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A Teen’s Guide to the Heavy-Drinking Dad

Dec 18, 2019

As a teenager, it’s normal to feel stressed out about your parents and their behavior, especially when it feels like what they’re doing is a problem. For teens like you, one of those problems is the parent who drinks too much. Whether the drinking has lead to apathy, abuse, or abandonment by your father, you’re entitled to a helping hand to figure out how it’s affecting you personally and what your next steps might look like.

A parent who drinks too much can be unreliable and even unsafe to be around for teenagers. If you have a parent who abuses alcohol regularly, at home or outside of the home, remember your reactions to their drinking are worthy of sharing with trusted friends, teachers, and relatives. If a parent’s drinking leads to physical abuse, your first response should be going immediately to the home of a trusted friend or neighbor or calling 911.

Addiction Is A Disease

Although a person’s behavior when under the influence can cause untold feelings of shame and isolation in the home, it is important to remember that people with addiction are sick. Addiction is a disease, and while the actions of an addict appear “bad,” addicted parents are not bad people. They will likely need long-term support from professionals who can help affect the problem. Millions of children and teens have parents with substance use disorders. You are not alone.

Feelings You May Recognize

Emotional reaction to a parent’s abuse of alcohol can vary from person to person or even moment to moment. You may feel several emotions all at the same time. Thinking about your last experience with seeing your father drinking too much at home, in public, or at a family gathering, which of the following words best describe how you felt?

Alone – like no one else is around

Angry – feeling or showing anger

Anxious – nervous and uncertain

Ashamed – guilty or regretful

Confused – can’t think clearly

Depressed – deeply saddened

Distrustful – unsure and suspicious

Embarrassed – uncomfortable and self-conscious

Frustrated – annoyed and distressed

Overwhelmed – overpowered by the problem

Sad – unhappy or even feeling grief

Scared –  frightened

Unsafe – risky or dangerous

Worried –  anxious or bothered

Apathy: Dad doesn’t care about me when he drinks.

What This Look Like: When your dad drinks, he may show less interest or no interest in you. If he does talk to you, he may see you only as an audience to listen to whatever he wants to say. He may neglect essential responsibilities, like keeping the bills paid or ensuring there’s food in the house.

What You Can Do: Talk to a friend first or an adult you trust. It’s important to get some perspective so you understand you’re not to blame for the drinking. It’s also helpful to have a safe place to express how you feel about the situation and not be judged for your reactions.

Abuse: Dad gets abusive when he drinks.

What This Looks Like: Abuse comes in many forms. It can be physical abuse if he’s hitting you or threatening to hit you. It can be verbal abuse in he’s shouting or belittling you. It can be emotional abuse if he’s trying to guilt you into accepting his excessive drinking.

What You Can Do: Get to a safe place. It might be a neighbor’s or a friend’s home. Have someone you can call when he’s being verbally abusive. When the abuse becomes physical, call 911.

Abandonment: Dad abandons me when he drinks.

What This Looks Like: Your dad’s drinking might be the reason he forgets to pick you up at school or after practice. He may make excuses in advance about why he can’t attend a game or some other event that’s important to you. He might even go on drinking binges for days and not come home.

What You Can Do: When one of the most important relationships in your life becomes unpredictable and unreliable, devote more time to other relationships. Grow your friendships and make new friends while being authentic about what’s going on in your life. Consider joining a support group where you share similar experiences and can learn from the people you meet.

The 7 C’s of Addiction

The National Association for Children of Alcoholics suggests that teens dealing with a family member’s addiction do their best to remember the following:

I didn’t cause it.

I can’t cure it.

I can’t control it.

I can care for myself

By communicating my feelings,

Making healthy choices, and

By celebrating myself.


Origins Recovery Center is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 866-875-1558.

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