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I have recently become aware of a disturbing pattern of alcohol consumption by my father. I am 16 and in the past few years I have noticed that my father has started (or at least I have started noticing) that he stores 2-3 beer bottles in the refrigerator every evening and later I can hear him opening them and can smell the alcohol in his breath. I don't have many other close interactions with other people so I don't have a sense of what is considered too much but it seems to me as if that is a very large quantity to be drinking every day. To add on top of this, he doesn't know that anyone knows that he drinks at all. An Example: He will go to the store, hide the beer in the trunk and sneak it into the house after everyone else has gone to bed and then every night sneak to/from the refrigerator with bottles in his pockets when he thinks that we aren't looking. As far as I know, my mother does not know that he drinks at all and I have seen him look startled a few times when he was sneaking around which made it appear that he was hiding it from me too.

Is this normal or is this something I should be aware of and potentially try to recommend counseling of some type?

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    Alcohol consumption depends on the person. For some people, 3 beers a night is pretty standard, much like drinking iced tea or a cup of coffee for them. I'd say though, if he's hiding it, that a telltale sign of a problem. – SomeShinyObject Feb 18 '18 at 4:13
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    What SomeShinyObject said. The hiding of the beer is a big red flag. – Dan Clarke Feb 18 '18 at 7:58
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    I’d disagree about the hiding, it’s culture specific. In the US I’ve noticed that parents are more likely to hide alcohol for example. – James Snell Feb 18 '18 at 17:10
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because the question as written has nothing to do with a parenting relationship and is a human behavior / tell-me-what-is-normal question. – Becuzz Feb 20 '18 at 13:05
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because he question as written has nothing to do with a parenting relationship and is a human behavior / tell-me-what-is-normal question. – SomeShinyObject Feb 27 '18 at 13:43
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Two to three beers a night for several years would be something very difficult to hide from one's wife, unless your parents are separated.

You are worried, so you should talk to someone about it. I think talking to your mom would be a good idea. You might talk to your dad about it, too, but if he is really trying to hide it, it won't help as much, but it will let him know it's not a secret, and asking again later if it continues would likely be met with a more open answer.

Putting the medical aspect aside, drinking alcohol in that quantity is not a problem unless it's a problem. In other words, drinking a couple of beers and having breath that smells like alcohol is not a problem. If he misses work because of being hung over, if he angers easily when drinking or otherwise becomes an unpleasant or abusive person when he drinks, if he withdraws from you (including if it's because he's hiding it) when he drinks, if he overspends when he drinks, etc., these are problems.

Right now, I think you're surprised and worried by something you found out that you believe your father has been trying to hide. If your mom says, "Oh no, son, I know all about it, and it's never been a problem," that should reassure you. On the other hand, if all of this really has been hidden, it's time to bring it into the open, and resolve that part of the issue.

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    Might be worth to include "gets angry/frustrated if he can't drink beer one evening" to the list of alcohol abuse problems. – Erik Feb 19 '18 at 10:56
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    +1 and I would add that it's entirely possible dad is actively hiding the drinking from OP (and any other kids in the house) because of not wanting to encourage them to try drinking, but that its no secret from his wife or other adults. In the US, it's not uncommon for parents to attempt to "shield" their kids from alcohol consumption in this way. – Rose Hartman Feb 21 '18 at 18:22
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Everything and nothing we do is normal. Adults playing with toy trains is not normal. Adults playing football once a week is not normal.

Do not be bothered by your dad, your family or yourself not being normal - you are all normal by not being normal, like all normal people are.

You can and should be bothered by this being potentially harmful behavior.

Rather than making a big scene and trying to force counseling on him, I recommend you start by simply asking him why he does this. Since it seems he doesn't want your mother to know, ask him privately rather than in front of her, to respect his wishes. Also important: ask him during a "normal" time, don't try to catch him red-handed - telling him that you know is sufficiently embarrassing to him already.

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    You can't force counseling on your Dad, anyway. If he does have a drinking problem, he has to admit it to himself before counseling even becomes an option. You can't do much besides telling him that this behaviour worries you, especially that he thinks he has to hide it. I wouldn't worry so much about the quantity but about the reason why he drinks beer every evening, and drinks it in secret, and about whether it changes his behaviour towards the family. – Pascal says Talk To Monica Feb 18 '18 at 17:00
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    @Pascal This should be an answer, IMHO. – Arsak Feb 18 '18 at 17:29
  • Thought about it, but it mostly repeats what the other answers already say. – Pascal says Talk To Monica Feb 18 '18 at 17:52
  • First two paragraphs really ruin this answer. Not even sure I can judge the last two after having read them. – jpmc26 Feb 28 '18 at 5:57
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It's also possible that those 3 bottles of beer a day are his own little trips to disneyland. He's an adult. He knows the cons of drinking any alcohol. For now, it might be what he feels is a small reward for getting through another day.

If I had to guess, I'd say he hides it because he maintains the notion that if you don't know you are less likely to try it. He may be right, except that obviously not concealing it well has caused you to question it. His psychology and execution could use a little tightening.

I personally drink way more than a human should at any age. I don't conceal it. I don't do it during the day, or when the kids are up. I have a miraculous gift to never get hangovers, which is not to say that it is not totally destroying my body, but that it is not destroying my ability to provide for my family. I know my physical limits, but obviously my moral limits could use some tightening of their own. I say this because I enjoy a little time to myself for those last 2 hours of a day. It's not depression. It's not like some hands shaking withdrawl laden addiction. It's my own little disneyland. For all I give, if I choose to rocket myself to the grave with liquor so much harder than beer, well then I'm an idiot for doing so, but it is what I choose to do currently.

I don't have any suggestion for how to approach your mom or dad about it. All I can give is insight as to why, but from a perspective that believes that if you can shield your kids from it, then do so. But you can drink a few beers a night and not be an alcoholic. I wouldn't worry about the why part, personally. I'd just figure he's having his "me time" and be happy it's not mainlining black tar heroin.

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  • "I'd say he hides it because he maintains the notion that if you don't know you are less likely to try it" this is a very good point. I do like a drink, but sometimes I go a week without one, and I always stop at two. I don't want my girls to see me doing it to excess so they don't do it to excess. – bigbadmouse Feb 20 '18 at 11:16
  • @bigbadmouse: But there's an important difference: You don't hide your drinking to excess, because you don't drink to excess. You stop after what you consider to be a reasonable amount. This isn't hiding your drinking, this is acting as a role model. – Pascal says Talk To Monica Feb 22 '18 at 8:50
  • @Pascal if you don't drink, or shouldn't then some still looks like a lot, or something to try because daddy does it, so it must be okay. That was my point - the degree is unimportant. – bigbadmouse Feb 22 '18 at 8:55
  • @bigbadmouse 1) But you're not hiding it, you're just limiting it to an amount you think won't transport the wrong message... 2) Of course the degree matters: The chance that there are negative consequences increases with the amount you drink 3) Another way to deal with the role model problem: Explain to your kids that alcohol is bad for children's brains, but not a problem for adults if consumed in small quantities. Then do as you do and don't drink much. Kids aren't allowed to drive cars, and they don't try it just because they see me drive around every day... – Pascal says Talk To Monica Feb 22 '18 at 9:08
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Staying sane as a Dad

Being an adult kinda sucks. Being a parent as well. See, being a dad means giving up a lot of the stuff that makes you happy to make other people happy. I know the Hollywood line would be something like "well its for your wife and kids so it should feel good." This isn't exactly a lie, far from it in fact, its an admirable idealistic mindset to strive for. Unfortunately the reality is that sometimes you miss the stuff you could do when you were single, and miss being able to not worry about anybody but yourself. Doesn't mean you resent your family or hate your kids, its just that being a dad is stressful sacrificial work and sometimes nobody even bothers to say thank you after you forgive them for accidentally over-drafting your bank account. Not even after you have to buy groceries with the money you were saving for a new muffler on your motorcycle. Or when you realize you haven't had time to ride your motorcycle in 4 years so you sell it so you can send your kid to that summer camp they really wanted to go to. Does seeing your kids happy make you happy? Yes, of course. Doesn't mean you don't miss your motorcycle and wish you were a bit richer and could've afforded both.

Basically, as a Dad I quickly had to learn that whats mine is actually "ours" and whats theirs is still usually theirs somehow (if that makes any sense.) But that beer in the fridge? That's MINE, its for ME. I don't have to share it, I don't gotta worry about it dating some facial piercing and skinny jeans wearing weirdo, I don't gotta sell it to make sure my kids get a happy childhood. I just gotta relax for like 20 minutes and enjoy something that just for me.

Long and short of it, a few beers is not alcoholism, its responsibly relaxing and catching some private time. Its just a thing Dad's do to stay sane. If you are finding empty whiskey bottles and he starts missing work or falling down drunk at family events get him help. If hes just drinking a few beers a night leave him be for a bit.

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"2-3 bottles" is not very precise. I can buy bottles of beer in the supermarket between 0.28 and 0.66 liters (0.33 and 0.5 are the usual sizes). Beers have very different strengths, between 4% and 9% alcohol. Two small bottles of weak beer is nothing to worry about as far as the amount of alcohol is concerned, three large bottles of 9% strength you definitely should be worried. A high percentage of alcohol would indicate that the intent is not to enjoy the beer, but to get drunk. That would be something to worry about.

Why is he hiding it? Two positive reasons (and there are negative ones): One, he doesn't want you to copy him. The same amount of alcohol is much worse for a 16 year old (because of less body weight, because the body is not completely developed yet, and because of lack of experience handling it mentally). Two, there are some wives who absolutely hate it if their husband is drinking, with the result that drinking beer when she is around is not a nice, relaxing, peaceful experience. It may be fine if she either doesn't know about it, or if she can pretend that she doesn't know. Most likely she knows.

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