Agony Aunt

Patricia Marie, MBACP qualified counsellor is a member of The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, practising in Harley Street, Essex and Scotland. She has many years experience of dealing with domestic violence, relationship problems, bereavement, depression, addictions, post traumatic stress and many other emotional issues. If you have a dilemma, please email

My mother is an alcoholic

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 11 September 2015
My mother is an alcoholic and it's affecting us all. I now live quite a distance away so only visit a couple of times a month. Mother is supposed to be caring for my dad as he is disabled. He has a carer but not at weekends now as someone from social services has to come, as she forgets to give him his medication and cook for him. The family have done so much to try to help her. My brother took her to the doctors who did liver tests and said she would die soon if she did not stop drinking. She refused to go back to Alcoholics Anonymous after two sessions. She says she is seeking help, but it's all lies. She has antidepressants but doesn't take them. She hides alcohol all over the house. If we throw it away she buys more. Bills are not getting paid. The grandchildren don't want to visit her as she is always intoxicated. I am getting married soon and would love her to be at the wedding, but I know she will be drunk. My sister has advised me not to go out of my way to help, as she tried and it made her ill. How can I get my mother to stop drinking?

Patricia Marie says...

Family members of an alcohol dependent person often ask the same question you have, but sadly, the reply is never straightforward. Alcoholism effectively becomes a family disease - if one person is drinking to excess, everyone around them is affected. Alcoholics are often in denial, blaming bad circumstances or other people for their addiction. Drink becomes so important to them that they are unable to see the damage caused by their destructive and hurtful behaviour to those who love and want to help them, and efforts to force them to admit to their problem usually cause more resentment. Generally, only when the consequences of their drinking become too painful will they reach out for help.

Alcoholics Anonymous recommends 'detachment with love'. As your sister has discovered, if you don't allow yourself to stand back a little, it can seriously affect your health. You have to understand that you cannot stop your mum from drinking - only she can choose to do this. Pouring away, watering down or hiding her alcohol may make matters worse, and she could become angry or secretive.

Do remind your mother how much you love her, but you cannot help her if she is not willing to help herself, as it is destroying your life too. She needs to take responsibility for her own life. Be firm, and emphasise you are extremely concerned that unless she gets professional help soon, she will cause lasting grief to all her family.
You are about to get married - your own happiness should be priority. Make it clear to your mum that it would ruin your special day if she became drunk at your wedding, which may prompt her to finally address the alcoholism.

Whether your mum chooses to get help or not, ensure you seek the support you deserve. Contact The National Association for the family of Alcoholics, an excellent organisation offering tremendous support for people in your situation. And of course, Alcoholics Anonymous can be contacted if your mother could find the courage to call them.

The National association for the family of Alcoholics: 0800 358 3456
Alcoholics Anonymous: 020 7833 0022
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