Dealing with a loved one with a drinking problem can be tremendously challenging and emotionally painful. If someone close to you is suffering from alcohol addiction, there is hope. Addiction is a disease of choice, meaning the addiction sufferer cannot make healthy choices. But the good news is that help is available.
It is essential to understand that addiction is not a moral failing or a sign of a lack of character. As suggested above, it is an impairment of the ability to choose healthy alternatives to drinking. Understanding this may make it easier to refrain from placing blame as you offer support to your loved one dealing with alcoholism.
Watching your loved one slowly deteriorate is extremely distressing. It can create feelings of fear, despair, anger, shame, and self-blame. Even as we endeavor to support a loved one dealing with alcoholism, it is important to be kind to yourself and maintain a good emotional and physical self-care routine. Supporting an alcoholic may be difficult, but if you also become unwell, your loved one’s hope of recovery will be further diminished.
Finally, know that supporting an alcoholic does not mean enabling their addiction. It means finding ways to motivate them to seek professional help.
The first step to helping an alcoholic is to recognize the signs of problem drinking. These include regularly neglecting responsibilities, frequent drinking binges, lying about or hiding drinking behavior, blacking out, continued drinking even when problems arise, and the persistent use of alcohol to self-medicate.
Remember, any stressors that a person experiences will reduce their ability to use self-control. For those who are prone to alcoholism, stress means an increased likelihood that problem drinking will occur. Understand that self-control is always in limited supply, which is part of why addiction is a disease of choice. Your role will be to support your loved one to help them cope with stress and make healthier choices.
Talking to someone with a drinking problem is fraught with challenges. You may fear that broaching the subject of problem drinking will trigger defensiveness, anger, hostility, denial, or all of the above. This is a very reasonable concern. Reactions like these are common and often to be expected. But you have a right to voice your concerns, and ignoring the problem is no solution at all.
1. Pick a time when your loved one is sober
Choose a time and place with minimal distractions, when your loved one is feeling well, and both of you can be calm and focused.
2. Use caring language
Avoid placing blame, using accusatory language, and expressing anger. Minimize the use of the word “you.”
3. Encourage them to open up
Ask them to tell you why they drink, and suggest there may be an underlying problem they are trying to solve by drinking. Be compassionate and avoid placing blame.
4. Consider a family intervention
If possible, stage an intervention where those your loved one trusts most will be present.
No one suffering from alcohol addiction can be expected to overcome this challenge alone. As you struggle with the question of how to support an alcoholic, keep in mind that your goal should be to help motivate them to seek guidance, support, and professional help and to develop the coping skills they need to recover fully.
Being by their side as they call a helpline, is a very effective way to express support and start the process. You may offer to accompany your loved one to doctor’s appointments, counseling sessions, and group meetings. Helping them to formulate a clear plan to deal with the changes that come through recovery is another loving and effective way to help them overcome their problem drinking.
Treatment options may be considered once your loved one has committed to seeking help. You may choose to speak with your loved one’s primary healthcare provider. Attending a 12-step program may also be a good place to start.
Behavioral treatments such as group and individual cognitive therapy are an effective and evidence-based part of any good addiction treatment plan. For those whose addiction problem is most serious, residential treatment may be the best early option. Rehabilitation centers offer intensive addiction treatment and can give your loved one access to a wide range of personalized care options.
Alcoholism destroys health, relationships, and lives. As you work to care for your loved one struggling with addiction, remember to take time for yourself. Do not neglect your need for rest, quality nutrition, and the activities you enjoy. Take the time to learn additional strategies to deal with stress yourself. After all, if you become unwell while your loved one needs your caring attention, their chances of recovery will suffer.
Mind Body Awareness specializes in treating a broad spectrum of addiction and mental health conditions. We deliver time-tested, holistic therapies to support a successful recovery as well as whole-body healing.
Get in touch today to learn more.