: Drugs, alcohol and mental health

Discuss the twin challenges of mental health and substance use

2 replies

How to support my dad

Hi everyone,

first post here. For reference I'm 21 and currently studying at home.

About 5 or 6 years ago, my dad got a part-time job, cutting down a lot of his hours from his past managerial job. At the same time, my mum was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer. I don't really know which was the trigger out of these two things, or maybe it was a combination, but my dad started going to the pub on a Friday night. He'd finish work at 6.30, get to the pub for just before 7, and get home around 9.15. In that time he was drinking about 5 pints. He's not usually a fast drinker but when questioned, he said it was because he felt a time pressure to enjoy himself whilst there on a Friday night, but also to come home to spend time with me and my mum. Me and my mum used to find it so annoying because he'd go from having something to eat around 3pm, to having nothing til he got in at 9.15 and so the effects of alcohol were amplified. He'd sometimes carry on drinking at home when he got in. We got sick of it and sometimes he resented us for resenting his habits!

I used to work 9-5 on a Saturday and sometimes he'd pick me up from work, coinciding with him being in the pub for an hour beforehand. Me and my mum always went to Church on a Sunday night and my dad would even go in the pub then - it's almost like he viewed it as a hobby to fill the time.

He has never had any lasting friendships and has had an unbelievable amount of trauma in his life including being physically attacked by racist gangs etc, - he has PTSD lifelong as a result of all this.

My mum sometimes questioned him saying what used to be once a week is now three or four times a week.

As it was years ago, I can't really remember if he used to drink during the week - I think he did, moderately, but had to get up early so wouldnt have been much. Occasionally these weekends were extreme instances where me and my mum would fall out with my dad over it for a day or two. Once my mum questioned him and he went out the Thurs as well that week, and stayed out an extra hour and a half on the Friday, almost like if you said anything, he would do it more!!

Fast forward to now. Heartbreakingly, my mum passed away from her horrendous cancer in May this year. We had been caring for her at home and I was also in the middle of my uni exams. Plus we were in a lockdown. The whole thing was so so bad and we were an extremely close family. I know a lot of people have been drinking more in lockdown but when the pubs were open again, my dad once again seemed to enjoy seeing people in the pub as though they are his friends - although I consider them drinking buddies. He says he likes discussing things like football and music with these people, fair enough, but these people seem to be at the pub all day every day (they are all retired). My dad is retired now too, he's 65. I have said to him I don't want him to become like that and he's reassured me he doesn't want to either, but all I can see is a slippy slope when you can't control it in the future. I also said I am very worried he is using it as a coping mechanism when it really isn't one. Our area is in Tier 3 so the pubs have been shut since end of October, but he has been drinking between 35-40 units per week at home (all beer), spread Thursday-Sunday, and he drinks nothing Mon Tues and Weds. He does seem to be able to stop, he says he drinks it because he simply likes the taste of real ale but I know the damage it can be doing to him, especially as he is not younger age bracket.I honestly dread when the pubs reopen and then feel bad for dreading it because I know its something he enjoys. I know I am right to think he drinks too much because my mum thought so too and she drank moderately, if at all. I am totally teetotal because I see how it affects my dad and don't like it one bit!

I think you can appear judgmental because you 'don't understand' if you don't drink. I haven't mentioned anything to my dad about his drinking in months, because I don't see the point. When I have done it has resulted in a couple of 'make or break' style big rows that I never had with anyone before my mum passed away, which was quite scary. As it's just me and my dad I feel not only that it's important he stays healthy so he can be around as long as possible, but also worried in case he becomes ill/addicted etc that's not something I can cope with. I also feel angry sometimes that his actions always affect me but he doesn't seem to realise.

Once he made arrangements to meet his friends at a pub at 1.30. He said he'd be back before dinner and we'd go for a walk etc. This was in September. He didn't get back until 8.45, and he was much drunker than usual. I didn't want to say anything to him because he wouldn't remember any of it the next day (!!!) but I ended up exploding as I was so furious. I had loads of uni work to do but ended up tidying up, making the Sunday dinner which I then ate on my own, going out for a walk, on my own. And I didn't even know where he was all that time. He said the way I was talking to him 'made him feel like s***' and ruined his good times that day - how about how I feel!!! The next day, it was what would have been my parents 30th wedding anniversary, I think this may have been why he did what he did. He said he didn't sleep a wink out of guilt and was actually sobbing in the morning saying he didn't want to make my cry etc and I deserved better - I agreed with this!! To this day I still remember that day with anger because my dad knew since my mum passed away I didn't like being at home on my own but I was forced to be for all that time, to cope on my own.

When my dad drinks at home he doesn't seem to get beyond a little bit tipsy which makes me think he's accustomed to drinking that amount now. I know he doesn't think there's anything wrong, mainly because he's surrounded not only by these pub friends who drink the same, if not more, but also because a lot of people in our family have grown up in an era where that amount was normal, (as well as people chainsmoking, thinking its normal) to drink - he doesn't see anyone who drinks less/doesn't drink. I keep seeing stats etc saying that liver damage/problems/cancer can be caused by drinking this amount and feel totally powerless as to what to do.

I am such a home bird and used to love spending time with both of them. Now its just my dad and things have changed, I have a job very far away which I start next year, I am now looking forward to it because I know I won't face this daily/weekly challenge anymore and think that I have grown out of it. I am 21 but really I have had to be much more mature because of my mum's illness and being an only child, so it does feel a bit suffocating sometimes.

Nobody else knows about this problem, I don't want them to view my dad differently to how they would normally, feels like I am betraying him. I hardly have any support from anyone to deal with my grief, people disassociate with me because they don't want to consider grief.

I don't consider my dad an alcoholic because he does have days where he doesn't drink and can stop drinking after a few, I just think he needs to cut down. When I have spoken to him, he says because of lockdown etc it's one of the only things he enjoys and if he can't do that, what's the point!!?? My mum was totally healthy person and didn't do anything wrong herself, yet ended up with terminal cancer - this seems to have sped up my dad's attitude thinking 'live for the moment' so he is doing everything a lot more than he used to. He also fails to see a reason to cut down because people who drink loads don't seem to have any effect on their health, but people who don't drink seem to become ill etc

So just after opinions, advice, help etc. Thanks a lot and stay safe

1 reply

replying to olivegirl

It sounds like a horrible situation to be in and my thoughts with you and your dad. It sounds like he is using alcohol as a coping mechanism with both of your loss but unfortunately alcohol is a depressant and makes the situation worse.

Have you tried talking to him to explain how it makes you feel on his sober days? He needs to find some hobbies that don't involve drinking. If he's now retired and widowed, he has two massive holes in his life which would have normally taken up his time.

My dad passed away several years ago and while thank god she didnt turn to drink, my mother struggled massively and I think was at the point of going crazy. We got her out of her rut through various things in the community, art class, learning a new language, and off her own back she decided to start going to church. He needs to find a way to fill his life with other people and other things to do. Was there something he always wished he had time to do when he worked? I know it's tougher with lockdown's etc but where there's a will there's a way.

You also mention that you keep it from people but does he have any other family - Siblings etc? You shouldn't go through it alone and also, addiction thrives on secrecy. Hope you find a way through.

replying to cardiffbluebird


thanks a lot for the reply!

I know it is quite common for people to drink more when they have lost someone, and a lot of people are generally drinking more because of covid and the lockdown, so I have been trying not to read too much into it. He is a strong character and I know during the week he doesn't "need" to drink, he can go without it, it just seems to be something he enjoys doing and looks forward to doing. He often stays up til about 1.30-2am on Fridays and Saturday nights, and as I am tired from the week I sometimes try to stay up as well, thinking that if I am there he perhaps won't drink as fast/as much as he would do otherwise, but doing that messes up my sleep pattern so much I have now stopped bothering. Perhaps my going to bed earlier might be a sign for him to do the same haha.

It just creates a divide if i do say anything, he sees it as like a way of being controlled by me and that I want him to be miserable and not do anything he enjoys. That isn't my personality and I don't like being characterised like that so tend to not say anything. We usually have a lot of laughs and jokes though so the situation is prob not as bad as my first post may have sounded to you.

I know exactly what you mean. My dad has said to me a few times that he intends to do a lot of things, such as joining a walking group, travelling around to see different places in the UK, going to live music, seeing more of his old friends etc that live slightly further away. All these things seem so out of reach to him because of lockdown and covid, they won't be happening for a while. But I told him that right now is not an accurate portrait of life because covid isn't permanent! He agrees.

Him and my mum had always worked hard and saved and said they would do so many things when they retired, my mum didn't get to enjoy any retirement as she was only 62!! It's so sad. They wanted to move permanently to Spain when they retired and just come back here for a few months in summer. My dad still dreams of this but he thinks that it will be very different to do it on his own, and he's also not sure what will happen because of Brexit - everything seems to have an obstacle at the moment.

i think when I move away for my new job my dad will have no choice but to do these activities. My only worry is that he won't do them and will just go to the pub every day, he has reassured me that he doesn't want to spend his days doing that and it won't be happening, so I suppose that's a positive. He said he would like to go to the pub to watch football, as he gets more atmosphere and community spirit to watch it with other people. And perhaps once or twice a week. Which I don't mind! Apart from when I am grieving and don't want to be at home alone for long periods, I honestly dont mind him going to the pub, it's the drinking I'm more concerned about.

I sometimes make a joke out of it, he is always counting calories on foods but that goes out of the window when he's drinking!! Having said that he's very slim.

My mum used to say the same as me that we can't go anywhere on holiday/days out etc without there being a pub or two involved with my dad. When I learned to drive I think he thought that he could now drink more and I could drive us there and back! When we go for meals we always go in my car now.

I feel terrible but I know the lockdown has been helping me with these places being shut etc!! How bad is that!

Familywise my dad has no family on his side and the only people we are in touch with are on my mum's side, but that is getting less and less now since my mum left, its like people avoid us because we are bereaved and its awkward to deal with or something. But the family we do see regularly, one of them is a very big drinker ex-landlord and everyone looks on him with a sort of awe because he is 70 now and barely has any health problems, seems to have a good lifestyle, but he is addicted to going to the pub and drinking etc. Sometimes my dad mentions him and I have to say, he's not a role model you know! He is an alcoholic!

replying to olivegirl

I'm so sorry to hear what a truly horrible time you've been having and the massive things you are dealing with. You sound very strong but if you would like some support for yourself, and maybe your dad as well, please contact us at Icarus Trust.

We are a charity that supports families going through addiction issues. We offer a range of services and if you contact us I can put you in touch with one of our mentors that we call Family Friends. They are experienced and trained and maybe talking with one of the will help you to make sense of things.

You can contact Icarus Trust on help@icarustrust.org or visit our website www.icarustrust.org

All the very best to you.

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