some help for your mom. My reasoning is that your dad is obviously taking no notice of his family and believes he is doing well. Your mom is telling you she is in a bad way about this and doesn't know what to do. I appreciate her dilemma.

It's hard to make decisions when we are feeling frustrated and overwhelmed by the event needing a decision. Can you get her a referral via your GP for her to see a psychiatrist. I say that because:

  1. a psychiatrist will cost less in the long run, even if mom starts out with a mental health plan.
  2. A psychiatrist has more knowledge about medication and its interactions with alcohol.
  3. Your mom can speak about all the facets of her life with dad.
  4. Mom will find it easier to make a decision about dad when she feels better and can understand the various areas in her life that are causing pain.

I know this looks like dad is the one with the problem but mom has to go for counselling. In some ways this is true but we are talking about the here and now, not what has been happening over many years plus your brother's death and any other tragedies. Where you are now is where you need to start. I doubt if making decisions based on the past will work.

It may even help both you and your mom if you lobbed up for some counselling. This does not mean either of you has a mental illness. It means you are stuck in a hard place and want to find the best solution. An objective observer may be able to move you forward and help you find a solution suitable for all of you.

Please feel free to agree or not. I hope to hear from you soon.


Community Member

I'm not doing so well tonight but for me the best thing ever was coming to Al-anon and not being alone with my problems with other people's addictions to alcohol. It took me a father who died from the disease, the loss of a husband with drug and alcohol problems and 2 kids in rehab before i go there.
Now they couldn't drag me away.

I have a long way to go still but i am soooo much better.

Community Member

Hi newnoz,

Sorry you aren't doing too well tonight, please remember you can call the Beyond Blue helpline on 1300 22 4636 24/7 to discuss anything you are going through. They are trained professionals.

My best for you,


Community Member


I would agree with you that he needs to be honest about his alcohol intake with his medical professionals. Perhaps there is another way around this. A blood test may be needed to bring things to light or some other change as what happened with Geoff. It will have to be only what your Dad can handle and his doctors will need to advise.

Being left to my own devices has helped me realise alot of things, but managing depression is hard and there most likely will be a grieving period. Positive distractions and talking may help. Terrible how we can not get effective help for these ongoing ageless issues. There is alot of information out there, but not so much assistance that hits the mark.