All kinds of people are alcoholics—people from all walks of life. Only a small percentage of alcoholics fit the stereotype of “derelict” or “bum” panhandling on the street. Most alcoholics appear to be functioning fairly well, but their drinking affects some part of their lives. Their family life, their social life, or their work may suffer. It might be all three. Alcoholics are people whose drinking causes a continuing and growing problem in any area of their lives. *

* From Alateen—Hope for Children of Alcoholics (B-3).

Many people drink because they like the way alcohol makes them feel. But some drinkers have no control. If your family member drinks so much that they get into trouble, and their life has become unmanageable, they may be an alcoholic.

When do people realize they are alcoholics?

Perhaps they do realize there is something wrong with the way they drink, but are ashamed or not ready to admit it. Perhaps they are in denial. This means they cannot see that there is a problem. They may have tried to overcome their drinking and failed. Many alcoholics give up hope for sobriety because of this.

Although it is possible to stop drinking, there is no cure for alcoholism. Like diabetes, alcoholism can be arrested, but not cured. A single drink could start the drinking again.

What can I do?

In Alateen and Al‑Anon we learn that we did not cause the disease of alcoholism, we cannot control it, and we cannot cure it. We can do nothing directly to get an alcoholic to stop drinking. Persuasion, scolding, bitter silences, and tears may only put an alcoholic on the defensive. This could increase the alcoholic’s feelings of guilt, which can lead to more problems for us.

We can find hope in every situation, no matter how things look at the moment. By going to Alateen and Al‑Anon, we can help ourselves have a better life, whether the alcoholic stops drinking or not. We come to believe that the only life we are responsible for or have any control over is our own.

Does the alcoholic love me?

Love is distorted by the disease of alcoholism. Alcoholics often take out their hostilities on others in irrational ways, and may not be able to express love appropriately. Those of us who live in alcoholic situations may act irrationally as well.

Will I become an alcoholic?

There is not a “yes” or “no” answer to this question. Experts do not agree on exactly what makes a person an alcoholic. However, since alcoholism does tend to run in families, the children of alcoholics are at greater risk. Learning about alcohol, and its effects, can help us to make a decision about its place in our lives.

Why is my non-alcoholic parent difficult?

Alcoholism affects everyone in the family. Non-alcoholic parents might feel lonely, frightened, confused, or angry. They might act nervous, irritable, and resentful. At times, we might feel they don’t deserve our respect because they appear to be unable to cope with what is happening in the home. Without help, living with a problem drinker is too much for most of us. 

What can Alateen do?

In Alateen, we can learn to deal with our resentments toward both parents. Others in the family may be suffering just as deeply as we are. It helps to be patient and understanding. Many of us encourage our other family members to seek help in Al‑Anon.

When we become involved in Alateen and Al‑Anon, we find many others who share similar feelings. In Alateen, we learn to take care of ourselves, regardless of what anyone else does. With a change of attitude, members learn to appreciate themselves and others. Love and respect can become a part of life.