Sage Advice: Mother Worries About Daughter's Heavy Drinking

By Amy Dickinson | June 13th, 2018

When does alcohol overstep its boundaries?


Dear Amy: My 31-year-old daughter stopped by for dinner the other night.

During the span of two hours, we ate dinner and she consumed an entire bottle of wine. I didn’t notice that the entire bottle was gone until she left and was driving home.

She has been a heavy drinker since college, but typically takes three months off from drinking each year. How do I approach this topic? She is an adult, but continues to make bad choices when alcohol is involved. She is gainfully employed, makes it to work on a daily basis and is self-sufficient.

I do not believe that she drinks every day, but when she does drink, she drinks to excess. Her boyfriend is also a heavy drinker.

– Concerned Mom

Dear Mom: So far, the worst (and potentially fatal) choice your daughter made was to consume an entire bottle of wine and then get into her car.

A drunk-driving accident would potentially be catastrophic for her (and other innocent people); a DUI or DWI would also be a high-impact experience — affecting her reputation, possibly her profession and also her independence.

The best way to approach this with her is also, in some ways, the hardest. This requires you to speak your own truth – directly, and sincerely, without attaching too firmly to the consequences.

Likely negative consequences here would be: She feels attacked, becomes defensive (or attacks back) and decides to keep her distance from you – basically turning this into a referendum on your relationship. This sort of acting out is to be expected. If you see it, see it for what it is: the throes and thrashings of someone who has been poked in a tender spot.

No one wakes up one day, suddenly transformed into an alcoholic. Alcohol dependence and addiction is gradual and takes place over time. You love her, you are her mother and you are worried about her. So you say, “Honey, I’m very worried about your drinking.” If she challenges you for examples, you can certainly offer them.

She might reject all of your examples and evidence, and deny or downplay all of your concern. But she won’t forget that you’ve said this.

This truth is something she will have to walk around in. You can hope that this causes a realization, along with the effort to change.

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2018 by Amy Dickinson

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