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Alcohol Abuse Makes Growing Up Difficult for Dependent Teens

answered 11:10 PM EST, Sat March 10, 2012
I am 14 and I live with my mom who is a single parent to me. We don’t really have much close family except for 2 aunts and 2 uncles who don’t live here in Georgia. My mom has started drinking a lot and I am very worried about her. I have talked to her about how much she drinks but she says that she is fine. Sometimes she is angry with me when I ask if I ask when she is drunk and sometimes when I ask her when she is hangover she says she wants to talk to someone about her drinking but she never does. I want her to stop drinking so much because I am worried about her and because she is not the same person when she drinks. She is hard to live with when she drinks which is all the time now. How can I get her to stop drinking? I do not know if she needs to go to rehab or not but I am worried about that also because I do not want to leave my school and I am not sure if I would be allowed to stay over with my friend for very long. Who should I talk to about this to make her get some help but not someone who is going to take her away from me or anything like that.

Delisted Expert Says...

I would like to thank you in advance for having the care, concern and the courage to ask for advice/support or both on an online counseling service. I will do my best to help draw a map for you which may make your choices/options more clearly to you.

You stated that you are a 14-year-old female teenager with a small remote extended family. As a result, your mother does not have close family nearby which can give her support and feedback on her drinking behavior. By you stating that your mother is “drinking too much” suggests that she loses control of her behavior, her drinking, and the effects of the alcohol on you and her. Could your mother be an alcohol abuser or alcoholic? Let’s look at this.

The definition of alcohol abuse is:

Any "harmful use" of alcohol. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV describes alcohol abusers as those who drink despite recurrent social, interpersonal, and legal problems as a result of alcohol use. Harmful use implies alcohol use that causes either physical or mental damage. It is also referred to as “binge drinking.” For more information, go to http://alcoholism.about.com/cs/basics/g/alcoholabuse.htm

The definition of alcoholism or alcohol dependency is:

Alcoholism is a primary illness or disorder characterized by some loss of control over drinking, with habituation or addiction to the drug alcohol, causing interference in any major life function, e.g. health, family, job, spiritual, friends ,legal." Bottom line is as soon as your drinking begins to affect any areas of your life, you know that there is a problem. For more information on alcoholism, go to this website: http://www.alcoholism-and-drug-addiction-help.com/definition-of-alcoholism.html.

For a better understanding of the symptoms of alcoholism, go to this website: http://www.alcoholism-and-drug-addiction-help.com/alcoholism-symptoms.html

With alcoholism, frequent is marked by strong denial, a tendency to minimize the problem or seriousness of the use of alcohol and its impact on important areas of your mother’s life; including her relationship with you. The other features of excessive drinking can include depression, low motivation, dishonesty, erratic behavior, mood swings, angry outbursts, social isolation, to name a few. If you are seeing any of these, I can appreciate the crisis your family may be facing.

I think I understand your dilemma of having to think about what kind of medical care or rehab your mother may need to address her drinking, her denial, inconsistent and difficult behaviors. It is not easy to live with an alcoholic or drug addict as you are finding out. As for your question, “how can I get her to stop drinking?” There is nothing anyone can do to make an alcoholic stop drinking. There is much a family can do to help the alcoholic make a decision to address her/his addiction, and consider rehabilitation. In this respect, families often need education and professional help.

First, I would recommend you find support for yourself. There is a group called Alateen for teenagers who have family members whom are problem drinkers. The website for Alateen is:

http://www.al-anon.alateen.org/for-alateen. I would encourage you to go to this website because it a resource for teenagers dealing with alcoholism. In Georgia, there is an Alateen website which has a questionnaire of 20 questions which helps to determine:

  1. if Alateen is for you,
  2. if someone’s drinking is affecting you, and
  3. where Alateen meetings are held in Georgia.

If you can’t find a local meeting, there are online meeting that you can attend. For more information, go to this website: http://www.12stepforums.net/teens.html. There is also an online Alateen chat websites: http://chat.alateen.net/

Please do not forget the school counselor or social worker. They are well prepared and versed in working with teenagers whom have substance abuse in the family. If you go and talk with them, they may be able to provide you with additional support.

I cannot recommend rehabilitation for anyone who has not had a formal evaluation for substance abuse by a professional substance abuse professional. The Choose Help website offers a free substance abuse assessment if your mother would agree to participate. Also, her family could be instrumental in supporting her in getting the help her family and she needs. There many programs in Georgia which can assess the seriousness of your mother’s drinking and the level of care she needs (e.g., outpatient, inpatient, and/or residential). However, whatever form of treatment your mother could need, you will need to be provided for. Usually, this concern is addressed when a parent is referred to a treatment program.

This type of situation can be very stressful for teenagers who are working hard in school and growing up. An impaired parent can make this process more difficult. Please consider the resources I have offered your family and you. If you need anything else from me, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Warmly,

John W. O’Neal, Ed.S, MSW, MA, LPC, NCC

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Page last updated Mar 11, 2012

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