The sobering truth about a drunk parent


You may or may not be aware of this but if you’re a parent who tends to get a bit more than tipsy on a regular occasion, you probably don’t really know exactly how you behave around your kids and family when you do.

Read more: Moms & wine: a secret addiction

Too drunk to be a parent

Everyone enjoys a glass of wine here and there and sometimes it’s nice to get out with friends and thank your mother-in-law or babysitter for giving you a night without the kids to let go a bit.

Parents who drink regularly and excessively can become overbearing and exhausting for their children (and partners) to be around, especially when school or studies are a big focus and when the quality of home-life is more important than ever.

What a lot of parents who are regular drinkers don’t realise or easily accept is that their behaviours are often completely different to what they are when sober.

Raised by an alcoholic

I grew up hearing the words "your dad is a major alcoholic" more than enough to accept it.

I was used to hearing it and I was used to living with him like that. That's just the way it was for me. 

I never really understood it all until my teenage years when seeing him fall around all over the house, shout profanities at my mom and siblings and break things became more stressful and embarrassing. 

It became even more clear that he had a problem when I'd visit my friends and notice that their parents never seemed to behave the way my dad often did.

I envied my friends who would go home to normal parents after school every day without having to hide in their room just so that they didn't have to be annoyed by a reckless drunken parent.

When my dad was sober (which wasn't often enough) my siblings and I would grab the opportunity to try and bond with him and attempt some sort of normal and less destructive relationship with him. We treasured those moments and even though he'd soon enough go back to the delinquent and toxic person he'd become after 3 litres of wine, we knew that the real him was a good, kind and loving father.

When you grow up trying to make the most of your unpredictable and irrationally behaved alcoholic parent, the reality of things hits you a lot harder when you become an adult and start to understand more.

I've never used my family situation as an excuse as to why I can't achieve the things I want to achieve or why I have faults of my own, but I can't deny or be oblivious to the fact that my life has been affected by it somewhat. 

Your kids and your habits

Children are extremely perceptive and they pick up on a lot more than you think. Every time your behaviour changes your child subconsciously adapts to the way you are around them so that they can express themselves and interact with you accordingly.  

If your kids have to change the way they react towards you and your behaviours every time you drink what sort of effect do you think that has on their emotional stability and well-being?

It’s also worth considering the likelihood that your kids will develop the same habits as you (hopefully only later on) in life.

There is strong scientific evidence to prove that the children of alcoholics are more at risk for alcoholism and other drug abuse than children of non alcoholics. (see

So if you know that you probably drink too much or too often and you assume that your kids don't notice, think before you open the third bottle of wine tonight.

If you and your family are struggling with alcohol addiction visit the Al-Anon website for advice and help. 

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24. 

Do you have a family member with a drinking problem? Send your comments to

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