Dear Barb – Coping with an alcoholic family

Dear Barb;

I just returned to school after spending Christmas with my family. I hate to admit it, but I couldn’t wait to leave and go back to school. My problem is my family’s drinking. Throughout the whole two weeks I was home there was drinking everyday. I know people usually drink more on special holidays, but this wasn’t one or two drinks — my parents were both highly intoxicated every day. My parents have been drinkers throughout my life, but maybe because I have been away from it I am noticing it more. Is there anything I can do to help my parents realize what they are doing to themselves? I am worried about what years of drinking may have done to their health. I will be watching your column for your response.

Emma in Quebec

Thanks for writing, Emma. I’m sorry to hear your Christmas was so disheartening.

Unfortunately the holidays often bring out the worse in people, as it is a very stressful time. Christmas reminds us of days gone by, perhaps of happier times and perhaps of not so happy times.

Growing up in an alcoholic home often blinds us to the dysfunction we are living in until, like you, we spend time away. When we return we frequently have a different perspective. This seems to be what happened to you.

Alcoholism is a disease that affects not only the person who is drinking, but also the people around them. Therefore it is not only the drinker who needs help; it is the family members as well. Fortunately, there are organizations that have recognized the far-reaching affects this disease can have on those exposed to it.

Alcoholics Anonymous has provided a valuable source of support for alcoholics and their families for over 50 years. Al-Anon and Alateen are offshoots of AA that offer support to family members of alcoholics

Emma, you may have felt ashamed by your parents drinking and that you could not talk to anyone about it. However, talking to others who are experiencing what you are is truly a healing experience. Through Al-Anon meetings you will be able to connect with others and share experiences that you felt no one else would understand. Al-Anon meetings are available everywhere. You can find dates and times listed on the Internet, in the telephone directory, as well as in your local newspaper.

Through these meetings you will learn healthy ways to deal with your parents’ drinking and how to work on healing the scars left by this type of family life. However I do not think there is a lot you can do for your parents. They will have to realize that they need help and take the necessary steps. Nonetheless, you may be opening some doors for them, through your recognition of this problem.

Good luck Emma. You have taken a very important first step toward healing yourself and your family.

E-mail your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality: your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.