Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

My Schizophrenic Dad is Scaring My 14 yr Old

I am brand new to the forum, and I came here out of desperation…
My dad is a 40+ year alcoholic. Several months ago, he moved in with me and, not long after, was diagnosed with schizophrenia. His psych doctor started him on weekly therapy, and some psych meds (he did not tell me exactly what, and he keeps them put away), and EXPRESSLY forbade him from drinking with them. Of course, that lasted a whole week, and he was doing it anyway. Either that, or he was skipping his meds altogether, and carrying on drinking. The drinking, of course, makes his paranoia and agitation and desire to start arguments with someone increase exponentially when he drinks, with and without meds. He even started threatening me and calling me all kinds of names, as well as having arguments with people who weren’t actually there (whether they were voices, or people he once knew, I am not sure). It was all scary because it was new, but I was learning to cope…
THEN, my 14 yr old, who was living with his father, had to move back in with me suddenly, because of an emergency. I spoke with my father and told him that he HAD to make a real effort to stop drinking, so that he didn’t do anything to upset my son. Yet, on my son’s very first night here, my father was really drunk, and he started shouting at me, calling me names and saying hateful things to me, and even threatening me, right in front of my son. That put my son off, naturally, but he agreed to give my dad a second chance, after I talked to him a little bit. The peace lasted all of two days… Then, my dad started drinking, early in the morning, and started trying to impress some of his paranoid thoughts and ideas onto my son. He even told my son that he is crazy, just like my dad himself is, because they share the same genes!
For the sake of shortening the story (sort of), my son now simply cannot stand to even be in the same house with my dad. He always fears that my dad will come in his room and try to make him take walks with him (which even my son knows is a bad idea), try to force him to eat when he’s not hungry (since my dad has decided to take over parenting for me), or worse, start yelling at, and berating, me again. He isn’t afraid that my dad will be violent, as he has not been yet. But my dad does make my son very on edge constantly.
The list of issues goes on and on, but these are the highlights. Naturally, I cannot keep my son in such an environment. Even without physical abuse, he is still suffering from anxiety and dread, wondering and worrying what will happen with my dad next. I am doing everything I can to be a buffer for him with my dad, but of course, my dad thinks that I am just keeping my son away from him because I wish to be cruel. He truly doesn’t believe that he is any part of the problem. That, in turn, causes him to lash out more at me, which, of course, angers and upsets my son. And round and round we go…
HOWEVER, my dad is still on parole. And one of the violations of his parole is drinking, even at home. Even a single drink could land him back in prison, so imagine what would happen if I tried to report his current behavior! I love my son, and I would do ANYTHING to protect him. But my father needs HELP, NOT prison. Also, my father is too affected by his conditions to be able to live on his own, and there are no other family members willing to help with him. So, I feel as though my hands are tied as to what I can do to fix this situation. I can’t simply take my son and leave him here, because who knows what he would do? But I also can’t call any authority figure, or a mental health professional, explain his behavior, and not expect them to take some sort of legal action.
My father is not a bad man, and I love him. But right now, he is doing all the wrong things, and he’s putting me in a difficult position. And yes, I HAVE tried talking to him when he is sober (or, at least mostly)… But the man he is when he drinks is NOT the same man with whom I had the conversation. And the drunk man ALWAYS comes back, no matter how much I plead or ignore or yell. He needs to be SOMEWHERE, where he can get sober, once and for all, and learn the tools he needs to manage his mental illness properly, so he can be on his own again. But none of those things will happen in prison. And I am far too unqualified to help him with those things…
Please… any advice is most welcome. I just want my son to be safe and happy, and for my dad to get proper help…

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Thank you for sharing. Yes, this is a tough situation and, unfortunately, is very similar to what many others have experienced. I see that you have another post on this same concern, so please see responses there. (Alcoholic Schizophrenic Father Distresses My Son)

I dealt with a schizophrenic daughter not on meds AND an alcoholic husband. They inflamed each other for years. After a while, I called the police on both repeatedly when it was necessary. Eventually, my husband’s repeat incarcerations got him to get the drinking under control, and my daughter’s repeat involuntary mental health holds got her on meds and psychosis under control. And I had to get therapy for myself for my guilt over “putting them away”. But now, my household is mostly calm and pleasant and the two of them have a great relationship.

Personally, in my opinion, you have a duty to protect your son legally. You love your father and want to help him, but he is responsible for his own condition. You have no legal duty to him. Your father is refusing his own salvation by continuing to drink and he is breaking the law. He actually belongs in jail. He will detox off alcohol in jail, his meds might work better, and he might choose to stay on meds without alcohol when he is released. Again, this is my opinion only, I don’t feel it is worth putting your son in danger (and yourself) by living with your dad if he continues to abuse alcohol (and you and your son’s generosity).

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I think you have to work backwards. The psychological safety of your 14 y.o. is the top priority. He’s entitled to live in a safe environment. He has many years left to live and his brain is still forming.

Your father either has to stop drinking and take his psychiatric meds or leave.

I don’t have any great ideas about how to make this happen. Step one might be to tell him this and see how he responds. If he says yes and will go to AA, then that would be a positive sign. If there is resistance, then you might have to take legal action, as in contacting Child Protective Services and see what the professionals say to do. Or, if you can pay for it, meet with the psychiatrist and get his advice.

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