Q. My father is an alcoholic and has been since I was 12 years old (I’m 22 now). He lives with my mother and I. He is extremely verbally abusive to my mother; he has had 2 DUI’s, he’s had several seizures related to alcohol, he has been in and out of treatment centers (that never help), he’s lost his job and his driving priveleges, and he has even served jail time. Nonetheless, he continues to drink. I just graduated from college and moved back home. I purchased a condo and will be moving out in 7 months. I’m excited, but I’m afraid to leave my mother at home with him considering his verbally abusive ways. He doesn’t have a job and sits at home all day and drinks. My mom will give him $5 per day before she goes to work and he’ll buy cheap beer for $1 and drink that until she gets home. My mom is a teacher and works 2 jobs to pay all the bills and then when she does get home he makes her life a living hell. He refuses to move out or get a job. My mom wants to move out but doesn’t want to lose the house. She’s thought about the divorce option, but that will require her to sell the house and in my neighborhood that would take too long and she would have to live with another one of our family members until the house is sold. She has considered getting a apartment, but its hard for a hardworking adult to give up her house for a apartment. More so than anything, i’m concerned about my mother’s health. I’ve given up on my father, sad, but true. My mother’s depressed and she hates living in the house with him. He calls her names, turns off the t.v. when she’s watching it, wakes her up in the middle of the night, and calls her every 2 minutes on her cell phone if she leaves the house. She is absolutely miserable. I don’t know what to do. I feel so helpless. My mom is also a smoker and I feel like the added stress of having my father around is making her habit even worse. What can I do? How do I get my mom out of this situation?
A. This is a difficult situation. It is really up to your mother to get herself out of this situation. It sounds like she has lived this way for years. For years she likely had the option of moving to a family member’s house or to an apartment and yet she has not taken these options. For many complicated reasons, maybe she just is not ready to make this necessary move. Yes, it would be uncomfortable at first to make the move and not ideal but if she wants to remove herself from her abusive husband and life of misery, moving out and getting a divorce is really the only way she can accomplish this. You could encourage her to consider divorce or live with other family members. You should encourage her to seek some kind of treatment, either therapy or help for domestic violence. Maybe with some treatment and support, she’d consider moving or getting a divorce. If you are willing, perhaps she can come live with you for a while. If living with you is not an option, maybe your condo could be a place of refuge for her when things are really rough at home. All that you can do for your mother is encourage her to leave her situation as fast as possible to seek treatment. You can be a source of support for your mother. You can offer her (if you are willing) your place to come to when things are bad at home. You must realize, however, that once you have done these things, there is little else you can do. Ultimately, it will be up to your mother to make the necessary changes in her life to end this abusive relationship with your father.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 27 Nov 2006
Randle, K. (2006). Alcoholic Father. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 19, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2006/11/27/alcoholic-father/