Help me turn wine into water please!
May 22, 2016 11:02 AM   Subscribe

My mom drinks a lot. What can I do to encourage her to lower his alcohol intake and/or to help her stay healthy?

My mom is in her mid-fifties, and I think she has been drinking about 7 units of alcohol every single day for as long as I can remember. She functions pretty well with work and socially, but I'm worried about her health. She exercises and drinks water, but I really think it would be better if she stopped. She is a successful business woman and super proud, and gets quite defensive or changes the subject if I bring this up.

Is there anything I can do to help her change her habits, or anything that would help protect her liver from stuff like liver cirrhosis and fatty liver?

Thank you!!
posted by Crookshanks_Meow to Health & Fitness (16 answers total)
"Mum, I'm concerned about your health when it comes to how much you drink. If you ever want to talk about it, I'm here."

It's a truism that people don't change unless they want to. It's not really possible to impose that externally.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:06 AM on May 22, 2016 [6 favorites]

It's probably not possible to have this conversation without triggering feelings of shame. She probably already knows how many wine bottles she buys each week and what the health risks are.
posted by puddledork at 11:16 AM on May 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

You probably can't convince her to stop drinking. She may or may not want to. If she does want to, she knows it's bad for her already. If you are concerned that she is an alcoholic, I would suggest looking into Al-Alon, which supports the families of alcoholics. You would probably be able to get more help there than here.
posted by FencingGal at 11:16 AM on May 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

So, 7 units of alcohol is what, two or three large glasses of wine per day? That's not ideal, I guess, but hardly out of the ordinary for a lot of people. "I really think it would be better if she stopped" sounds quite patronising and I'm not surprised she gets defensive if you approach it that way. She's an adult and she's earned the right to make her own decision.

I'm sure she's capable of reading and has heard the same information about liver disease that you have. She knows how much she drinks. She knows it worries you, so the ball is in her court. Unless she's endangering other people by driving or operating heavy machinery after her 7 units, you probably need to drop the subject, and seek counselling or al-anon for yourself if you feel like you need support (but they'll tell you the same thing, for the most part).
posted by cilantro at 11:22 AM on May 22, 2016 [20 favorites]

I understand you're worried. But monitoring your mother's alcohol intake is neither your responsibility nor your place. Al-Anon will teach you how to deal. Go there.
posted by peakcomm at 11:28 AM on May 22, 2016 [9 favorites]

The only thing you can do is to go to Al-Anon. Try a meeting. If you don't like it, try another. Every meeting/group is different.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:32 AM on May 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

I think there was a study recently that coffee helps the liver recover from alcohol? Google.

Going to Nth that since you don't report any problems other than your own worry - this has not effected her work or anything as per your own words - you should let this go.

Look, friend. Your mom is aging. Sadly, at some point, we all reach the end. Getting older is scary. Your concern here is profoundly unhelpful to your mom! She's an adult with the capacity to reason and make her own choices. You're not going to alter the eventual outcome + you bringing this up will likely add lots of stress your mom's life. Believe me, she knows she's getting older and all the rest. She knows.

Worry about your own exercise schedule, diet, imbibing, and lifestyle habits. Love your mom and stop worrying about her personal choices. None of us knows what's coming, and what you are suggesting is extremely unhelpful and will have the opposite effect from what you are after...

Therapy if the thought of your mom aging upsets you to the point it is interfering with your relationship with her. This is zero nope nada none of your business.

(While I normally think al-anon is great, you don't label your mom as an alcoholic, so don't go joining a group that will give you lots of material for catastrophizing. )
posted by jbenben at 12:49 PM on May 22, 2016 [8 favorites]

Is there something you didn't mention that might affect her ability to know/understand how much she's drinking? Because otherwise, she's aware and doesn't need to be informed.

You CAN choose to say something, but know that you do it for yourself, not her. If you feel the risk to your relationship is worth taking the chance that you saying something will maybe be a wake-up call or a form of bottoming-out or final shaming for her or whatever, if you need it off your conscience that you didn't try, you can choose to say something and accept whatever consequences come, good and/or bad. But saying something doesn't obligate her to do what you want.

The one thing that you may be able to bring up productively, without saying anything about the alcohol, is to ask her if she feels like she has a lot of anxiety or chronic pain. Nobody has any good numbers on this, but I think a good number of very consistent but not necessarily problematic drinkers are probably self-medicating, in part because it's a lot easier to buy wine and be done with it rather than deal with a doctor and pharmacy etc. Additionally, women are routinely treated like insignificant shit by doctors, so not only is initially trying to get help a daunting prospect, sometimes even when you ask you don't get help.

It's a question you can ask for purposes of your own medical history, and should ask - ask about your father and all of their siblings and grandparents too, because you might actually learn some things that will be useful to know, especially later in your life. And it cracks the door if she decides she wants to talk to you about herself. I'd leave the alcohol out of the discussion unless she says something about it, though.

But yeah, on preview, if you're actually talking less than a bottle a day (I was reading "units" as "glasses"), that's definitely higher than the recommendations set in the US and UK but typical in a number of cultures that have confusingly good health stats in all the realms that the US and UK say are adversely affected by drinking, so you don't even know for sure that it's bad for her health. That quantity, depending on her size and the amount of time, are definitely crossing over into "don't drive" territory, and that's probably the one thing you have a free pass to call out if you see that happening, but it's not necessarily rampaging alcoholism. She has other healthy habits, which means she's likely fully mindful of where her consumption of alcohol falls on the helps/hurts continuum and you might just need to trust her to know what's best for her.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:50 PM on May 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

I know this is so hard to watch in someone you love, but please listen to the people saying there is nothing you can do. There really, really is nothing you can do. If you don't believe that, and you continue to try convincing or manipulating or whatever to get her to cut back, it's going to damage your relationship with your mom and also make you feel bad about yourself, because on some level you'll think you're just doing it wrong. Surely there is something you could say or do to make her see the light! But there isn't. This is all on her.
posted by something something at 12:53 PM on May 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

I really think it would be better if she stopped. She is a successful business woman and super proud, and gets quite defensive or changes the subject if I bring this up.

If her drinking doesn't impact you, then this is none of your business. You do not get to parent your perfectly functional parent just because you are now a grownup who knows best.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:30 PM on May 22, 2016 [11 favorites]

The amount you're talking about was the average amount drunk by french adults 60 years ago - just to put it into context. If she's otherwise healthy, there's no evidence that her health absolutely is going to be affected by her alcohol consumption. Does she drink the wine with her meals or on its own?
I get that she's your mother and you're concerned but she's an adult. She's successful and intelligent, she's aware of the potential risks - in this day and age, how could she not be?

You can express your concerns and how you'd like her to around as long as possible - (ie. twist it to be about how her early death would affect you, rather than making it about her health - its a subtle difference) but then leave it at that and don't expect her to change in the long term, even if she does reduce her intake in the short term
posted by missmagenta at 1:47 PM on May 22, 2016

There's no way to have this conversation with an adult, outside of an intervention.

Al-Anon might be a resource, at least as far as fellowship with other folks in your same boat.

The bigger question is, what in her behavior impacts you? You can site those things when you address undesirable behaviors.

"Mom, you're slurring your speech and rambling. Please call me when you are clear-headed, I'm hanging up now."

"Mom, you seem drunk and I don't want to be around you when you're not sober. I'm leaving now. ".

Other than that, she is grown and unless there is self-harm (fear she'll burn the house down) you're the one who has to change, not her.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:26 PM on May 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is my Dad. Even a heart attack didn't motivate him to change his drinking. As far as my experience goes, there's nothing you can say or do. It's all up to her. As a high functioning drinker, she gets to make these calls. You get to love her, express that love, and set boundaries if her drinking ever starts to harm you (beyond worrying about her I mean).
posted by Capri at 2:50 PM on May 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Is it affecting her life? Is it affecting anyone else's life? If the answer is no, then butting out is probably the right thing to do.
posted by Sebmojo at 7:38 PM on May 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Is it a good idea to start drinking this much every day? Probably not. Is it significantly less healthy than eating a bag of hot Cheetos every day? The verdict is a little unclear on that. There are a good chunk of metafilter threads debating the efficacy of nutritional studies (right now!), and I'm sure someone more knowledgeable myself could weigh in, but . . . life's short and relationships are hard.

Unless you have some evidence that this is actually detrimental, I'd follow a lot of the advice above that it's really none of your business, and may not even be a health issue, and just work on having a good relationship with your parent instead of judging her.
posted by aspersioncast at 1:50 PM on May 23, 2016

Fatty liver is serious shit, y'all. I am a 60-yr-old woman and drank every night for most of my life. Not a problem drinker, just social but every night. At my last yearly checkup, my liver enzymes had increased so much that I was sent immediately for an ultrasound, which found only fatty liver. I googled it, talked to my doctor, and scared the crap out of myself. And then stopped drinking. That night. It was SO HARD. I also changed my diet. Six months later and I've lost a bunch of weight and all my medical stats are back where they need to be.

I would never have listened to my kids or my husband or my friends, well unless there was an intervention of something. Your mom isn't going to change until she has to. Maybe take your concerns to her doctor, and encourage her to get a good checkup.
posted by raisingsand at 6:07 PM on May 24, 2016

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