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.”
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:
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
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
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 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.”