My Dad's an Alcoholic

from Let's Talk
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Until about a year and a half ago, I lived with my mom. Now I'm living with my dad, whom I haven't lived with in 10 years. He's an alcoholic, and he doesn't like my Christian beliefs. He'll call home when he's drunk and swear and insult me. He's consumed with his job, his girlfriend and alcohol. I dread seeing him. But I really want a close relationship with him—isn't that what God would want? What can I do?

You've already done something significant by acknowledging that your dad is an alcoholic. He's addicted to a mood- and mind-altering drug, and you suffer the consequences of that addiction.

As you well know, living with an alcoholic isn't easy. I know, too—I grew up with alcoholism in my family. But it might help you to know that your dad probably doesn't like living with himself, either. He knows his alcoholism is partly to blame for some of the severe problems your family faces. Quite possibly he's tried to quit drinking at one time or another, but because of his intense addiction, and because alcohol effectively medicates his pain and relieves stress, he's been unsuccessful.

Let me give you four pieces of advice. First, begin meeting with someone who knows about being the child of an alcoholic. You can receive needed information and support from others who have struggled with the same situation. Your youth leader or school counselor can help you find this vital help. I would also recommend looking in the local phone book for Alateen and Al-Anon support groups (or call 888-425-2666 for a local chapter).

Second, continue communicating with your dad. Once you start receiving outside support, you'll gain more confidence to talk with your dad about your desire for a meaningful, deeper relationship. Tell your dad you love him. But remember: Most alcoholics have a difficult time with intimacy. You might have to lower your expectations of a "perfect" home and relationship. As you seek a healthier relationship, don't be afraid to call your dad's problem by name. He's an alcoholic; tell him you believe he can get help for his alcoholism. You can even help him find a local chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous by checking the phone book or going to www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.

Third, don't neglect yourself and your own needs. There is always the temptation to feel like you're responsible for somehow "fixing" your dad. You're not. You are responsible for taking care of yourself, so be sure you do. Build good friendships. Get exercise. Eat healthy. Find ways to relax and simply enjoy life. And be sure you stay away from alcohol and other substances. As strange as it sounds, children of alcoholics often turn to alcohol or other drugs to solve their problems. Don't give in to the temptation.

Finally, don't neglect your spiritual life. I like these verses: "You, Lord, give true peace to those who depend on you, because they trust you. So, trust the Lord always, because he is our Rock forever" (Isaiah 26:3-4, New Century Version). God doesn't promise us an easy life, but he does promise to walk with us through our times of trouble.

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