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Adult Daughter Has Drinking Problem

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My 21-year old daughter may have a drinking problem. My husband and I have attempted to force her to go into a recovery program, but she refused. She has reluctantly agreed to individual therapy. I don't feel comfortable kicking her out of our home, and yet I feel that I can not watch her destroy her life anymore. I do attend Al-Anon, after having gone through this with her dad, who has been sober for 20 years. She has a job but is not able to live on her own. She is a good girl but she's denying her problems. She was raped last summer and doesn't believe this has affected her. Her father and I feel powerless because we know our daughter is sick, not bad. He and I are also in therapy and will begin family therapy this week. What should we do?

A: "She is sick, not bad." Be guided by those words when you consider asking her to leave your home. I am sure that your husband's problem with alcohol abuse has sensitized both of you to any potential problems your daughter might have with alcohol. You can't force a 21-year-old into a treatment program against her will. Also, don't threaten to kick her out if she doesn't get the treatment you believe is necessary. Your priority is to help her deal with the negative emotions that have clearly overwhelmed her for some time and to get her the professional assistance that she needs to begin healing from the painful aspects of her life. I wonder how much of her drinking is caused by her inability to deal with the rape.

You are wise to get some family therapy for yourselves because you cannot help your daughter unless you're feeling positive about your own thoughts and actions. You may find that her individual therapy may be complemented by her also attending some family therapy sessions with you. Don't treat your daughter as the "sick" member in the family, the one who has to be "cured." Approach her healing by seeing her as a loved member of your family, a daughter who needs your understanding and the experienced care of talented therapists. You are making the right decisions. Write me with a progress report if you have the time.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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