How You Can Help An Alcoholic Find The Way Back To A Sober Life

If someone you love has suffered or is suffering from alcoholism, it may be difficult for you to meet halfway in dealing with things. People who suffer from excessive alcohol use are unable to control the amount they drink. You need to approach them with deep understanding and empathy.

You also need to look out for warning signs. “[T]he trouble with warning signs is that we often don’t recognize them at the time we most need to. With something like addiction that takes some time to develop, we may already be steps down the path before we realize we’re even on it,” Peg O’Connor, PhD, wrote. They may seem insignificant at first, “however, if they become more common and routine over a period of time, they warrant further attention.”

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Joshua Gowin, PhD, wrote, “[B]ehavioral researchers sought to understand the physiological and psychological effects of drinking. Drinking profoundly alters mood, arousal, behavior, and neuropsychological functioning.”

While it’s true that the fate of an alcoholic is in his own hands, as a loved one, you can still take steps to help them break free from alcoholism. The following may give you ideas on how to help an alcoholic find the way back to sobriety:

Reach Out

As someone close to the alcoholic, you might be mad or sad at the situation. However, do not be careless in communicating with them. Both of you may find striking up a conversation uncomfortable, but voicing out your concern is necessary for them to know that you sincerely want to help. Bringing up their drinking problems carefully in the conversation can help make them understand where your concern is coming from.

Keep in mind that alcoholism is a disorder alcoholics didn’t want. Thus, they need someone who will continuously be on their side to guide them.

Do Not Lecture Them

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When you reach out to an alcoholic, do not impose on them. Shaming them and saying they’re at fault will only make them more distant, leading them to rely more on drinking. Outright judgment can also lower their self-esteem.

Be careful in choosing the words you say to them. Avoid harshly condemning them for their behaviors, as it can lead to denial and resistance, which will do more harm. If the situation allows, you can suggest they get professional help. However, you must be extra careful in bringing the topic up as the thought can hit them negatively.

Do Not Be An Enabler

Remember that you’re there to help them, not to tolerate their wrong actions. Being an enabler means letting them get off the hook and continue drinking. If you see signs that you’re already making excuses for their behavior, you might already be enabling them. If they think that they’ll get out bad situations because of their drinking behavior, then they may end up taking advantage of that.

Enabling them is tantamount to allowing their drinking disorder to continue. It can also mean doing things for them which they are capable of accomplishing. If someone keeps on taking on an alcoholic’s responsibilities, they will never learn to get back up on their own.

Offer Assistance In Finding Help

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If the alcoholic is ready to receive help, offer your assistance in finding ways to help them. Giving them a starting point in their recovery process will help lessen their worries about it. Review different treatment programs to decide which will be a good fit for the alcoholic. They can enroll in recovery support groups, treatment centers, or therapy sessions. Having these choices ready for them can make the way to sobriety more manageable for them.

Be Supportive

Be with them throughout their recovery process. Showing that you care can help put their mindset back on track. Always remember that having people who support them is vital for their continued and long-term rehabilitation. 

Alcoholics fall into alcoholism for different reasons. As a loved one, it may be challenging to face the situation. But if you’re in a position to help, it will be worth all the effort once they gain sobriety and get back to society once more.

“Family members easily become codependent with the alcoholic. Without help, that codependency follows the same downward trajectory of alcoholism,” wrote Darlene Lancer, JD, LMFT. “There is hope, however, and there is help for the addict and for family members.”

Reaching Out To A Loved One Who Has Substance Abuse Problems

The road to recovery can be a long and challenging journey for people struggling from substance abuse. That is why apart from the necessary interventions, they will need the full support and utmost care from their loved ones.

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Family and friends have vital roles in helping recovering drug addicts get back on their feet. However, family member and friends should also know the proper way to approach and reach out to their loved ones who are coping.

Understanding Substance Abuse

“Substance abuse is far from a victimless crime: Co-workers and family members of substance abusers’ lives are often hurt by the abuse,” Marty Nemko Ph.D. explains.

Before families and friends can help their loved ones recover from substance abuse, it is best to educate themselves about the addiction. Not every individual who uses drugs immediately falls into substance abuse. However, for those who do, it may be difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when the addiction started.

Various risk factors can cause substance abuse. People with a history of addiction in the family are most likely to inherit the inclination to drugs. Having mental health disorders and traumatic experiences of abuse can lead someone to cope with drugs too. Apart from that, the early use of drugs, primarily through smoking and injection, may be hard to quit with the frequency of use.

Once a person begins to practice drug abuse, there will be manifestations in both the physical and behavioral aspects. Some of the symptoms you want to look out for are as follows:

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  • Red or glassy eyes and runny or stuffy nose
  • Excessive money spending
  • Changing sleeping patterns
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Mood swings

How To Reach Out To A Loved One

Schedule therapy sessions and connect with treatment programs.

Distant family members and friends are the last things that a recovering person needs. Engaging in support groups and therapy programs can help families and friends reconnect and understand their loved ones. These appointments are a safe space to discuss the condition and the proper ways to cope with it.

“Family-based intervention programs address the whole family as a system, teaching appropriate parenting and family management skills. These programs are the most effective way of preventing or treating adolescent substance abuse and delinquency ,” Joseph Nowinski Ph.D. says.

Spend time together.

It is necessary to spend valuable time with a recovering loved one. Being alone makes a person stressed and lonely, which may encourage them to fall back to their addiction. Staying in touch through activities like cooking, going out, finding new hobbies, or simply hanging out together can go a long way.

Make sure they get regular exercise.

Short exercises every day can have a lot of positive benefits for a person. Working out and engaging in physical activities can reduce levels of anxiety and depression. Exercise can be a healthy outlet for all the stress that an individual is feeling.

Stick to a sleeping schedule.

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Sleeping problems can have adverse effects such as depressive moods and high levels of anger, sadness, and exhaustion. By creating and sticking to a sleep schedule, the patient can condition his or her brain to rest at the designated time.

Understand that recovery is an ongoing process.

Coming back from substance addiction is not an easy task. Being a support system means being patient with your loved ones as they make mistakes and adapt to the changes happening to them. Continue being involved in their transitioning, especially as they struggle.

“When it comes to kicking an addiction, the only way that a patient can really change is if they want to modify behavior,” Dr. Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC shares. “Without motivation to take action or seek out treatment, then whatever tactic put into place to solve the addiction will fail over time when the individual relapses,” she added.

Be careful about how you talk to them.

Even in stressful moments, family and friends should make sure that they don’t enable addictive behaviors. Be sensitive with their emotions. It won’t help to argue, threaten, or lecture your loved one.

The best way you can support a loved one with substance abuse problems is by encouraging them throughout their journey. It won’t always be easy, but it will be critical to their recovery.

Impact Of Alcoholic Parents To Their Children

People assume that alcoholism only affects the alcoholic themselves, and dealing with addiction in alcohol is generally not harming anyone else. That is not true. In fact, living in a household where a parent is alcoholic impacts children’s lives in a colossal way.

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Unfortunately, the impact of growing up around alcoholism can be so severe that it can last forever. Alcoholism also burdens the people around the alcoholic, especially children. They often carry the wound associated with alcoholic parents even into their adulthood and, worse, into their future family.

According to Steven Gans, MD, “Because alcohol use is normalized in families with alcoholism, children can often struggle to distinguish between good role models and bad ones.”

Psychological Effects

If children live in an environment with an alcoholic, they might suffer from ongoing and lifetime effects that may impact their behavior, view in life, and mental or emotional state.

1. Anxiety

Living with an alcoholic adult, especially a parent, can take a heavy toll on children. They may often wonder what their day is going to look like. Children might be anxious regarding what problems might arise and what situation they will go home to after school. Will they be yelled at? Or worse, will their parents harm them?

“Kids do worry,” said Lana Stern, PhD. “There’s a lot of anxiety children experience when they have an alcoholic parent because the children don’t know what to expect at home and if the parent is going to be sober.”

2. Embarrassment

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Often, a household with an alcoholic is chaotic and does not feel like home. No children would ever feel comfortable sharing stories about their families or have friends over their house, especially with an alcoholic parent. Most of the time, alcoholics don’t get embarrassed anymore with their drinking habits. They may even possibly drink in front of their children’s visitors, which will lead to more embarrassment.

“Shame is the feeling that you’re bad or wrong and unworthy of love. There are so many things that alcoholic families don’t talk about – to each other and especially to the outside world. These secrets breed shame. When there are things so awful that they can’t be talked about, you feel there is something awful about you and that you’ll be judged and cast away,” wrote Sharon Martin, LCSW.

3. Anger

No children would ever want to grow up in a household with alcoholic parents. It is likely that these children nurse some anger inside them, directed at at their parents, the situation they have, or the impact of alcohol in general.

4. Depression

The children of an alcoholic may feel isolated and alone. This situation is dangerous, especially when they feel like no one understands what they are going through. It may lead to depression which also causes suicidal and harmful thoughts.

Issues Related To Alcoholic Parents

The following are some issues between parents with alcohol addiction and their children.

  • Lack of communication
  • Misunderstandings
  • Little to no structure in the household relationship
  • Conflict among family members
  • Terrible parenting
  • Isolation
  • Financial concerns
  • Emotional confusion
  • Unpredictable personality
  • Child abuse
  • Verbal abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Children’s exposure to alcohol

Helping An Alcoholic Parent

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Having a parent with alcohol addiction causes a lot of stress already. However, their children can do some things that will help address their parents’ drinking problem.

  • Know what exactly the problem (alcoholism) is.
  • Communicate and be honest.
  • Support them physically and emotionally.
  • Get professional help
  • Keep an eye for relapse.
  • Help them build good habits.

Children raised by a parent with alcohol addiction are more prone to emotional neglect, psychological problems, behavioral problems, social issues, and emotional stress. Growing up in a home with an alcoholic can be a lonely, scary, and confusing experience. They should be looking up to loving and hardworking parents, not to drunk and problematic parents. Children should be nurtured, especially during their learning stage, and they should not have to live with the unpleasant behaviors that alcohol can cause.