9 Ways You Can Help an Alcoholic Loved One
If someone you care about struggles with an alcohol addiction, it’s hard to know what to do. Knowing how to help an alcoholic isn’t easy, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do everything you can. Alcoholism is a destructive and potentially deadly disease. Anyone with this condition should be guided to seek help as soon as they possibly can. Let this guide help by suggesting some of the best ways to help someone overcome their addiction.
Help Yourself First: Gaining an Education About Alcohol Use Disorder
Many people have a very rough understanding of addiction, and that may not be enough in order to help those suffering from alcohol use disorder. Addiction is not a choice or a moral flaw. Alcoholism is an illness, and it can develop for a whole host of reasons. Alcohol addictions can develop because of trauma, mental health concerns or genetics. Understanding the root causes of addiction, as well as the recovery process, will prepare you for the process ahead.
Find out all you an about how this illness is affecting the individual. Get advice and counseling to help you deal with your issues surrounding this issue. To help your loved one, you will need to know more about alcoholism.
While you can’t force a person into treatment, you can try to encourage the person to see how serious the situation is. One thing you should not do is to let the addicted person take over your life. No matter how much you care and want to help, you will only be enabling your loved one if you allow him or her to use your friendship or love against you.
Co-dependency is a big problem in families where alcoholism is an issue. Those with co-dependency tend to interact with the alcoholic in ways that are detrimental to their own life. They have developed their own dependency on the addict instead of a substance.
Here Are 9 Ways to Help Your Loved One
- Stop hiding the problem. Stop keeping it a secret if you have been doing so. Tell other close family members, doctors, priests, or ministers. Tell anyone in a position to provide support. If everyone close to the situation knows about it, you all can fact the problem head-on.
- Assemble support. Make a plan to talk to the addicted person with whichever family members or friends they respect most, and who can remain the calmest.
- Choose the right time to talk. Don’t try to talk to the person when the individual has been drinking or is highly stressed. Find a time when he/she is as sober and untroubled as possible. That would be early in the day for most drinkers.
- Keep your cool. Acting as a calm, non-accusative team, confront the person with the damage they are causing. Damage to themselves, the family, and other areas such as job, community, and career. Be specific but be patient and as uncritical as you can be. However, do not back down and do not sympathize.
- Is this your first confrontation? If this is the FIRST TIME, you have confronted the person, you may decide to give them another chance to quit on their own. If the person has been drinking for some years, then it is highly unlikely that this is the first confrontation. It is also practically certain that the body of the alcoholic is so addicted to alcohol that he or she will be unable to stop without help.
- Discuss solutions. When the person has already been given a chance and failed. No doubt, the individual has provided plenty of excuses for his or her failure. This is the time to talk about a rehab facility.
- Talk about consequences. If the alcoholic refuses to talk about going to rehab, the family will have to reach an agreement on the next steps to take. Refusing to bail the person out of legal, financial, professional and personal problems. If the person is being housed for free, then the family member may need to refuse this support if there is no agreement to go to rehab.
- Seek help from others. If these steps fail, then there may be another person that the alcoholic considers an authority, or holds in high regard. See if that person can help convince the individual to seek help.
- Contact a professional interventionist. You might get to a stage where you have no other choice but to stage an intervention. If all these steps fail, the next thing the family should do is contact an interventionist with experience working with an addicted person. Bring the interventionist in and give them all the help and assistance they request to get your loved one to agree to get help. Fortunately, correctly managed interventions are very effective at encouraging addicts to get help.
The goal of these 9 steps leads to one thing: the arrival of the addict at an alcohol recovery program. Alcoholism can not be treated at home. The best treatment is at a facility where the alcoholic can’t get ahold of any alcohol and where there is 24-hour supervision.
Don’t Enable Their Addiction
It’s normal to struggle with exactly how to help an alcoholic. However, one of the worst things you can do is enable their addiction. Enabling is any action that encourages or facilitates the abuse of alcohol. This includes gifting money, but it can include other favors as well.
Giving an alcoholic cash is protecting them from the consequences of addiction. Furthermore, it gives them the opportunity to purchase more alcohol. Often, it just postpones the inevitable.
Of course, saying no can be difficult. Rather than offering money, offer support and encouragement. If possible, offer financial assistance for recovery or rehab. You can also offer to support them as they make a change in their life for the better.
Is My Loved One Really an Alcoholic?
You need to reassure yourself that your loved one is suffering from alcohol use disorder. You may have previously overlooked signs and symptoms of a problem until the damage became obvious. If you are still wondering if the individual is abusing alcohol or progressed to alcoholism, these are the signs of alcohol abuse to look for:
- Drinking alcohol interferes with school or work activities because of being hungover or sick.
- The person will drink even knowing that they will be driving, boating, or doing something else that would be risky if impaired.
- There are memory loss or blackouts.
- Accidents or injuries occur after drinking.
- The person drinks even though there are physical conditions that would be made worse by drinking.
Alcohol abuse becomes an addiction when these symptoms show up:
- The person has no control over how much or when he or she drinks.
- He needs to ingest more alcohol to get the same buzz as before.
- Withdrawal symptoms set in when the person stops drinking. The individual may feel sick, sweaty, shaky, and anxious.
- Considerable time is spent drinking or recovering from drinking.
- The person continues to drink even though there is harm to relationships, career, education, and family.
- The person drinks early in the day, stays drunk for a long time, or drinks alone.
- He may try to conceal the drinking and make excuses.
- The addict consistently relies on alcohol to relieve stress or solve problems.
- Despite repeated attempts to quit, the person continues to drink.
- Alcohol becomes a focal point in life. The drinker must always make sure there is enough on hand and social events always include drinking.
How To Help An Alcoholic
When a family realizes that one of the members’ drinking problem is probably alcoholism, it is a big step forward in handling the situation. You may have suggested that they cut back, improve their behavior, and not go out to bars as often.
Then you wait to see what happens. When there is no improvement, family members and close friends begin to realize the problem is alcoholism. The drinker is out of control of their drinking. He or she is likely to be physically and psychologically dependent on the substance and is compelled to drink.
There is a fine line between helping an alcoholic and enabling the individual. It is important not to be helping in a way that makes it easier for the individual to continue the addictive behavior.
When the person has been given chances to improve on their own and can not do it, it may be time for the family to step in. An alcohol rehabilitation program is necessary.
Prepare for a Discussion or Intervention
If you believe that your loved one does, in fact, have an alcohol use disorder, you may need to speak with him or her about getting help. While an intervention might be necessary, you must properly prepare yourself. Know what to say, how to say it, and when to address it.
If you want to stage an intervention, only invite people that are close to the person suffering from alcoholism. Practice what each person will say in advance, and create a plan of action that begins immediately after the intervention. Understand they may not be responsive, so don’t initiate any ultimatums that you aren’t prepared to keep.
5 Rules of Being Supportive
If you want to show your support for a loved one who is in treatment for alcohol use disorder, here are five rules you should follow:
- Keep things running smoothly at home. One of the best ways to show support is to ensure the person that things are going smoothly. The patient needs to focus his or her energy on getting well, not stressing about things at home.
- Create a substance-free zone. If your loved one is working hard on learning how to live alcohol-free, it would be extremely helpful if you remove the temptations before his or her return. This includes prescription medications and substances that you might not have considered contain alcohol such as cleaning products and certain foods like vanilla extract. Be sure to inspect around the home because your loved one might have a secret stash of alcohol that was hidden before leaving for treatment.
- Support the program. The person will want to know that you are there for him or her. So staying in touch is important. However, you will want to check with the rehab center beforehand. The staff might feel that a visit could trigger addictive behavior. Especially in the early days, it might be better to write a letter rather than phoning or visiting.
- Take care of yourself. While your loved one is in treatment, you have the time to look after yourself again, which is part of being supportive. You have probably been deeply affected by this individual’s alcoholism. Now that the person is getting help doctors and therapists, this is time for you to get yourself stronger, physically and mentally.
- Get involved with the family program. Part of your loved one’s rehab may include family therapy. If it does, it is advisable for you to get involved. Family therapy is a way for the whole family to deal with issues that may have contributed to the addiction in the first place.
Detox vs. Rehab
Some people wonder whether detox or rehab is best for treating alcoholism. The truth is that both are usually required. A comprehensive recovery program will include detox, rehabilitation, and aftercare. Statistics show that those who complete detox without a rehab treatment program are more likely to suffer a relapse.
For most people with alcohol use disorder, detox is a key first step. The goal is to stop drinking and give your body time to get the alcohol out of your system. When someone with an alcohol dependence suddenly stops drinking, they might develop withdrawal symptoms. Usually within 6-24 hours after their last drink. This can start while they still have alcohol in their blood. Most people go to a hospital or treatment center because of withdrawal symptoms like:
- Shaking (tremors), especially in the hands
- Hallucinations, when you hear and see things that aren’t there
- Delirium tremens (DTs), a life-threatening issue that can make you restless, confused, and cause fever, seizures, and hallucinations
- Problems sleeping
- Unstable changes in blood pressure and heart rate
Patients receive 24-hour supervision with doctors and other experts available to keep an eye on them and administer medicines that help with the symptoms. Symptoms may last a week or more, becoming their worst within 24-72 hours.
A patient is more likely to stick with a detox program if given lots of help. The goal of detox support is to help the patient get mentally and physically stable. Temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing are checked regularly during this process. The final goal of detox is to help the individual get into a treatment program in order to break the addiction.
Treat underlying/co-occurring problems — There may be underlying mental health problems such as self-esteem, depression, stress, and anxiety that also need to be treated along with alcohol dependence. Common physical issues such as hypertension, liver diseases, and possibly heart diseases will need to be treated too.
Inpatient rehab — These programs offer expert professional help, individual and/or group therapy, support groups, family involvement, training, activity therapy and many other strategies for treating alcohol abuse. In these programs, the individual lives at the treatment center for 1-3 months. This is helpful in that the patient is free from all temptations that may trigger addictive behavior.
There Is Help for You and Your Loved One
Ultimately, the best way to help an alcoholic is to get them professional addiction treatment. Even with the best intentions, you can’t take the place of medical professionals and addiction experts. At Crest View Recovery Center, clients can access the tools and resources they need to maintain lifelong sobriety. These strategies include addiction therapy services, such as:
- Reality based therapy
- Individualized counseling
- Group therapy program
- Family therapy
- Continual care model for recovery
These steps can guide you as you provide help. Alcoholism is an overwhelming disease, but you can find help and answers at Crest View Recovery Center in Asheville, North Carolina.
There is hope for you and your friend or family member. It will take a team of professionals and, fortunately, we are ready to be part of your team. We have addiction experts and proven treatment methods waiting for you to give us the call.
Reach out to us today and end the worry, stress, heartbreak, and yes, anger you have been feeling. It is time to help your loved one. It is time to give yourself a break. Contact us here at Crest View Recovery Center today to get the help, support, and guidance you need.