How to Help an Alcoholic

How to Help an Alcoholic

Alcoholism, known medically as alcohol use disorder, can be a devastating disease, not just for the alcoholic, but also for his or her family members and friends. It can be incredibly difficult to watch a loved one suffer due to his or her problematic drinking behaviors but don’t give up. While no one but the alcoholic him- or herself can decide to quit, there are a few things loved ones can do to help.

Get Educated

Those who drink without becoming addicted to alcohol often assume that their alcoholic loved ones could do the same if they just changed their priorities. Unfortunately, that’s just not true. The best thing an alcoholic’s friends and family members can do to help their loved one and protect themselves is to become educated about how addiction works.
First, know that alcoholism changes a person’s brain. Once it takes over, the person’s emotions, judgment, ability to reason, and even his or her personality will be compromised. The best way to help someone in this position is to treat alcoholism like what it is: a serious, medically diagnosable disease.
An alcoholic doesn’t just need love, encouragement, or incentive to quit drinking. He or she will need the help of a dedicated, trained professional.

Research Treatment Options

Most alcoholics, even those that truly want help, aren’t going to research counselors, treatment centers, or rehabilitation facilities on their own. They may, however, be willing to try these and other options if a loved one does the legwork for them. Every person’s needs are a little different, so focus on recovery solutions that reflect a loved one’s circumstances, personality, and level of dependency. Call us today if you have questions about what is available.

Avoid Enabling

Enabling can be defined as helping an alcoholic avoid the consequences of his or her addiction. These may include lost jobs, ruined reputations, or even criminal charges for things like DUIs. It’s tempting to try to bail a loved one out of financial or legal trouble each time his or her alcohol use disorder causes a loss of control, but that’s not helpful. It’s enabling.

Many alcoholics have trouble recognizing that they have a problem. Helping them avoid the consequences of their actions is a great way to ensure that they’ll never have to face reality. For many, being forced to accept accountability for negative behaviors can be a good incentive to seek help. In these cases, the best thing for a loved one to do is nothing.

Consider an Intervention

Interventions give family members and friends a way to reach out to their loved ones to show support without enabling negative behaviors or allowing their boundaries to be transgressed. When staging an intervention, invite friends or family members who care about their loved one and aren’t afraid to be firm, but don’t treat it like an argument or a confrontation.

It’s best for family members considering an intervention to speak with a professional addiction counselor first. He or she will be able to explain the process in detail and may even offer to act as a moderator. Professionally moderated interventions are best when the person is in denial about his or her alcohol use disorder. 1000 Islands Wellness Intake counsellors can help you with this important step.

If possible, it’s best to schedule an intervention for a time of day that the alcoholic is sober and calm. Mornings are best for most people, especially those who are not physically dependent on alcohol yet and typically wait until later in the day to drink. If the person’s alcohol addiction has not yet reached extremely damaging proportions, it may be worthwhile to offer him or her a chance to quit drinking without professional help first. Just make sure to have a backup plan in place.

Create and Enforce Boundaries

Alcoholics have one priority, and it’s obtaining and consuming their drug of choice. Remember that they’re not choosing to prioritize alcohol use over their relationships, but don’t allow that to become an excuse for unacceptable behavior.
It’s important for anyone trying to help a loved one struggling to get sober to create and enforce boundaries. Alcoholics are likely to push those boundaries and if they find they can get away with it, the situation will degenerate quickly.

Keep in mind that alcoholism is no excuse for unacceptable behavior. Abuse, whether physical, verbal, or emotional, is never acceptable. It’s important for those who want to help their loved ones recover to prioritize their own safety and that of their children, so don’t hesitate to walk away from someone who is using his or her alcoholism as an excuse for abusive behavior.

Creating boundaries isn’t just about avoiding worst-case scenarios like abuse. If they aren’t careful, those trying to support alcoholic friends or family members can quickly find that even if they don’t drink, the problem begins to consume their lives. Don’t tolerate behavior like arriving in the middle of the night to make a scene, getting drunk and rowdy in front of children, or otherwise disrupting other people’s lives. It will only enable those behaviors and prolong the alcoholic’s ability to delay getting help.

Don’t Forget About Self-Care

Living with or frequently dealing with an alcohol friend or family member can make it feel like life is just a series of minor, or major, crises. The focus of loved ones’ lives shift to the alcoholic’s problems and they often allow their own needs to go unmet. That’s a mistake.

No one can decide to get sober for a loved one. However, they can control their own choices and responses. Look for support groups for friends and family members of addicts, schedule an appointment with a counselor, or find other ways to focus on self-care and learning how to set healthy boundaries.

The Bottom Line

For alcoholics, quitting drinking isn’t just a matter of putting down the bottle. They need to rewire their brains, learn new coping mechanisms for dealing with stress and cravings, and re-build their lives and relationships from the ground up with a healthier, sober perspective. Watching someone suffer in the meantime can be tough, but people who love alcoholics shouldn’t despair. Even if the person has changed, he or she is still in there. With time, dedication, and professional help from a centre like the 1000 Islands Wellness and Treatment Centre, anyone can get sober, so don’t give up.