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Helping Parents of Adult Alcoholics and Addicts With Non 12 Step Alternatives To AA

By Dr. Ed Wilson and Dr. Mary Ellen Barnes

Adult Children Who Drag Their Parents Down With Them

Nothing is sadder than the “over-age families” we see. These “children” are in their 30s, 40s, 50’s and sometimes 60s; their parents in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and beyond. “Children” who won’t stop drinking or using, and their parents who can’t stop forking over the money that makes the alcohol and drug possible. Dependent adult children dragging parents down with them.

Of course you can easily to see the problem from the outside. Why would an “adult child” stop drinking when they can squeeze thousands of dollars a month out of old mom and dad and keep right on doing what they’ve done their whole lives? And how can mom and dad say no when their “child” will be homeless, their grandchildren hungry? Besides, it’s a disease, isn’t it? How can they deny their sick child?

You probably already know that that’s how the monthly cycle continues for years and years, and how it’s apt to go on until someone dies or the money runs out. The children will continue to manipulate parents, and parents will continue to feel guilty and wonder what they did to cause their child’s decision to go down the alcoholic/addict road.

Alcohol and drug abuse is a choice, not a disease

Of course you’ve always suspected, correctly, that the child’s choice was the child’s choice and had little or nothing to do with his or her parents. Even when childhood trauma played a role, it doesn’t excuse ongoing childishness. Searching for the current problems’ beginnings, even finding them, does nothing to fix the mess. As you’ve probably noticed, everyone just stays trapped in the swirl of emotions, habit, myth, and despair.

What about an intervention?

But suppose the cycle could be broken? In the past that’s usually meant orchestrating an “intervention” where the family confronts the drunk or addict, sets some limits, and then whisks them off to residential treatment for 30, 60, or 90 days. Assuming the problem is now taken care of, everyone relaxes and life supposedly gets better for everyone.

As you probably know, it hardly ever turns out that way. Confronted drunks frequently become angry drunks; residential treatment fails about 95% of the time; family resolutions collapse; and the abuser returns even more solidly excused than ever by “powerlessness” and “disease” myths. Tensions mount and bank accounts have taken a $30,000 – $200,000 hit.

There is an alternative

A brother and sister, Terry and Jack, came to see us because their younger brother Mike was draining their parents’ life savings to support his habit. There’d been an intervention and “treatment” but the manipulation and abuse continued. “It isn’t going to stop,” Karen said, “until they’re all dead or broke.”

You’ve probably seen this problem before, but this time we had a suggestion. Instead of threats and ultimatums, we recommended a carefully planned disengagement. No threats, no expectation that Mike would change, just a gradual change in the family dynamics that would, over the course of a year, result in Mike being on his own.

How, exactly, does that work?

We’re sure it’s obvious to you that Mike isn’t the only one with a problem here. His relationship with his parents and brother and sister also played a role. As long as that stayed the same, nothing would change. But entrenched relationships don’t usually change without some outside help. The old habits and behaviors are too strongly established.

The difference here is that we interrupted the old patterns by inserting ourselves between Mike and his parents. A meeting was held – Mike attended because that’s where he’d get his next check – and it was explained that no one was going to bother him anymore about his drinking and drugging. However, the amount of his “support” would be reduced by 8% a month over the next year until it is down to $0.

You’ve probably figured out that this plan probably wasn’t going to work by itself. Mike, having heard empty threats for years about being cut off, was confident that his parents would cave in, as they always had before. The difference here was that the money was routed through us, insulating the parents, and they were the ones receiving the counseling and support. Mike was also free to receive help, but it wasn’t required. What he decided to do was up to him – as it should be for any adult.

You Can Only Treat The Willing

The real truth is that people only change when they want to – not when others want them to. Working with the family to change the situation is effective because the family wants to change the situation. Any other strategy is just a waste of time, money, and effort.

You’re wondering, “But what about Mike?”

The usually overlooked part in all of this is the fact that if the family changes its relationship to Mike, Mike will have to change, too. As financial support dwindles, he will have to make some changes.

As you can imagine, Mike was angry about this sudden diversion in the cash flow. In this particular case, his anger actually motivated him to start managing himself and his life again for the first time in a decade.

Yes, there were glitches and lapses and mom did occasionally slip Mike some extra money, but the overall plan came off as intended.

Why did this work?

This “intervention” worked because it focused on the total picture and all of the people and dynamics involved. We did not single out Mike as “the problem” and we didn’t let labels and myths keep him from being held responsible for either fixing his problems or living with the consequences himself. More importantly, we worked with the family members who wanted the situation to change, ignoring Mike, who obviously had a vested interest in things staying the same.

As you can see, it worked because we focused on the people who wanted to change rather than trying to force change onto someone else. Whether dealing with a family, a couple, or anyone else, success always means working with whomever is motivated; skipping labels and self-justifying excuses; focusing on the present and future, not the past; and actively instituting new behaviors.

All of this sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Then why not call today and let us provide real help for your family? 888-541-6350

By |2016-11-14T06:14:14+00:00May 12th, 2010|For Families|99 Comments


  1. Dr. Mary Ellen Barnes & Dr. Ed Wilson November 17, 2014 at 10:54 am

    AT some point you have to decide that your lives are at least as important as his is. He could have blown all of you up, if you had been there. Apparently that didn’t matter to him. He made his choice when he got drunk again. Where he goes is up to him, not you. He is 40 years old, he is not a kid. Yes, give him his car, you may have paid for it but you gave it to him. Good luck, I know this is hard but your son needs to know there are some consequences to his behavior and at 40 he needs to learn this.

  2. Michael December 6, 2014 at 5:36 am

    I noticed there are many very long posts. All of this can be summed up in my mind as follows: 1. We love our children and will always, and it is powerful. 2. Sometimes they make poor choices. When they were children, we had a responsibility to do what we could to help and correct. That drive remains inside us even though our children are adults. 3. We must accept the fact that they are choosing to not be a part of the family. 4. Until they are wanting to change, disengaging is the only thing we can do… and prayer. I’m reminded of the movie Apollo 13, when the capsule was re-entering the atmosphere and there was radio silence, and the only thing mission control could do was wait. Dear daughter, are you there? Are you returning home?

  3. Laura February 29, 2016 at 11:41 am

    My son is 24 and has been draining me emotionally and financially for years. He is a complete jerk and in denial and delusional but he is my son and I keep coming back for more. Unless someone has gone through this, it is so easy for them to judge and say they would do this or that. I know logically the right things to do but my heart always gets involved. Damn you heart!!! I am truly broken. Sad. Confused. The thought of letting him be homeless is so painful. HELP ME!!

  4. Laura February 29, 2016 at 11:52 am

    Linda and everyone else on here. My heart hurts for you. I wish I had answers. I wish I did not have to feel this God awful pain that tortures my soul.

  5. Dr. Mary Ellen Barnes & Dr. Ed Wilson February 29, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    There are middle ways to help without being either taken advantage of or throwing him out on the street. You could rent him a tiny apartment where you pay the landlord, not him, that way he has a roof over his head, but is not in your space. You could buy him food which you drop off there once a week, rather than give him money for groceries that he will spend on drugs and alcohol. The vast majority of the time, the parent has done nothing bad than makes them responsible for their child going off the deep end into drugs or alcohol. They do love to blame us though because it works to extract support from us. I am so sorry you are having to go through this. It is terrible and hard and painful.

  6. Barb April 18, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    I have a 38-year old son who is an alcoholic and lives in the house I inherited from my parents. He found out he was becoming a father days before my Mom passed away in 2008. A perfect setup! Right? House paid for, he paid taxes. Hopefully, they will get married and buy the house. Perfect. As they say, “No good deed goes unpunished”. He has slowly become worse after his girlfriend left him 2 years ago. He started medication for depression but is still drinking. I also found evidence of marijuana. He had a drug problem in his 20s, went to jail and settled into drinking instead all the rest! At least it was legal. He has a 7-year old son and he is very good with him except now I worry about the unsupervised time when he is there. Sleeps a long time on the couch. I keep my grandson’s mother informed when their son shouldn’t go there. She usually sees the signs before she hears from me. To really make matters worse, my son has worked for my husband for 8 years in a successful handyman business. When my son doesn’t show up, my husband was stuck doing all the physical work. Breaks my heart see my husband killing himself, my son not functioning and my grandson slowly loosing a Dad he really likes being with. My husband has finally called it quits with him. Good, except how does he pay his bills? Do I have to pay the taxes for my son. No way I say but then reality sets in. We have brought him back from the bottom of the black hole again and again. We are worn out. Even though I don’t need the money from the sale of the house for about a year, I want him out. But, this situation may be the best situation for me. Cheapest, I can keep an eye on him, and give some food and a few other small things (not too excessive) and at least I know he is safe so I can sleep. I am struggling to get myself to follow through and get him out. He wont go easy. I have a lawyer to help but the anxiety is now the worse for me. I came up with a new angle – threaten to move in with him if he doesn’t show effort to change his behaviors!! He’ll hate that. It may make him leave or change his ways. He’s not threatening. I can make sure the house is maintained and things are there for my grandson. Oh, and Laura (dated 2/29/2016 above), don’t get your son an apartment! I did that after my son got out of jail. Lots of privacy and it did not end well. You will hear about all the problems. Don’t do it. We all have to make the hard decision to back off and let their lives go in the direction they are destined to go. I know in my case, this is now becoming a negative to my health. Heart palpitations. No sleep. Me and my husband get together with friend very seldom. Exhausted and don’t what to have people ask how he is doing. We have done more than enough. He had a happy childhood. Everyone OK except him. We are still married, my son respects both of us. He is mentally ill, I know, but intellectually, I cant let him take my life down with him. I’m slowly moving to what I know I have to do (with lots of reading). The move I have to take may take a few months to make happen.

  7. Mary January 6, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    I have a 32 year old son who has been an alcoholic for the last several years. He was on drugs as well but seems to have moved past that thanks to 3 different rehabs. We allowed him and his girlfriend to move back in to our home because they were sleeping in the car and the winter was coming. That was the worst mistake we have made. He doesn’t work, girlfriend does, he lies around all day, saying it is his depression stopping him from getting sober. I constantly search the basement for hidden bottles of vodka throwing them out really upsets my son but right now I do not care. It is starting to impact my marriage and our physical being. We have put together a plan. We have already taken his car(it was in our name and we paid for), to turn off phone, ask girlfriend to move out (she gives him money), and set up a timeline for him to be sober and working, or he is out by early spring. I wish I knew if this is the best approach. His therapist feels parent support is important but I feel we are just enabling. He almost died 2 years ago from liver complications caused by drinking but that still did not stop him from starting again, after a year of sobriety. If anyone has better idea we are open. We are tapped out financially given the past rehabs but would be willing to try a different plan.

  8. Sharon January 27, 2017 at 8:21 am

    I have a 27 year old son who drinks to relieve his anxiety. He works 20 hrs a week in the evenings delivering pizza (has had this job since high school) and then stays up until 4am and sleeps all day and then it begins again. He got a university degree in 2014. After that he has never looked for a full time job and his anxiety worsened and so did his alcohol use. He goes through times where he eats healthy and exercises but that has happened for awhile. He worked on an organic farm last summer and wasn’t drinking because he had to be there at 7am everyday so I know he can do it and he wants to work there again this summer, but that is not a career and he will never be able to move out. He makes just enough money for his cell phone, car, food and liquor. He has no more friends, never goes out and I only work part time so I get so annoyed having him in the house constantly. He won’t go to counselling and how do you drag an adult? This is working for him and obviously as parents we just have let it slide. My daughter who is 19 absolutely dislikes him and is angry that he gets to do nothing. He doesn’t clean his room and barely does any laundry. My husband works in the U.S. right now and is hardly home so its hard to work together on this. My idea is to have him sign a rule sheet and if I catch him drinking again in his room he has to pack a bag, I will get the locks changed and out he goes. As tough as that would be I can’t think of anything else.

  9. Sarah March 3, 2017 at 4:11 pm

    I was married to an alcoholic and thought that if he just stopped drinking, everything would be ok that the problem was the alcohol. Long story short, after spending hellacious years getting him into rehab., he finally stopped drinking for years. Turns out that he never “learned to live life” and that the problem was not the alcohol, the alcohol was his solution to his problems. We divorced and his very heavy drinking commenced.

    Now my stepson has various addictions the one in recent years being alcohol. It really tears my relationship with his father apart. It is very difficult for some people to stop enabling even adult offspring. The problem lies in all parties and won’t have any hope of being resolved until changes are made. The sad truth is everything you’ve described above. Of course the addict doesn’t want to change. They will lie and manipulate to get their way. The ones that really suffer are the sober ones. Until everyone stops enabling the addict has no hope for long term change. It doesn’t guarantee change will happen as they have to make it happen, but it is guaranteed to never change otherwise. Also, as you said above. alcoholism is a choice. And it’s not fair to the rest of the family to punish them for one person’s choices. We tend to concentrate and become entangled in the chaos of the addict’s life often forgetting about the other family member’s needs. This is not only unfair it’s damaging and will ruin those relationships guaranteed.

  10. Michele March 6, 2017 at 10:30 am

    I can empathize with all the stories. My 55 year old alcoholic brother moved in with my elderly 87 year old Father a couple of years ago. My Mom passed away in 2014 and was bedridden for years before that. My dad was her caretaker and I helped with her. I don’t live there but live a block away and would always go over after work to help relieve my dad. He was in pretty good health at that time. Now he is 87 and has all kinds of health issues. He is also on Oxygen now and my brother has been and is continuing to smoke in the house! He lies and says he isn’t, but if you go in the room where he stays, you see ashtrays with butts in them. Plus, you can smell it.

    My brother got fired from his job of 30 years for drinking in May of 2015 and has not worked since. His home that he had owned for 15 years was foreclosed on because he simply quit paying the bills, even though he was working at the time. My parents had also bailed him out a couple of times before the actual foreclosure by catching him up on back mortgage payments, hoping he would start being responsible and making the payments. It didn’t happen. They foreclosed on him and he lost the house. When my relatives and I walked in his house to get his stuff, OMG it was a scene out the show, “Hoarders!” Only it was just TRASH. No valuable possessions or things he collected….just trash stacked upon more trash. We couldn’t believe it, but that is a whole different story. But that’s how he ended up at my Dad’s house. And now the trash hoarding is going on in my dad’s house.

    He is drunk every single day and makes no sense when he speaks. It’s as if he has no brain cells left to even comprehend a sentence or verbalize one properly. He seems a bit psychotic with only the abilities of grade school kid. He cooks for my Dad and thinks he is taking care of him. My Dad is being a total enabler and seems to take up for him. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t want to be alone? But every time the family goes to see my Dad, my brother is there, drunk as usual and not making sense. Plus, the house has become a pig sty with filth and dust and nicotine yellow on everything and everywhere, that I don’t know how my Dad is breathing in there at all.

    I need to find a way to get him out, but can’t do that unless my father agrees to it. He is killing my dad and everyone can see it. What to do? I have no clue.

    Quite frankly

    My sister-in-law and

  11. Barb March 14, 2017 at 10:57 am

    Too much alcohol on a consistent basis actually changes the brain. It can be changed back over time and with professional help. His mental capacity already sounds disturbed. I would take him to a psychologist or psychiatrist for help. A psychologist is probably better as you can get in to see her\him sooner. Tell him he has to go or your family will kick him out immediately! Good Luck!!!

  12. Colleen March 15, 2017 at 11:00 am

    I have a son who is an alcoholic this has been going on for over 8yrs and I have the same stories as many people. Two 30 day stays at rehab. Intensive outpt therapy x five. He had a sponsor and was attending AA but not sure what happened in the last few weeks. I know he hasn’t been to work (someone called my husband to let him know) He doesn’t ask me for money yet. he has a job and a home but does not have any significant other and lives by himself. During a brief stint of sobriety he did get a dog but wasn’t able to keep him. I have decided (yes, I know it has been eight years) to leave him alone. I will not go to his home and check I will not call/ text or email. While he was sober we communicated dly. My heart is broken but I think this may be the best thing.

  13. Irma March 23, 2017 at 9:20 pm

    I am completely heartbroken. My son is 39,has a good job but that’s it. He has no friends, relationships with women, church or social life. He has two sons,16 and 15 and cannot see them (they live in another state ). He pays 50% of his entire check to child support. He can’t afford an his own apartment, so he rents a bedroom in a house. He can’t drive (3 DUI’s and can’t afford a car. All his extra money (after rent )goes to beer (that’s all he drinks). He is extremely lonely and feels completely unloved. He is an alcoholic and has no desire to change. He says it hurts much to be sober. My husband and I don’t provide financial help (at this point, ) we’ve spent thousands over the years but our heartbreak is very deep to see our son suffering so much.

  14. Bill Covino March 27, 2017 at 7:46 am

    reafing these stories is just heartbreaking. I have a 37 year old son who has struggled with alcohol for 20 years. And I had a son 35 who never had any problems. , successful smart a longtime girlfriend who together they created a successful business. They moved out of state in 2014 and 6 months later he was back a broken man. She had broken up wIth him. Stole his dog business etc. he couldn’t handle it and became severely depressed so I thought. What I discovered was he was drinking at night and just sleeping all day and he could not get past his breakup. In the meantime my other son who also lived at home was 2 years into sobriety and he could not watch what his brother was doing and moved out . It was chaos in our home. Meanwhil he was so severely depressed I took him to the hospital 3 times he refused to stay. He refused all help. From his friends and family. He kept saying over and over again there was nothing wrong with him. We couldn’t watch this anymore and asked him to leave. He went to a hotel everyday we talked to him and told him he needed to get help and needed to be in the hospital. His body was breaking down ., Living in the hotel was not good , he could come home anytime to figure out his next step if he stopped drinking. 3 weeks later He died at the hotel of acute alcohol poisoning . 7 months From the time he moved back wth us . We didn’t even get a chance to wrap our heads around this . Why did have to die. I am so heartbroken over the choice we made to make him leave his one year anniversary is this week and everyday has been a struggle. we sold our home and downsized and our other son moved out on his own . Now after 3 years of sobriety he has started drinking again. He is just debased about his brother. He is going to counseling We are afraid of loosing him too. Heartbroken , have so much guilt. Why couldn’t I have just let him stay in the house. Maybe he would have come around. I don’t think leaving them on their own is the best advice. I don’t tknow what the answer is or how to help . I just wish things turned out different for us 7 months is just too quick to die when there was never any prior problem. We thought we were doing the right thing as we had the experience with our other son who had been in and out of rehab and asking for a sober home was not an unreasonable request we thought. Our hearts are broken and fear for our other sons life now . We have gone to compassionate friends for help. I wish that no one here becomes a member . We need better laws to help adult children suffering from addictions. We need to be able to have a say in the care parents know their child best and the laws should change giving us a voice for their health care when you know they are in danger

  15. Carol March 28, 2017 at 7:44 am

    I read all your comments and feel like this is just a hopeless situation. My son is 31 and is married with two kids. He spent 11 days in the hospital last October because he stopped drinking for 12 hours and began having severe DTs and seizures. He almost died from than episode, but my daughter-in-law, husband and I thought it was a wake-up call for him. He said he wanted to get better, but from the beginning he would not seek treatment. He did go to a therapist for awhile, but quit. Yesterday my d-in-law found him face down in a pool of blood in the garage where he was having more seizures and hit his head. He’s in the hospital again going through detox. His wife told him he could not come home unless he was enrolled in an alcohol program. He doesn’t believe shes serious and is already saying he’ll get some counseling once he’s out. Since his wife won’t take him back, he will have to come live with my husband and I. I’m so angry with him that I don’t even feel supportive right now. His choices are affecting our lives, and I don’t want that to happen. I want to be supportive and help him recover, but I’m just about done.

  16. Mila Gonzalez May 16, 2017 at 8:56 pm

    My mother is 67, dealing with cancer, and my oldest brother is 47 and is addicted to alcohol, mainly Fireball. He has contacted my mother on several occasions telling her that he has an addiction, needs help, finds a way to stop drinking for a month or so, and then calls her stating that he can no longer lie to her, his boss, or anyone else. I need to help my brother as soon as I can and I don’t know how. Is there anything that you can suggest??

  17. Jenny May 17, 2017 at 10:24 pm

    What would really help me is to find a place where we could send our son where he had a roof over his head, food, etc. and could work and learn life skills.

  18. Joe peterson June 1, 2017 at 7:04 pm

    My wife and I are 72. My son has been an alcoholic since age 14. We adopted him at 18 months. We met the mother who was 13. She informed us that her father was willing to raise him, but he was an alcoholic, and thus decided to put him up for adoption. Well evidently he somehow has the same genes if alcoholism is hereditary.

    Well he had be sentenced to Prison for three years. Well my wife insists to allow him to live with us without medications.
    I would be willing to take a chance, but under certain conditions.
    Obtain Peaceful contact order. This would allow him to live in the house unless there is intimidation or physical contact.
    He needs to start taking Naltrexone monthly and be monitored. This needs to be in the Peaceful Contact Order.
    I really want to give him his last chance to live with us, but under strict restrictions.
    In addition I will have to purchase a Taser made by Taser International which has a range of 15 ft. which is legal to poses. Any range over 15 ft. are used by the police. In addition the company would replace it if I had to use it and it was lost.
    There are a few non lethal products I can also purchase. No one will know about any of my defense weapons.
    I had 5 stun guns in the house prior to his arrest, but never used them.
    For some reason, I always been the one he would attack. Maybe because when he was young, and after consulting many doctors, their recommendation was that I needed to hold him down while my wife would calm him down.
    The real physical attacks started before 2010. The first psychiatrist I visited, my wife refused to tell her why she was sleeping on the couch. Also, whenever I complained about my son, the psychiatrist’s conclusion was that I was obsessive compulsive. My wife never backed up any of my comments.
    Oh yes, the only reason I now see a psychiatrist now once a year is that I take Adderall for Narcolepsy and is a controlled substance.

  19. Cara ellison September 11, 2017 at 12:05 pm

    I have a situation where my son and his girlfriend live with us and they have a 3 year old daughter together they are both alcoholics , I don’t know what to do anymore , I worry about my grand daughter if I kick them out , they both have no drive to make there lives better and I’m stuck dealing with it , it is starting to take a goll on me and my husband my sons girlfriend is not good for my son but he will not take any steps to get out of the relationship because of his daughter , I’m so done I want my life back

  20. Dr. Mary Ellen Barnes & Dr. Ed Wilson September 11, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    You have a tough situation. You could try to get custody of your granddaughter on the grounds that they are not caring for her properly. Or you could report them to Child Protective Services and she might be taken into protective custody and removed from them until they clean up. Right now you and your husband are sacrificing your lives to perhaps help your grand daughter. Your son has made his choice, he wants to stay with the mother of his child because he wants his child, but only to a point. In reality he prefers drinking to being a good dad. I assume you are doing more to care for her than he is. In many ways, you are not doing your son and his girlfriend any favors because they can live pretty well with you footing the bill. Maybe it is time to kick them out and then report them to Children Protective Services.

  21. Margaret October 5, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    Our son is 39 years old. He has a college degree and a master’s degree. He got married a year ago to a beautiful young lady who has a 9 year old daughter. He did well for over 15 months. He started drinking again. He goes out in his car, parks it, and then gets so drunk he passes out. His wife continues to find him so he does not have any arrest records. He tries to act as if everything is okay in the mornings – he texts his sister, his dad, and me. Then, he drinks so much he passes out. We are so done with this behavior. We know we enable him when we try to make sure he is sober enough to work. Help!

  22. Margaret October 8, 2017 at 6:44 am

    My son is 39 years old. He has been married to his second wife for over a year. He is a stepdad to his wife’s ten year old daughter. He has managed to stay sober for 15 months. After a vacation with the whole family, he started drinking again. He drinks until he passes out. His wife keeps finding him and bringing him home. (He drinks in his car.) We think he finally lost his job. He would not get out of bed for several days. As his mother, I am at a loss as to what to do. I worry about what he is doing every single minute of the day. My job is being affected. Help!

  23. Carolyn December 7, 2017 at 2:14 am

    I have a 29 yo son with a drinking & I feel some type of drug problem. His behavior is destroying him and pulling me down. I put him out bc of his disrespect and lack of help. At 57, I should be enjoying my life not stressing over his. I have felt the need to be there especially in the last 11 yrs. My son’s identical twin was killed at 18, but the living twin was the target. He started seriously drinking after that. I got him counselling but his father didn’t think he needed it (dad was abusive & alcoholic). I felt so bad after losing my son, I just wanted to keep him safe (My oldest son was dealing with our loss negatively but made it through) but it’s has only gotten worse. I am tired of feeling it is my responsibility to get him on track. I have to make myself a priority. I let him come back after a few weeks bc he was sleeping in abandoned houses. It just isn’t working for me. He refuses to get help. He has a 10 yo son, whom he rarely sees. Thankfully, my oldest son spends quality time with him. It’s time for me to let go. At 29, it’s his life and his choices. God bless you and keep you, son.

  24. Lois Barish December 20, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    Does mental illness make it impossible to help alcoholics? Daughter has borderline personality disorder and uses alcohol to self medicate. She hates herself for it but cannot stop. I’ve been supporting her and am beginning to learn that I’m just making it worse. Any ideas?

  25. MARIAN December 20, 2017 at 5:50 pm

    I came to this site looking for help with an alcoholic adult son. Reading all these stories of others dealing with similar situations makes me realize that this is a bigger problem than I can handle. I feel overwhelmed. My 38 yr old son lives with us. He has terrible anxiety, and it’s become worse from years of self medicating with alcohol. It has become so bad that when he tries to stop, he has had seizures. He doesn’t work, and he badgers us to get what he wants. So, yes we are enabling, and I can’t seem to stop. My husband has Parkinson’s, so I deal with that as well. It’s hard to be strong. I just don’t know where to turn. Any advice appreciated.

  26. Tammie December 25, 2017 at 6:08 pm

    I too have a 25 year old alcoholic son. He currently is in jail for a probation violation and has been there for 3 weeks now. His next court date isn’t until January 12th. He missed Christmas and will miss New Years! This addiction has been going on for 5 years now. He graduated from college with a BS and then came to l Be with us, so he could get his life back on track. Needless to say that didn’t work bc he just kept drinking. I’m sick and tired of this life I’ve somehow put myself in. I’ve enabled him and am now at the point I just won’t do it anymore. We Financially we have been sucked down in his addiction and his needs. It’s always about his needs and his problems. I now
    have heart palpitations, don’t sleep and am depressed myself. This has caused a strain on my marriage and relationship with my other son. I literally can’t and won’t do this anymore! He has to want to help himself and make changes! He is a grown ass man and needs to start figuring life out! I’m tired of spending every waking minute focused on his addiction!

  27. Scott December 31, 2017 at 8:51 pm

    OMG I came to this site and found my son is just like everyone else here. I have exhausted all other options for help, be it state, local, county help there is nothing unless he himself wants help. I am so tired and broke like the rest of you that I am searching online for answers. I don’t know what to do.

  28. Scott December 31, 2017 at 9:16 pm

    Yep, that is my son exactly and my exact same questions!! What do I do? Where is the help?

  29. Dr. Mary Ellen Barnes & Dr. Ed Wilson January 1, 2018 at 10:23 am

    It is a very difficult situation. If you son is an adult, you can tell him to move out. Tell him you love him and when he is ready to get help, you will assist him in finding help but you are not enabling him anymore. This is not your fault, no matter what you son tells you. This is his choice to medicate whatever his issues are rather than working on them and learning better coping skills.

  30. Linda January 9, 2018 at 6:32 am

    My daughter is in her 40’s with a husband and a cup,e of young kids. She lives in her own home. For many years she has been an alcoholic. Recently she went thru rehab and is presently not drinking and continuing outpatient rehab. Here is my question. My husband and I are snowbirds. My other children are telling us we have no right to go south with this going on in the family. What do you think? Do we need to stay home?

  31. Dr. Mary Ellen Barnes & Dr. Ed Wilson January 9, 2018 at 6:41 am

    Why would you need to stay home? You are not her keeper. If she can’t do this with the in-person support of her husband and the people in her outpatient program, then it will never work. You are as close as the phone should she need to talk. Do not fall into the trap of being held hostage by your daughter and her drinking. You have a right to live your life. If your other children think otherwise, tell them it is not your job. You did your job already.

  32. Candace January 16, 2018 at 7:32 am

    My son is 25 and for the last 6 months or so has started drinking on days off and then progressed to include short periods of time between his job (he works two jobs, both about 30/hrs a week). He’s always been a partier but this is something new. He has stopped twice in the past 3 months and had extensive withdrawal, then just a couple of days ago went out and bought another bottle of cheap vodka. He had a terrible night last night, and I reacted very badly. This morning he is saying he’s garbage and wants to “disappear.” He doesn’t have enough money to move out on his own, and my other son and I don’t want him to–we just want him to stay off the bottle. He refuse to go to AA because of the Christian aspect and though I think he is depressed, he won’t see a doctor (h has no health insurance, but could pay something to a therapist, I am sure. I am afraid he will lose his jobs and then it will just get worse, but I also think he should quit one of the jobs (that may be contributing to his state of mind).

  33. Melanie parks February 27, 2018 at 6:42 pm

    My son is 33 and a functioning. Alvholic. He holds a supervisor position, pays his bills. Has his own home..never asks for my help. He shows up at family functions drunk, no matter what time of day we have them. He visits relatives in hospitals and he is drunk. He has a live in girlfriend with 2 small children. She drinks with him. I have tried and tried to get him to stop, he even admits he is an Alcholic., and hates himself for it. Here is my breaking heart point tonight. I have had premonitions about things in my future and the future of others, that have Come True. I had a premonition my son was drunk driving and killed 2 people, seriously injuring himself. My son ended up getting life sentence in this premonition, and I can’t stop crying. I want to go to him and plead for him to get help, knowing it will not help. Yet, if I do nothing, and this horrible premonition happens..how do I help him when he doesn’t take the help.

  34. Laurie March 2, 2018 at 7:31 pm

    I am wondering what people see as the most effective help they can give their adult child alcoholic? How do you let go effectively? How do you stop worrying? I am desperate to stop obsessing and live my own life! Maybe your words can encourage me?

  35. Dr. Mary Ellen Barnes & Dr. Ed Wilson March 4, 2018 at 2:10 pm

    It is super difficult and as a parent you can probably never totally disengage. Try to keep reminding yourself that this is a choice your adult child is making and when he/she is ready, they will either get help or ask for it from you. You can make it known to them that you stand ready to help when they are ready. You can stop rewarding bad behavior and stop giving them money, etc. Your child needs to feel some consequences for his/her choices. I am not sure it is possible to truly stop worrying about the destructive choices our children are making but always remember that they have a right to make bad choices if they want and you can do little about it.

  36. Dr. Mary Ellen Barnes & Dr. Ed Wilson March 4, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    Go to him and tell him about your premonition and beg him to stop, once again. That is all you can do. It is his choice as to what to do with this. But you will have told him what you foresee and that is really all you can do. As for how to help him – just let him know that you love him and stand ready to help when he is ready for help.

  37. Diane Wolfe May 3, 2018 at 8:31 am

    my son is 26 years old and is using alcohol as a weapon when he doesn’t get his way. My ex husband was transporting him to an addiction program and I was picking him up. one day I was unable to accommodate him. He ordered alcohol and started drinking. I have removed myself from the situation and am being badgered by my ex husband stating I am a bad parent. I am trying to explain that us enabling him is not helping him but he won’t listen.

  38. Mary May 8, 2018 at 11:42 am

    My daughter is 40 yrs old 2 children 17 and 12….she was in rehab for 1 month a little over a year ago and she also went for 3 months of outpatient therapy for alcohol abuse . She was a closet drinker…never saw it coming!!! Now I’m not sure what to think. She recently has surgery(hysterectomy) large fibroids but even before that she was sleeping a lot and missing work…telling me and her husband she was not feeling well because of her fibroids. Now 4 weeks after her surgery, she was suppose to go to the doctor this morning….I called her and she told me she slept right thru her appointment so she missed her appointment. She says there is something wrong…she is so tired all the time yet the dr. says everything seems normal. Her husband and also I asked her if she is drinking and she says no. Her husband has looked all over for any signs of alcohol in the house but can’t find any. Do you think she is just lying to me? Should I ask her again if she is drinking? Will she just continue to lie until something terrible happens. Worried but will not support her if she is drinking…it’s her choice but so very heartbreaking to watch her destroy herself…What can I do to help her!!!

  39. Retha May 14, 2018 at 12:34 pm

    Dear Dr Mary.
    My daughther is 40. Divorsed. Live in her own
    Flat. She doesnt work just sits and drink all the time or sleeping of to much drinking. Her alcolism is so bad she hardly eats and complawns about money (gets allowance) from ex husband. But seems like there’s always anough for whiskey and sigarettes. Her health over the years has deteriorated to such a extent she can’t drive her car anymore and can hardly walk from room to the toilet. Her feet are so big and swollen from all the drinking. She claims she gets blackouts but I know she passes out of drinking to much. Hurts herself, cracked ribs Tec. Reduces to go to a hospital because she knows she can’t drink there. I take food to her sometimes when I can. Sometimes she ate some sometime not. She has been drinking for about 16 years. Started slowly and it just got worse and worse. Sometimes she drinks right through the night and sleeps almost the whole following day. Her flat is a mess as she can hardly walk or do anything for herself. I have had sòoooooooooo enough of her situation and today totally lost it. I today told her if she wants to drink herself to death then just do it and get it over and done with. I can’t handle it anymore. I’m 63 I have a husband with altzheimer I have to work until I die. No pension. And then must still see to her when I come from work and then home to deal with a alzheimers. My eldest daughter has epilepsy and looks after her father during the day. Sometimes getting fits and it is very stress full on her too. I don’t know how to handle all of this anymore

  40. Felicia Alexander May 15, 2018 at 8:48 am

    I’m reading all the stories. They are all the same, I am also in the same predicament. My son is 31 was a good student had a career welding is an artist , can’t stop drinking. There is no help out there. I keep hitting brick walls

  41. Hannah May 16, 2018 at 7:34 pm

    my son is 23yrs old he is an addict the funny part i have long stop giving any money but he is always high he goes out every day and comes back high.Im confused & very stressed

  42. Gayle May 31, 2018 at 9:06 am

    My daughter is 41, has a wonderful husband, two beautiful young daughters, and a lovely home. She has a drinking problem and I’m afraid that it will destroy her life. She is choosing to spend her time with her drinking friends instead of her family, and her children are noticing that she’s ignoring them. This is breaking my heart. My other children are distancing themselves from her because they, and their spouses, do not want to be around her because of her drinking. Should I tell her that she has a problem and needs help?

  43. Dr. Mary Ellen Barnes & Dr. Ed Wilson June 5, 2018 at 5:21 am

    You can tell her, but it probably won’t make a difference to her. She knows what she is doing and has found a way to justify it in her mind, so she will probably just ignore what you say or get angry. But, do tell her, it will make you feel like you are doing something proactive and maybe, just maybe, she will hear you.

  44. Tara June 20, 2018 at 6:31 pm

    My son is 30..been drinking for.over 10 years
    Several rehabs…jail..duis..etc….he kept getting mad at us and begging for money. He has wrecked every car we have bought…now he has no place to live..no money….no car…and most of his clothes are at my house. He is also on probation….we just cut out ties because he has milked us for over 200k..help what do we do. And he has caused problems.woth his brother…he gets mad at us for helping or enabling him….it has us all tore apart

  45. Lulu July 10, 2018 at 3:38 am

    Everyone is leaving comments about what they are going through with their children but no one is actually giving advice at all. There are important factors that need to be taken into account before you can actually help someone with an alcohol problem and that is ….. 1. Do they admit they have a problem…..2. Do they actually want to stop drinking. If the answer to both of these questions is YES then there is hope and if the answer is NO then anything you try to do to help them is not going to work guaranteed. Giving up alcohol is one of the hardest things to do and also requires a huge amount of will power. That is why if a person trys to stop to please others they almost always fail. If they try to stop through their own choice their is a good chance it will work. Generally the reasons that people drink is to block off feelings that they don’t want to deal with for example anxiety/depression and so its not just giving up the drinking that is the problem it is also treating the feelings that are causing them to drink. Its is difficult to know if it is the alcohol causing the anxiety/depression or vice versa. Rehab doesnt work as it only deals with the problem at the time they are their and once they are left to their own devices they will drink again as it like holding their breath for the time they are their and thats all. Rehab will only work if it is the persons choice to go there and that they also want to put the effort in also to get better. It is a know fact that many give up drinking whilst in prison for many years and you would think after all that time they would not start again but the reason that they do is that the situation was forced upon them and not a choice that they freely made. Once again proving that even if you can stop a person drinking for a long period of time that given the chance they will drink again. The only way forward is to get them to deal with what ever is making them feel that they need to drink rather than trying to make them stop. Unless the root of the problem is dealt with then they will go back to drinking again anyway so they don’t have to feel like it anymore. Its not because they don’t love you or respect you its because they can’t help themselves and don’t know what else to do. Also the guilt they have to deal with knowing they are causing everyone upset makes them feel worse and to drink even more. Its a sad situation and not a quick solution to it im afraid but all I can say is don’t give up hope and put in the time by talking to them and listening and getting them the right type of therapy. Your time and support is more important than money and letting them know that you are there when they decide that they want to make the move themselves to get better. It might not be this week or even this year but they will come to the decision one day and you will be there to support them. Until that time just be there for them and let them know that you can’t help fund their habit and you want to help but its their choice and their life and they are the only ones that can make that first move. By the way my son is a 32 year old recovering alcoholic and its early days yet but hes doing well and its still a long road ahead but it will be worth it…

  46. Abdul aziz July 23, 2018 at 5:37 am

    Much need article for this generation,Most of them are struggling with alcohol and depression too,awareness is much important for this habits,I am going to share this article for my friends to gain some knowledge,keep sharing with us.

  47. Barb January 6, 2019 at 3:53 am

    I just saw a post I made in 2016 and not much has changed. My son is 41, I am 64 and retied now. If only my son was a functional alcoholic I’d take that! He lives in a house I inherited and doesn’t work. He has gone to 2 rehabs but he seems to be getting worse as time moves forward.

    I cant afford to feed him and pay taxes on the house he lives in. I gave him notice that I am selling the house he lives in in the spring but I am afraid I will be creating a bigger problem for myself worrying even more about his welfare.

    So is forcing him to be responsible for himself going to be a good move for me? I’m having anxiety attacks now and I have to make a change here. I think he doesn’t work because he can still have a comfortable home in a decent neighborhood. And thinking about it, he has been taken care of his whole life. When he worked for my husband for 13 years, we put up with the no shows. Not sure he can actually make it in the real world. Anyone have experience with forcing someone to stand on their own two feet?

  48. Mark July 18, 2019 at 10:09 pm

    Barb, I am sort of in the same boat. My son is 39 and lives at home with me. I have been a single father since he was 13. I can not kick him out because I will be worried sick over his well being. he did work for me in the family business but decided over ten years ago he didn’t have to work or just didn’t want to.I am now retired and can’t keep this up. I am lost and stresse d to the point that it is affecting my health. I wish there was an answer. If ou here of what others have done please post. Thanks

  49. Albert August 7, 2019 at 6:47 am


    Thanks for your post and i’m sorry to hear. Addiction certainly is cunning and baffling and is the only illness i know which will sometime force family to have to turn there back on there own family. There is a solution though.

    I’m in recovery myself and battled endlessly until i was finally beaten enough to A) ask for help and B) put in the work required to overcome the illness. I was expelled from school, messed up exams and stole from family and friends constantly to drink. I was diagnosed with alcoholism at the age of 18, i attended my first in patient treatment program at the age of 19 suffice to say i was not ready or willing to change. I played and manipulated my loved ones constantly in order to obtain the funds and means to continue my using with little to no regard of what i was doing to them or putting them through. when i was 22 i thought i had enough, lost the girl i though i was in love with and after another drinking spree which involved yet another hospital visit i thought i was ready so i rocked up at the doors of AA in London ready to give it a go and i did, i went through the 12 steps and worked the program on a daily basis, i wish i could leave it there but Alcohol and drugs are subtle foes… I stopped the meetings and stopped working the program, finished university still sober and the girl had come back into my life. I was offered a job in New York and decided i could drink again, the brakes came off and very quickly the insanity returned, i was posted to Dubai and the binges came closer and closer together needless to say the girl left again and the family started to push me away. After i was fired i returned to London and tried AA again, i went in and out multiple times in a 3 year period managing to obtain 3-6 weeks of sobriety each time, i had multiple sponsors who tried to help me but in my mind they were the fault and the reason i kept going in and out, My father ever loyal ensured i wasnt homeless and supported me in many ways which i used with efficiency. I WAS incapable of taking responsibility and being honest with anyone including myself, the usual things happened Homelessness, Destitution, Bankruptcy, multiple hospital visits and countless relationships. I moved to Asia for work and again the drinking continued destined for 6 feet under i continued and give up on AA and sobriety. What happened for me the in was divine intervention and love from my father. As i sat in my flat (now in Marocco) i was sitting drinking alone as usual, having just been fired from job number 25, something happened, a real gift. I saw my life go before me, (it didn’t look good) then i had a flash that i could change and the sudden urge to do so over took me.

    I opted and was fortunate enough for my father to give me the opportunity to attend a in treatment rehab in South Africa (6th treatment centre)(Highlands Recovery), which i jumped at with all haste, the game was up for me and i could feel it in my heart the drinking was done. Furthermore alcohol was not doing what i wanted it do, felt miserable with and with out it, if i was to continue the doctors would have been rite and i would be dead by 30. I went down to SA attended treatment in a facility which prides itself on being the final treatment center you will ever need. A lot of foreigners go there due to the costs and environments being much nicer than other places. I got involved in the program and picked up a new sponsor, My father supported me and now my family are back in my life, my friends are back, i have a piece and serenity which is more wonderful as time passes and have a career in a industry i never thought i would be in.

    I’m now 28 and life is opening up, what i’m trying to say is, i had to beat myself into the ground many times before i was willing to help myself, what people told me went over my head and i wasn’t interested int here help. I got ready to listen and opened up. Went through the steps which changed my whole outlook and attitude. I did it for me and so i didn’t have to be that person again. This is a illness that centers in the mind and tells the carrier they don’t have it. I help others now and give back, when i look back on who i was i cringe and cant believe who that guy is. Most importantly i give back and im there for my family who now trust me. Dont give up, there is a way out and there are people willing to help. i’m more than willing.

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