How can I deal with my alcoholic parents?
April 24, 2011 4:53 PM Subscribe
What are my opinions for dealing with my alcoholic parents while they spend the week with us?
posted by anonymous to human relations (38 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
My parents are functioning alcoholics. They don't acknowledge their alcoholism. It has gotten worse in the last decade but it has always been an issue. We live an entire day's plane ride away and we generally try to avoid visits with them altogether. We are WASPy passive-aggressive Guess culture types so there has been no formal and very little informal discussion of their drinking ever. (FWIW, my husband and I drink a little - a beer or glass of wine with dinner. I've been pregnant or breastfeeding for the majority of the last 5 years though, so I haven't drank during my parents' visits.)
All of the last visits with them (~5) in the past 3 years have been bad. My anxiety is through the roof overall, but specifically fights over little things (a disagreement about a government social policy or something) turn into heated arguments in public places and they storm off. (Despite my greatest efforts to avoid talking about such topics with them.) (After one such fight I asked "Don't you think that alcohol added fuel to the fire in this fight?" and they didn't know what to say.) And little tiny tiffs about nothing populate the day (Ex. "Why do you keep your marinara sauce in the fridge door?")
Of greater concern is my parents' inability to moderate their own drinking around my small children, even when my parents are the sole responsible parties. Since 2 incidents in which I came home to them having babysat and found them drunk beyond the ability to really care for small children and during 1 incident there was a major safety hazard that went unnoticed (a broken wine glass unnoticed on the floor with barefoot kids running around), I have decided that I will not allow them to care for my children without my husband or I present. My parents don't know this though. I always come up with excuses when they want to babysit (offering to watch the kids while husband and I go on vacation or watching them for an evening during a visit). And the kids are older now and know when adults are acting weird/drunk and they tend to find it scary.
FWIW, discussing incidents that happened in the past (like the wine glass) is futile in my 35+ years experience in dealing with my parents. They remember things in a way that puts them in the best possible light and this is compounded when they were drunk during the incident.
So, they're coming for a week to stay in our house upon their insistence and begging. How to deal with their drinking? Here's how I see it:
Option A: Say to Mom ~4 days before they come: "Hey, I think that it would be in everyone's best interests, especially the kids, if we all don't drink during this visit." (And if asked why...) "The last few visits I think had some incidents that were made worse because of alcohol, so I think that it would be best if we all just didn't drink." (Asking them to go cold turkey is going to be challenging though.)
Option B: "Husband and I have decided that it is best if people (friends, family) don't drink in front of the kids. The kids get confused by it and we don't like that." (Although this is an open invitation for them to drink once kids are in bed and thus they'll still be getting drunk and fighting at night.)
Option C: Maybe ask them to stay at a hotel and only come around when sober? This might be logistically challenging.
Option D: Let them drink but when it seems like they're getting drunker, be brave and say to them "Mom/Dad, I think that you've had too many and I don't like where this heads toward in terms of how we (daughter and parent) interact and how you (grandkids and grandchild) interact, so I'd like to ask you to not have any more to drink please."
Again, we're WASPy non-talking about things types, so all of these scenarios present challenges.
Are there other options for dealing with this? Anyone have a "friend" that has dealt with this and can share some wisdom?