It might be easy for you to see that a loved one’s drinking has become a problem, but the very nature of alcohol often makes it difficult for the person to see just how much alcohol is disrupting their life.
Alcohol acts as a buffer, and those who abuse it are typically looking to escape the realities of their day-to-day life. They sometimes do not see the negative impacts as being caused by alcohol or believe that continuing to drink will make those problems go away.
Continued alcohol abuse tends to result in the person becoming physically and mentally addicted to alcohol. At this point, the person will likely need alcohol addiction treatment to stop drinking. However, the person drinking may not see it that way.
This can be challenging, especially as someone who cares for the person struggling with alcoholism. It can also be very disheartening to hear that “you can’t help them until they acknowledge they have a drinking problem”.
However, there are things you can do to show the person you care for them and support them getting better while keeping yourself from spiraling into their addiction.
A step-by-step guide for helping someone with alcohol abuse can help. The following are a number of ways you can lend support to a person who struggles with drinking.
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Learn About Alcohol Dependence
One of the ways to help someone with alcohol abuse is to learn about alcohol abuse and addiction. This can help you understand their behavior and to stop taking their actions personally.
Alcohol addiction is a treatable, chronic disease, complete with symptoms, triggers, and genetic predispositions. A person struggling with alcohol addiction is sick and cannot always make the best decisions for themselves.
There are Al-Anon meetings, as well as online support groups, for friends and families of those struggling with alcohol addiction. These groups educate members about how alcoholism affects the entire family and the toll that it takes on everyone.
Al-Anon offers information on how to separate yourself from the problems of the person struggling with alcoholism.
Many people report that the stories they heard sounded exactly like what they were experiencing in their own lives and that they didn’t feel so alone afterward.
Al-Anon also teaches about unhealthy and enabling roles that you may be playing in the life of someone addicted to alcohol, and what to do if that is happening.
Another quality source for information regarding alcohol abuse and addiction is the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism.
Carefully Confront The Person
Planning what you want to say before you approach someone struggling with an alcohol abuse problem is a good idea. This will help you stay on task and remain calm.
Make every effort to hold this conversation when the person has not been drinking and is not emotionally charged. If the person has their defenses up, they may not be willing to hear what you have to say.
Do not offer ultimatums or threats, as it is important that the person does not feel attacked or threatened. Accusations are also discouraged.
What is important to focus on is how concerned you are, as well as how important they are to you. If they understand you are coming from a place of love and genuine care for their wellbeing, they may be more inclined to listen.
Discuss concerns about how their drinking is affecting their relationship with you and other loved ones, or how their alcohol consumption is causing financial or legal troubles in their life.
Make sure they understand that you support them quitting alcohol and if they need help finding a treatment program, rehab facility, support group, or 12-step program, you are willing to help.
Another reason many people avoid inpatient rehab programs is that they do not have anyone to help them maintain obligations while they focus on their recovery. If this is something you can help with, speak up.
You should expect some opposition, especially if the person is in denial or claims they can stop drinking without attending a program.
If they insist upon stopping on their own, consider working with them to create a timeline that shows the changes they should be making.
Consider Staging An Intervention
The first attempt to help someone with alcohol abuse isn’t usually effective, even if the person is agreeable to treatment. The next step to consider is an intervention, led by a professional therapist.
You should plan to meet with the therapist in advance to create a strategy for the intervention.
Interventions include friends and family of the person struggling with alcohol addiction. During the meeting, ideas for treatment are discussed as well as what will happen if the person continues to drink and refuses to go to treatment.
Some consequences of refusing alcohol abuse treatment to consider may be:
- removing financial support
- asking them to move out
- separation from partner
- child visitation removed
- refusing to clean up their messes
When the person agrees to go to treatment, the consequences are removed, and support should be resumed.
The decision to go to treatment belongs only to the person who needs it; you should not force someone into a rehab program. After options are presented, support is offered, and consequences are enforced, it is up to them to decide to seek alcohol abuse treatment.
Sometimes, people get so consumed with the life of their loved one who is addicted to alcohol that they stop focusing on themselves almost entirely. This behavior is called codependency.
Codependency can be devastating to your own mental health. Al-Anon can help you maintain focus on yourself while learning how to support your loved one at the same time.
The Path To Recovery From Alcohol Addiction
Attending alcohol addiction treatment is only part of the recovery process, and the journey into sobriety is not always a smooth transition. Once the alcohol has been removed, painful issues often resurface and need to be addressed.
A person in recovery learns new, appropriate coping skills and understands that sobriety is a process that needs to be worked at every day.
Loved ones are likely to be affected by the many changes in their newly sober family member or friend. Continuing to have a support system, like Al-Anon, can help you understand your new role in their life, and how you can continue to support them without being codependent.
Vertava Health of Massachusetts offers inpatient treatment for alcohol abuse with a tri-level continuum of care. Medication-assisted treatment is available, with an Ativan taper for alcohol abuse to help individuals safely stop drinking.
To learn more about treatment options at Vertava Health of Massachusetts, or to better understand a loved one’s alcohol abuse problem, contact a treatment specialist today.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism — Alcohol Use Disorder: A Comparison, Drinking Levels Defined
- National Center for Biotechnology Information — Alcohol Use Disorders: Glossary of Terms
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — Fact Sheets - Binge Drinking