My mother gets drunk pretty much every night and I don’t know what to do

question markThis was an open letter in The Guardian Life and Style Private Lives in March about a parent who is drunk every night from a concerned adult family member.  There are over 240 comments in response and I will highlight only the first two but some of the rest are worth a read.

It has become clear that my mother drinks far too much and does not have it under control. She seems to get drunk pretty much every night (drinking 15 units-plus) and I regularly see her start earlier, drink faster and finish later than anybody else, as well as “needing” a drink by mid-to-late afternoon most days. There are times when I won’t call past 9pm because I know she will be slurring, and maintaining a conversation is hard. The idea that if I had kids, I might not want to leave them with her, is particularly hard.

However, I am not sure she recognises this as a problem. We were always a family where drinking was just something we did. I feel I can see the impact of it on her physical health, mental sharpness and mood, and can’t sit by and condone it any longer. She doesn’t have any other close family left in the country, so it falls to me to talk to her, but I think she might react badly to being told what to do, or just deny things. What can I do? Should I be so frustrated that this has been left to me to deal with?

Comment most recommended:

I had exactly the same problem with my mother a few years ago. She always enjoyed a drink but it got to the point where she ‘bookended’ her days with alcohol. Her health had deteriorated; she was dangerously underweight and was easily agitated and confused. There were a number of incidents which made her private issue a very public one. Her friends felt they couldn’t intervene because they shared her lifestyle, and I was the only family member who could confront her; I reasoned that if I left her, she wouldn’t have survived another 6 months.

I had a number of different phone conversations with her, until I travelled up and stayed with her for a week. Those were some of the worst days of my life, and possibly hers too. We had blazing rows every day and were both in tears constantly.

She came to see me a few months later and had gained nearly a stone. While she still had a few drinks during her time with me, she also ate (relatively) heartily and kept it down (or up!). She kept the weight on and had plans to travel until her untimely death less than a year later due to an unrelated illness.

She had written me a card after my visit which, among other things, acknowledged her problem. This was half her battle won; she had a private agony which she had deliberately acknowledged to someone else, thereby ‘inviting’ me into that part of her life. Our love for one another strengthened due to and in spite of her issues.

This is not a prescription for action to you; I just thought that if you did consider some sort of intervention, it might give you a perspective on what good may perhaps come from it. Of course everyone has different personalities and family ties so what happened to us might not happen to you both.

Good luck to you in whatever you decide.

Second most recommended comment:

It hasn’t been left to you to deal with. It’s her problem and she has to take responsibility for it or live with the consequences if she doesn’t. Which is not to say you can’t try to intervene, and offer all the support you can if she’s willing to accept it, but ultimately this is not your burden.

240 comments within 3 days suggests to me this  is an issue for many of us …….