Where can we turn for advice and assistance in dealing with our adolescent son’s drinking problem? Recently things have escalated to the point where I think it would fair to call him a full-blown alcoholic. His behaviour is impacting everyone in the family and tearing our household apart. Can you help?


Perhaps it will encourage you to know that you’re not alone. Even in families that are closely knit and hold strong values there are no guarantees that alcoholism or some other type of substance abuse won’t affect one or more of the children.

In dealing with this difficult situation it’s important to keep the following principles in mind. First, don’t deny or ignore the problem – if you do, it’s likely to get worse. Second, don’t allow yourself to become burdened by false guilt – most parents assume a great deal of self-blame when an addiction surfaces in their home. Third, don’t look for or expect quick-fix solutions. Remember that there will be no complete healing until your child or adolescent learns to accept and take responsibility for his or her own actions. This could be a long process requiring a great deal of faith and patience on your part.

The good news is that effective help is available. We suggest that you seek professional counselling for your teenager, and we strongly recommend that you do this together as a family. The most successful treatment programs take a family systems approach that involves intensive evaluation and a series of counselling sessions offered in an environment of community and accountability.

If the situation continues to intensify and escalate, you may need to present your teen with a number of options. These might include entering an inpatient detox treatment centre, a halfway house, a boot-camp program or youth home, or staying with a relative or another family who is willing to accept him for a defined period of time. More extreme possibilities may need to be discussed as well, such as making your child a ward of the court or even turning him over to the police if he has been involved in criminal activity. If you continue to shield him from the consequences of his behaviour or bail him out when his drinking gets him into trouble, he will not be motivated to change and you will be left with deep-seated anger and frustration.

Below are a number of resources and referrals that should prove useful in your efforts to help your teenager find healing and release from the bondage of drug addiction. For help you can phone or email our pastoral counselling service.

Here are some other organisations that can help also:

Teen Challenge
The Salvation Army
Australian Drug Foundation
Alcohol Education & Rehabilitation Foundation
National Institute of Drug Abuse

Copyright © 2010, Focus on the Family. Originally published on Used with permission.

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