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Getting help with alcohol issues

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

You are not alone

You can do it, all right. You can lead by example, have a healthy relationship with alcohol, be firm about boundaries and safety, have open lines of communication in your home and still have issues with alcoholism in the family. Do you and your family need help?

Family alcohol issues

If this situation is affecting you in some way, it can be hard to know what to do. First, you need to know who needs the help. If it's your child, you may spend time wondering where you went wrong -- and that's normal, even though you may not have had anything to do with it! But no matter who it is that needs help, the time for wallowing is over; the time for taking steps to get help is here.

If it's you

Bite the bullet, swallow your pride and get help if you are struggling with your alcohol use. Alcoholism is a disease; you'd ask for help treating cancer or heart disease, right? You can't treat those alone, so why should you think you can treat your alcohol issues yourself, in a vacuum? You can't.

You are not the first mom to struggle. But you need to get well, and your kids need a healthy mom. Get help for them.

If it's another adult family member

This situation may be trickier to address, but it's still worthy of confronting. Whether it's husband, a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or other adult family member, you need to address it. True, you can't force another adult into treatment, but you can work to create a situation in which you and your children are safe and that adult feels safe getting help when ready. You can also work to help your children manage the fallout of the problem by finding a counselor well-versed in this type of situation. Then healing can begin, for all of you.

If it's your teen

Just because a person is under legal drinking age doesn't mean they can't have a problem with alcohol. Year after year, the national Risky Behaviors Survey administered by the CDC shows that alcohol is the drug most abused by teenagers.

It can happen to anyone, from any family, and even among kids whose parents did everything "right." Teen drinking continues to be a problem among our youth, so it really shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that teenagers can be alcoholics, too. It's a disease that needs treatment -- even in kids.

What to do

While Alcoholics Anonymous is the most known resource for alcohol dependence support, there are other resources for you and your children.

  • Talk with your medical care provider. He or she can be a first line of referral for therapists, specialized treatment, in-patient care (if appropriate) and other services available to you.
  • Religious leaders often can link you to counseling and support groups that also support your faith. And while the alcoholic is being supported, the family can be supported, too.
  • Talk with school counselors. High schools deal with teen drinking enough that they have a good handle on resources and support in your geographic area.

No matter what path you choose, the most critical thing is to start down that path. Resources are available to you for the asking! If you get the help you and/or your child needs, alcoholism doesn't have to define your or child's life.

More on alcohol-related concerns:

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