Dear Dr. Comer:
I am not yet a teen-ager. I have one brother and one sister. All three of us are concerned about our father's drinking.
He has about four to six drinks every night. We have begged him to stop drinking and we told him that we'd be much happier if he would try to quit. But whenever we do, he stalks off without even listening to what we have to say.
My mother had suggested that he get professional help. Do you have any literature on what we as a family should do? Should he get professional help? A.F. Dear A.F.:
Your father probably does need professional help. But like many other people in need, he is having trouble facing up to this fact.
Seeking help in our society is thourght by many to be a sign of weakness. That's because our favorite image of ourselves as Americans is that of tough, rugged individualists who stand alone to overcome every problem and hardship. It is an inaccurate and unfortunate perception.
Rugged individualism is only one part of American tradition. The fact is that the rugged individualist on the frontier, blacks fighting to overcome racial discrimination and immigrants struggling to overcome hardships have all shared their burdens and helped each other survive and thrive.
America's best side has often been shown when people have banded together to restore homes destroyed by fire, flood and the like.
It is too bad that this side of America has not been glamorized an romanticized as much as the rugged individualist image. This would make it easier for your father and others to accept the fact that they shouldn't and don't have to face the problems of the world alone.
Nobody really stands alone. Our parents help us throughout early childhood. In old age we often become more dependent again. And even in that period between young adulthood and middle age, when we would like to think of ourselves as independent, we should think of ourselves as independent, sharing and doing for family and friends as they share and do for us.
We all need somebody to lean on in one way or another, at one time or another. Those who try to stand alone often have problems. That is one reason that they need alcohol and other drugs.
Sometimes people try to stand alone because they just aren't good at sharing their love, hurt, fears and hopes with others. They isolate themselves from their families and other people who could give them a greater sense of fulfillment and security. They often need help in being able to share their feelings.
Your father is lucky that he has you and other members of your family who obviously care a great deal. But it is difficult for children to help their parents because most adults feel that it should be the other way around. I suggest that you point this out to your mother. She must help your father to accept help.
There are some general principles your mother can follow in trying to help your father seek help. First, it helps to indicate that all of you care; that that's why you are encouraging him to seek help.
We often take for granted that people in need of help already know this. But they often feel that people telling them that they have problem and need help are attacking them.
Often, they are afraid underneath that they can't face up to problems and help themselves. Thus, the second step is to tell him that she believes that he can help himself and overcome the problem.
Thirdly, she can point out that it's okay to seek help; that nobody stands alone, nobody should have to stand alone; that is unfair to loved ones for him to try to stand alone.
Finally, she should point out the help that is available and that all of you can participate in the treatment or help process in whatever way possible or necessary. Dr. Comer