Where can we turn for advice and assistance in dealing with our adolescent son’s drinking problem? Recently things have escalated to the point where I think it would fair to call him a full‐blown alcoholic. His behavior is impacting everyone in the family and tearing our household apart. Can you help?

Perhaps it will encourage you to know that you’re not alone. Even in families that are closely knit and hold strong values (See Asset Category: Positive Values) there are no guarantees that alcoholism or some other type of substance abuse won’t affect one or more of the children. The empirical data supports this assertion. If a child only possesses 0‐10 of the 40 Developmental Assets, 45% of this group will grow up and struggle with alcohol use or abuse. On the other hand, if a child possesses most of these essential building blocks – 31‐40 – there still remains a 3% probability your child will abuse alcohol. Remember, possessing all of the Assets is not foolproof. Everyone still has a freewill that can lead them to engage in positive behaviors and choose negative ones. So, the guilt many parents feel is not always yours to own.

In dealing with this difficult situation, it’s important to keep the following principles in mind. First, don’t deny or ignore the problem – if you do, it’s likely to get worse. Second, don’t allow yourself to become burdened by false guilt – most parents assume a great deal of self‐blame when an addiction surfaces in their home. Third, don’t look for or expect quick‐fix solutions. Remember that there will be no complete healing until your child or adolescent learns to accept and take responsibility for his or her own actions. This could be a long process requiring a great deal of faith and patience on your part.

The good news is that effective help is available. We suggest that you seek professional counseling for your teenager, and we strongly recommend that you do this together as a family. The most successful treatment programs take a family systems approach that involves intensive evaluation and a series of counseling sessions offered in an environment of community and accountability. Our staff would be happy to provide you with referrals to helpful programs of this kind or a list of qualified therapists in your area who specialize in treating alcoholism. Contact our Counseling department for help.

If the situation continues to intensify and escalate, you may need to present your teen with a number of options. These might include entering an inpatient detox treatment center, a halfway house, a bootcamp program or youth home, or staying with a relative or another family who is willing to accept him for a defined period of time. More extreme possibilities may need to be discussed as well, such as making your child a ward of the court or even turning him over to the police if he has been involved in criminal activity. If you continue to shield him from the consequences of his behavior or bail him out when his drinking gets him into trouble, he will not be motivated to change, and you will be left with deep‐seated anger and frustration.

Below are a number of resources and referrals that should prove useful in your efforts to help your teenager find healing and release from the bondage of drug addiction.


Teen Challenge USA

Lighthouse Network

Celebrate Recovery

The Salvation Army

Alcoholics Anonymous

Walter Hoving Home

His Mansion Ministries

The Fold Family Ministries