My father is an alcoholic, how to set boundaries

by Courtney
(Fort Collins, CO, USA)

I’ve grown up with him knowing that he had a problem. I don’t really know what to classify him as, either an intermediate familial or chronic alcoholic. I’ve basically cut him out of my life since I’m 19 now. I keep feeling like he chose another life over me and my mother and brother. My parents are divorced as of last year and he had a new girlfriend almost immediately. He went on a trip to Hawaii with her and keeps going to all these concerts, although I’m not sure where he is getting the money from. I don’t really know what else to do. I don’t want him a part of my life until he gets help and he refuses to do that. I’ve told him that and that I don’t need his negative influence. I’m not sure what the next step is. Any advice you can give me?


What a tough situation! Being the child of an alcoholic is very difficult. In fact, being in relationship with anyone addicted to drugs or alcohol is challenging. It sounds like you have drawn boundaries with him in order to protect yourself. This is wise and necessary. The only thing I would recommend is assessing where those boundaries are and if they are set appropriately?

What I mean is: Are you sure that you don’t want him to be any part of your life? It’s possible to have him as part of your life but not to the point of compromising your health, sanity, and happiness. You could draw a boundary such as he is permitted to come to family events, birthday parties, etc. at your home but only if he comes sober. Or, you would like to speak with him by phone but only if he’s sober and only if he doesn’t talk about his new girlfriend. These are just examples, not necessarily the actual boundaries that you would set. My point is that you can specify what is acceptable and what is unacceptable in his relationship with you.

I would further recommend that you attempt to share with him the reasons why you are drawing these boundaries and how his actions have affected you. If he’s unwilling to listen, I highly recommend that you talk those things through with a trained counselor.

Finally, it’s important to follow through on your boundaries. For instance, if you said he can only be at your house when he’s sober and he shows up drunk, ask him to leave. You have to be firm so you don’t enable him to negatively affect your life. It’s tough love and it’s not going to be easy for either one of you. Unfortunately, in your situation, it’s necessary.

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