What impact will my stepfather’s alcoholism have on me?

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on September 10th, 2011 - Last updated: October 2nd, 2023
This content was written in accordance with our Editorial Guidelines.

Dear Stanton,

My father is an alcoholic and my mom says that if i start drinking it might lead me to be a alcoholic also. But there’s a catch — he’s my stepfather who has been around for 13 years of my life. Does it still affect me?


Dear Tim:

How old are you? People often claim that having a biological parent who is an alcoholic will make you an alcoholic, and that a child should therefore never begin drinking.

This is a prescription for failure.

We regularly tell children not to drink and they ignore us, so we need to give them a realistic prescription — which is similar to that for everyone.

Examine the reasons and results of your drinking; make sure that you keep on track in school and life, because failing to do so is the best facilitator of unhealthy and excessive habits; associate with other people who behave in a constructive fashion and use substances responsibly.

As for the impact of your stepfather — it depends on your relationship, good and bad. If good, be aware of him as a model, a negative model. If he says, “Do like me, and avoid alcohol” (if this is the case), that is not necessarily your life solution.

And, of course, don’t duplicate his dysfunctional drinking if he is actively alcoholic.

On the other hand, if the relationship is bad, your concerns become safeguarding your mental health, finding positive role models and relationships outside the home, and keeping on track in school and life despite distractions at home.

This can be tough, but you can do it, I know.


Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *