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A bit of backstory:

I am a guy in my twenties and living in quite a family-centric culture. My own family is not necessarily very traditional, however there is still some influence from outside.

My father always had a drinking problem. I was quite severe several years ago with constant fights with my mother and sometimes even with me (I was about 10 at the time). The situation has become more stable in the recent years since he managed to find a decent job, however the root problem of his drinking (which I presume to have something to do with his psychological situation, but its hard for me to judge) has not disappeared.

A couple of months ago he got extremely drunk and was acting quite horribly harassing my mother and being extremely loud. It was very late at night (about 5 o'clock) and the fighting awakened me. I got out of bed and asked my father to calm down, only angering him more. Understanding that nothing I could do would be effective I decided to return to my room.

However my father only became angrier to the point of almost taking down my door. I jumped out of my bed and confronted him, which was probably a stupid idea, but I couldn't bear it. I came through the door and said something in the lines of "what the hell are you doing?" and got quickly hit in the face. The blow wasn't too hard (still left a bruise) but I got extremely angry and hit him two times with some force. He calmed down and went to catch some air.

He returned and said he didn't understand why would I want to hit him or why would anyone have something against him. I understand that this went through his mind due to him being extremely drunk but I do believe that this is what he grew to actually believe (that he is actually innocent and I just wanted to fight him). He accused me of being outright evil and a horrible son etc.

After some talking, crying and calming down I thought that hitting him wasn't the brightest idea and when we all cooled down I apologized and so did he, both with teary eyes etc. It looked like everything ended well. We didn't really talk much in the following days but gradually returned to the status quo and everything went well.

Sorry for the wall of text, I don't know if all the details were actually necessary but I thought the context may be important.

Fast forward to couple of days ago:

He again got very drunk it being New Year and all. I tried to avoid him but eventually had to sit down at the table with him, and sure enough in an hour or so he brought up the fight. He said something in the lines of "a man should not hit his father" but in a bit more extreme fashion, and accused me of not regretting hitting him.

He also tried to manipulate with my emotions in other ways (which he does when drunk) but I don't remember what he said. He also rambled on and said that he knows some people (as I understood he meant some "prestigious" or "important" people) and did not want them to think of his family as a family where a son and the father fight.

It was surprising for me that he brought that up, since it really had nothing to do with the problem at hand and I don't understand why would he even think about it. But I do hypothesize that this may have something to do with some of his insecurities (knowing prestigious people being a status symbol). I don't know if he truly believes what he says. Anyways the fact that he said it has had a huge impact on me. I'm becoming more depressed and I'm losing any will to talk to him. I haven't talked to him after this incident and it's been 4 or 5 days.

I know that this can't go on, and I will have to sit down with him in the near future but I don't know what to say. I do think that he actually believes at least some of what he says, and that he most certainly doesn't want to admit to himself his own, at least partial guilt in whatever happened. Situations like this happened before and he always comes up with a way to seem innocent at least to himself.

I do believe that he has psychological problems but when my mother told him that visiting a professional might help him, he said that he is afraid of it. He said "visiting a psychologist would ruin whatever he has built in his mind" or something like that.

Question

I think that just talking to him would be fruitless and I do think that he has to first admit having a problem and then agree to work on it. But I think that if I mention this to him he will become defensive and aggressive, which he often does.

So, how do I talk to him about this so that he won't become defensive and will instead (hopefully) agree to work on the problem?

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    Correct, this is the end goal. The question is approaching the father with this. If I just go up to him and say hey man you need therapy he will not listen. I need to talk him into it. Here's the interpersonal skills I am asking about. Maybe the whole backstory is irrelevant and the question can be boiled down to: how to talk a problematic and evasive person into admitting and working on the problem. – Evon Gauda Jan 6 at 13:30
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    I'm not familiar with your situation but I believe there are as many groups for relatives of alcoholics as there are for alcoholics that will be very familiar with the situation and can help you to deal with the stress of the situation and to formulate a plan to deal with it – BKlassen Jan 7 at 17:44
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I've been in similar, though less severe, circumstances, which inform my answer below.

As a first step I'll recommend speaking with a social worker, therapist, or addiction counselor to get more information on how best to approach your father. It's good to have a back-and-forth discussion, where you can freely share details as needed, with someone who has the training and experience needed to thoroughly assess the situation and guide you through it. Asking about the issue on a Q&A site isn't bad, but I wouldn't credit it as ideal.

Since ordinary discussion seems to have not been successful, you may be left with only an intervention (the formal kind, where his friends and family confront him in an effort to force him to recognize the drinking problem, or a less-formal kind, like being arrested for something he does while drunk). Interventions aren't about accusing, but rather making clear that there is a problem, that it's affecting your father as well as the other people in his life, and that his friends and family are there to support him in his efforts to get better (but NOT in efforts to continue on as he has been behaving). A knowledgeable guide, like one mentioned in the preceding paragraph, will be helpful in planning this as well.

There is very little chance, absent an external event which forces him to recognize that his drinking is not under his control and that it leads to bad consequences, that he will be immediately receptive and responsive to anything you have to say. It's also important to recognize that you, alone, are probably neither well-equipped nor well-positioned to tackle this issue by yourself. Even knowing the "root cause" of his behaviors won't necessarily help you deal with them, for example.

Alcohol addiction is serious and pernicious. It is difficult to address at all, let alone successfully, but it is extremely unlikely to get better on its own. It is also unlikely to be smooth or pleasant, but neither is his current behavior. The unpleasantness can instead have a point, as in an intervention, but there's little reason to hedge about whether or not you'll have to go through some difficulties in the process.

What I definitely don't recommend is half-measures, subtle implications, suggestions, or anything else. His drinking sounds like it's well past the point where you and your mother can/should tolerate it, and he may have long since dropped out of the "high-functioning" category.

Your best bet involves a professional helping you plan and take steps, and I can't recommend seeking that help (rather than going it alone or guessing) enough. It's hard, but improvement is possible and worth the struggle. Good luck.

  • Thanks for the advice, I already had a talk with my father, which was alright, but maybe seeking professional help is the ultimate solution. – Evon Gauda Jan 7 at 21:06
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This is a difficult situation to be in and I think that the fact that your mother has spoken to him about seeking professional help can be helpful. The thing is that the drinking problems will not be resolved until he is willing to admit there is a problem and actually wants to deal with it.

All you can do is show that you are there when he needs to talk, and be prepared to listen whenever, and if ever, he is prepared to talk about his issues he has been trying to deal with. It is then that he will be more receptive, if at all, to the fact that he has a problem with his drinking.

Once you know the root cause of his drinking, you can then talk to him (with your mother’s support) about the idea of therapy, and try to convince him that he will not be left to deal with it alone. Do some research on the best way to support your father through the difficult times he will have when going through therapy and be there for him when times get tough, as times probably will get tough.

I wish you luck.

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First of all, you write very clearly what the problem is, which means you have a good understanding of what you are dealing with, and a solid position to start from.

This phrase in your question stood out for me:

I do think that he has to first admit having a problem and then agree to work on it.

This reflects an attitude of you being completely right, and waiting for him to come around. This may be correct here, but it is not a constructive attitude. (We often see this reversed, with parents speaking of their children condescendingly, that the first step for the child to solve their problems is to acknowledge them to their parents. Its not good parenting, or a good starting attitude to solve any problem.)

If you want to speak to him and solve the problem, you will have to come to him, to his level and his state, and help him understand what he is dealing with and how to get past it.

First, your physical altercation with your father seems to have both created a barrier due to the attack on his honor (and the reversal of parent-child roles), and also opened a channel to communicate and a focal point for further discussion to revolve around. You will have to use this opening to speak to him, but first you will have to remove the barrier.

I suggest you find an opportunity to apologise freely for striking him. You do not have to say he was in the right, or that you were completely wrong, only that you realize striking him was very hurtful, you are sorry, and you hope it doesn't come to that again. At the same time, tell him that you would like to talk about what led to you hitting him, at a better time. It should not be in the same conversation, because the emotions are still focused on the hitting and the apology. You want to open the door for the next discussion, and connect it to this past incident.

Try to speak to him a few days later about his drinking, trying to learn more about him and his life. Ask him why he drinks, when he started, how it got bad, how it affects him, what his dream is. You should be open, non-judgemental, and sympathetic. This conversation will hopefully create a bond which will last for a long time, and allow you to help towards recovery. Come prepared with a lot of mental energy and patience, and let him talk as much as you can get him to. It might take more than one conversation, and might fail the first time, but do your best to get him to speak, and to listen.

From what you write, it sounds that you do not have any common ground from which to begin talking about his drinking, in which case you cannot help him without first creating that common starting point. The apology and discussion I suggested here are meant to lay a foundation which will allow you to work together on solving his drinking problem. Once the foundation is laid you will have to see how to actually move things forward - it is too subjective to really give any advice on from there - but it will be possible to talk to him and hopefully to help him deal with his drinking.

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    Huge thanks for the advice, I did almost exactly as you suggested and went and apologized on which he almost immediately apologized himself, telling me not to think about what he said, since it was just a drunk fit. He himself acknowledged he had a problem and said that he will get better. "I need to clean my mind" he said, or something of sorts. He was not really open to the idea of talking about it very often though. I am sure I will have to continue actively participate in some form in his rehabilitation, but it is good start. Thanks again! – Evon Gauda Jan 7 at 21:05

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