How to Help an Alcoholic – It can be horrible to watch someone you love suffering from the chronic disease of addiction. Whether you’re struggling with alcoholism yourself or watching it unfold in another, over time, you may begin to lose hope that there is any way to overcome this devastating condition.
As someone close to the alcoholic, you also have a significant influence over his or her life. Although you cannot save them yourself, you can encourage them to seek help and support them on their journey to recovery. The following are tips on how to help an alcoholic admit they have a problem and find solace in recovery.
When it Is Time for a Confrontation
People outside of the healthcare industry have many preconceived notions about how to help those suffering from addiction. For example, you may have been told that your loved one needs to hit “rock bottom” to motivate them enough to change. Others may adhere to the archaic idea that addiction is a moral failing or matter of willpower, and unless the person decides to “just say no,” there is nothing you can really do but pray.
However, it is often the case that these individuals have not personally experienced or witnessed addiction firsthand. The reality is that many people have had great success in recovery programs, even if they were resistant to it initially or they never hit what might be considered to be the lowest point in this disease.
Most people intuitively know when the negative effects of alcoholism have become evident in a person’s life. These consequences often include mental and physical health problems, relationship conflicts, poor performance at work or school, and financial or legal issues.
How to Confront an Alcoholic
Confronting an alcoholic about their addiction will be a very sensitive conversation. When preparing for the discussion, there are several vital elements to consider:
Use a Careful Approach
Before facing your loved one, remember to keep your attitude in check. As frustrating as the person can be, you have to consider where they’re coming from. Addiction is a complex, chronic disease that often accompanies other mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression.
Negative talk about their failures may only push them away. Instead, you should focus on expressing love and concern. Let them know that you and others are there to support them and that you are doing this because you care deeply about their mental and physical well-being.
Research Treatment Options
If they seem unmotivated to confront their addiction, it’s up to you and other loved ones to begin researching treatment options for them. Alcohol recovery often begins with detox, but this process can be risky to do at home. If someone has been drinking heavily for a prolonged period, withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening. Therefore, it’s safest to detox in a clinical environment that is capable of monitoring the person’s health during the alcohol withdrawal process.
After an individual has completed a detox program, he or she should be immediately transferred into addiction treatment. Ideally, this would be an inpatient or partial-hospitalization program, but, in some cases, outpatient treatment may be appropriate.
When researching options, you should look for an accredited facility that offers comprehensive, customized treatment and evidence-based services that include psychotherapy, counseling, group support, and aftercare planning.
Stage an Intervention
An intervention is sometimes a last-ditch effort for the alcoholic who refuses to recognize or deal with the problem. During an intervention, the person’s closest friends and family gather together in an attempt to persuade him or her to seek help.
The thought of staging an intervention can be frightening. You may be understandably worried that the person will react with anger and the relationship will become even more strained. While this is certainly a possibility, you cannot let it be your primary concern. Instead, you should use that fear as inspiration to put as much thought and care into preparation as possible.
Interventions can be extremely effective when they are approached and planned correctly. It is a very good idea to work with a therapist or counselor who specializes in interventions to help you prepare for and facilitate the conversation. Interventionists are experts at managing these gatherings, ensuring that the dialog is appropriate and that the conversation goes smoothly and is constructive and beneficial.
Understand Your Role And, If Necessary, Step Back
It can be easy to get swept up in the turmoil of your loved one’s alcoholism, but you must remember to take good care of yourself as well. You can support your friend or family member throughout their recovery process while also understanding that it is not your job to save them. You can encourage him or her and provide some tough love, but, in the end, they must take responsibility for their own lives.
And, no matter what has contributed to their addiction, remember that it’s not your fault. Every person makes their own choices—you are not responsible for their actions, and you should not feel guilty or blame yourself.
If you feel it might be beneficial, consider speaking to a therapist or counselor to help you or other loved ones process the trauma. Alcoholism can be difficult and sometimes devastating for everyone involved, and it’s okay for the friends and family members of those suffering from addiction to reach out and seek support for themselves.
One of the best things you can do is learn about alcoholism. Read all you can and share articles, books, and information with friends and family members. You should also consider attending open meetings of Al-Anon—these meetings serve as support for family and friends who are coping with a loved one’s alcoholism.
Keep Your Emotions in Check
Alcoholism is associated with intense emotions in both the alcoholic and among his or her loved ones. Some interactions can be very destructive and encourage the individual to continue their addiction.
Watching a loved one continuing to suffer is a powerless feeling. However, when talking to the person, you can not let your personal pain direct the conversation. Emotional appeals as to how much they’ve hurt you or others can exacerbate their own negative feelings, possibly increasing their desire to drink and escape overwhelming emotions.
Don’t Cover for the Alcoholic
Every person, even those with addiction, must take responsibility for their own behavior and decisions. Making excuses to a boss or teacher, doing work for them, and paying their bills only helps to enable their addiction. Unless it’s a life-threatening situation, you should never lend money to someone with alcoholism.
Pick Your Battles
If you confront an alcoholic every time he or she misbehaves, soon you might find your words falling on deaf ears. This possibility is especially likely if you try to have a conversation with them when they are still intoxicated. Instead, wait until they can have a rational conversation (and preferably not severely hungover) before confronting them.
Never Drink with an Alcoholic
Sometimes it might feel like it’s okay to drink with a loved one who is an alcoholic. This behavior is never acceptable, however, regardless of the situation, and it will only serve to condone drinking and encourage the person to continue their habit.
You Don’t Have to Do it Alone
Harmony Treatment and Wellness treats and supports patients in recovery through the use of a comprehensive approach that customizes treatment to the individual. Call us today to learn about our treatment options and how we can help your loved one break free from addiction and get a new lease on life!