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Father who drinks and my anxiety
So for as long as I can remember, my dad has been a drinker. I’ve never really wanted to admit any of this so I’ve never written it down or spoken about it (except to my partner), so this is hard for me to do.
My dad works a stressful job, and he drinks basically every night. I would say he drinks a lot (bottles at a time). Sometimes he becomes quite happy, but other times he gets angry about things that happened years ago and he seems to go on and on and yells and it just makes my anxiety skyrocket, to the point where I have what I think are panic attacks. He mostly takes his anger out on my mum. He can be a not nice person when he’s been drinking, and often the next day won’t remember things that have happened or been said.
My partner and I are still long distance and I’ve been finding that when I’m at my partners house I get anxiety of a night time because I’m not sure whether my dad is angry or has been drinking etc and is taking it out on my mum. I find that I often (every night) text my mum asking if things are ok with her and my dad.
Ironically I had a catch up talk with my dad in the last day when I came back from visiting my partner. I actually mentioned to him about how I noticed I get anxious around people who are drinking, and I specifically mentioned a recent time where I was at a concert with my partners sister. He asked me if I get anxious in those situations (where people are drinking and getting loud) because of his drinking and his yelling. So he’s obviously aware, yet doesn’t seem to do anything about it. There have been multiple times where he’d say he’d quit drinking or that it’ll be his last drink (I believe he can stop because he has been able to for a few periods of time), but it doesn’t seem to be long lasting because then he gets stressed again.
I don’t like the way he treats my mum (when drinking), regardless of the situation in their relationship. If I was treated that way in a relationship then I would not be happy. I just get confused because in the past my partner and I went through difficult times and my dad had some things to say about me deserving better, yet I don’t see that happening for my mum.
I’m lost and confused and anxious right no because another argument occurred tonight. I don’t know if I have the right to tell my dad that I don’t agree with how things are brought up, or if I should deal with it and just let them sort it (even though it occurs often).
It is brave of you to share your story publically as even writing it down must have made it feel more real for you. This takes courage and please take the time to acknowledge yourself for stepping out of your comfort zone.
Having a person you love misuse substances such as alcohol is a very challenging situation. Often the person has some insight to their drinking habits and their effect but like you have said they often reset and then repeat behaviours. Your dad seems to have some degree of understanding that his drinking has impacted you. You didn’t mention if you have had a sit down conversation with your mum and asked her if she needs additional support or not? Your mum may tell you she is fine and can cope and in that case, just offering her support regularly may be enough until or if she is ready. She also may have other outlets where she manages her own stress.
One of the biggest pieces of advice I offer people who are challenged by a loved ones substance misuse is to focus on your own mental health. It is very difficult to change another persons behaviour but there are many steps you can take to develop your own resilience, reduce your anxiety and find the right way to set clear boundaries on the relationship with your mom and dad.
One great program that does not require a GP referral is the developed by beyondblue program NewAccess where you can talk to a coach about you worry. It is only available in some parts of Australia and you can check if you are in a catchment area by looking here....
Another way to get some support is by contacting a local Al-Anon support Group. This for people who are supporting some one with alcohol addiction. They have a website which has some information and support options here...
Another way to gain support is by taking a step towards finding a counsellor or therapist so you have someone to talk with regularly. You can do this by accessing your GP and asking for an appointment to get a mental health care plan.
You are not alone in this and I know that other forum members have struggled with similar issues and I have also seen this scenario seen time and time again in my clinical practice. By getting yourself some support can help you find added resilience and reduce your anxiety symptoms. You CAN feel better with persistence and support.
Wishing you the best possible outcome,
Hi Nurse Jenn,
Thank you for your reply. I followed the links you left and they look like they would be quite helpful. Do you know if NewAccess is available via a messaging service (rather than phone calls), as I get anxious over the phone? Unfortunately there are no meetings near me for Al-Anon, but I will continue looking back and do some more research for my area. I have also seen a psychologist before for my own personal struggles (trichotillomania), but I found that I did not benefit from the sessions. My psychologist seemed to always focus on the issues I was having at the time with my partner, and I found myself avoiding the sessions (cancelling them) in order to avoid talking about it (because I was seeing them for help with my trichotillomania and not for issues with my partner). I worry that going back to see a psychologist will make this current issue more real. I know that people don't change unless they want to (and I can't make anyone change), but I don't think my dad realises the extent to how it affects others.
I think I have told my mum that I'm there to support her. I ask if she's ok and she knows I'm there, although she is the type to let things go and she deals with things much easier than others would.
I just want the arguments and yelling, and drinking to stop but these are all things that my dad does, and I can't make it stop. I don't want to be in the house when he's yelling and drinking, but then when I go to my partners house I just want to be at home with mum to make sure she's ok and because I get anxious about what's happening when I'm not there.
I'm not sure whether I feel alone or if I'm just tired. I get exhausted when they argue because all my energy turns into anxiety and then I feel drained.
I'm just unhappy sometimes.
I experienced likewise with you. I have anxiety and other mental health problems and I was raised by an alcoholic father who never tried to give up. He made my mum sick, emotionally abusive and it was very difficult growing up.
I find that my schizoeffective disorder, depression and anxiety is very linked to my dad and the way he treated us. I was raised very negatively but at the end I loved him for who he was and instead of trying to change him you cant. You need to focus on yourself and know that there are many reason why your dad drinks, such as to hide pain, possibly been abused, bullyied etc. So there are many possible reasons.
My mum eventually left due to my dad alcoholism as I advocated to my mum to leave. She was a mess. But its like any addiction, it takes control.
Once divorced, my mum became happy but my dad spiralled. Whenever I would visit him, he would trigger my anxiety and then It would effect my marriage. But with good psychology and talking about it, I found ways to cope. My dad recently passed in January, and I love him to death, so try to appreciate and love him as much as you can and by accepting him, knowing you cant change him, will decrease your anxiety and knowing there are reasons why he drink also helps. If he triggers you so much, go for a walk, listen to music or do whatever you do to relax. Very important. Otherwise youll just get more anxious whilst his presence.
As the nurse said, seek advice and support. I would not of been here today with out the help of others and anxiety is not something to be taken lightly.
And remember no matter what illness you have, dont give up, its hard but thats our path and challenge. It wont hinder you with whatever work or family you seek as long as you accept your condition, seek help and not give up.
Good luck and well done on talking about it. Takes strength
Thanks for your response. I do know that there are reasons why he drinks, but it's hard for to accept/be ok with the way he treats us/my mum because of it. I know it's not right and I would not treat someone like that.
I do love him, but I've noticed recently that I feel as though we're growing apart because of his drinking, but he doesn't see that. I don't want to be around someone who is angry. I'm the opposite to angry, and so when he drinks I get anxious because I know it'll lead to him getting angry.
I find that my anxiety is triggered by some certain situations (that I can think of), such as my dad drinking. But I don't know how to deal with my own anxiety about this situation when it continues happening.
I've studied psychology and mental health, so I know that we can't 'heal ourselves', but I also don't know how or why my anxiety has got so bad (specifically in this situation with my dad drinking).
I seem to be ok when he's not drinking, or when I'm at home and things seem ok, but I spiral out of control when things are bad or people are yelling.
I feel like even if I spoke to him the drinking wouldn't stop. Otherwise wouldn't he have stopped a long time ago?
Its exceptionally hard. I feel exactly the same way. When dad is straight, everything is well, but when the alcohol comes in it goes dark. If my dad didn't drink, he'd still be with my mum. Life would be awesome. My dad triggered my anxiety in many ways, mostly when he drank but til this day I cant pinpoint it exactly even with extensive therapy.
Yes, physically our mental health illness is there, but you can make it easier in many aspects. I was diagnosed at 19 of Schizo but Ive been able to become a paramedic, career firey etc so people had no idea what I had but its within us that we can notice the most. Hence more reason to talk to professionals or friends.
In all honestly, you can talk to your dad all you want about drinking, but all in the likely he wont change. As I grew with my dad, I was always on him about drinking, but it didnt do a single thing except make me angry and trigger my anxiety. It pushed me away from my dad, till this day even when hes gone.
The only way your dad will stop if he recognises it is a problem and the damage it is doing and seeks help. He also sounds like he needs help like AA. I feel exactly what you feel but only a younger person of myself. Im now 41. Have you thought about moving out if your still at home? I found that if you take the triggers out of the picture anxiety goes.
Yes I agree, when he's not drinking things are fine and everyone is happy.
For some reason he seems to put the blame on everyone else. At least that's how I feel although I'm unsure if it's the case as I don't know everything about the arguments he has with my mum. The way I see it is that if he didn't drink then he may be more rational if there are underlying issues in their relationship. I just don't understand why he thinks it's ok to yell at my mum and treat her badly, especially when my brother and I are home, it's as if he doesn't care if we hear it or not. Does he not respect the fact that we don't want to be brought into it, and that if they need to sort things then they should do it in a civil manner?
I think he does recognise it's a problem, and only a few days ago he said that that night would be his last drinking. But then he bought more. I just don't understand why he'd tell us all that he was going to stop and then not stick to it. If he's not ready to stop then he shouldn't be telling us that he is going to because it gets my hopes up and I'm always let down.
My dad always makes threats about ending the relationship with my mum or that 'when the kids are grown up I'm moving away'. I just don't understand why he thinks any of that is ok. He's not dumb, he's quite intelligent, so I don't understand the thought process or what goes through his mind when he says these things
Yes my partner and I have been together almost 5 years, and so we are planning to move out very soon. I just got a job up where my partner lives (we are long distance), and so we are planning to move there ASAP. I just know I'll worry about how things are at home when I'm not there, and I felt for a long time that they didn't want me to move away.
I don't think I'll ever understand it
My dad did the exact same thing and always blamed us or our mum. Good thing about your dad is that he wants to quit. My advice is keep on supporting him, but only if it doesn't effect your anxiety. When your addicted to something it is so hard to quit, but he may need external help rather than family help. It can be too much.
When my parents argued, it was horrible. I remember even today the voice my mum used in arguing. So stressful for everyone.
When he makes threats like that, you cant do a single thing. My dad also said those things but when they finally divorced he was miserable and lonely. Depressed also. But its not your duty to bring them together, it is his choice. As hard as it may be.
You see all these things you say are exactly the same as to my relationship with my dad except my dad did not want to quit. It is the alcohol mate. No alcohol and things get better. i'm sorry with what you are going with, there is light at the end if he stops. Remember look after yourself with the triggers to anxiety. You cant help other unless you help yourself. Very true.
Thanks for your responses
It does affect my anxiety. I find that I get anxious a lot more now. I’ve hadn’t mild anxiety since I was 11/12, but now there are so many things that I notice are triggers. One of the biggest though is my dad’s drinking and anger. Tiny things set him off, and then he yells and rants for hours. You mentioned that your mum had a certain voice when they were arguing but my mum doesn’t even argue with my dad. My dad is the one who starts the arguments and then persists and persists when the other person has had enough. My mum also doesn’t stand up for herself, and honestly none of us do because maybe we are worried about how angry he’ll get and then we’ll have to deal with that.
I feel that I have no control, which worries me because if I have no control of what other people do then I seem to lose control of how I feel and that’s when I get really anxious.
I know you said to love him while he’s alive and stuff, and to support him, but it’s hard when it seems he has no respect for how anyone else in this house feels. I feel he lacks respect for all of us, but especially my mum. She does everything for all of us, and this is how she gets repaid.
I’m sick of feeling this way and having so much anxiety because of him but there’s nothing I can do to change it
Hi Puppies, I have just picked up this remark while scanning through 'I just don't understand why he'd tell us all that he was going to stop and then not stick to it'.
When people drink at night it's easy to say while half/fully intoxicated that tomorrow they're going to stop, but it's a totally different story when they're sober.
Their thoughts all day are 'I'd love a drink'.
You can't believe anything they say with alcohol in their system.
you drink because not drinking starts to feel awful.