How To Help An Alcoholic

November 11th, 2020

Alcoholism and alcohol abuse affect millions of individuals all across the globe. Not only does alcoholism have an impact on the addict, but on their loved ones as well. Watching someone you care about struggle with addiction can be both heartbreaking and frustrating.

Witnessing someone you care about battle addiction is a hard thing, especially when and if the person hasn’t yet come to terms with the fact that they have an addiction. Our natural instinct as someone who cares about them is to help. 

At the end of the day, there are very few things we can truly do in order to help someone struggling with alcoholism beyond offering support, as it is ultimately up to the addict to choose to put in the work to help themselves. However, we want to offer you some guidelines and tips on how to best help an alcoholic.

The first step in helping an alcoholic would be to identify and have a solid understanding of the disease in and of itself. This will help better equip you to understand what is really happening behind the scenes for the individual. Overall, alcohol use disorder goes beyond someone drinking too much here and there. People who suffer from alcohol use disorder are incapable of drinking in moderation.

Someone you love may be struggling with an alcohol addiction if they:

  • Continue drinking even if it is causing problems in their personal and/or work relationships  
  • Consistently black out or lose memory of what happens when they have been drinking
  • Use alcohol as a means to self medicate for other issues such as anxiety, depression, stress and more
  • Lie about their drinking or try to conceal it
  • Regularly neglect responsibilities such as work, children, school, etc.

Being able to recognize that the person you care about is truly struggling with addiction before taking any further steps is very important. Many people often confuse alcohol dependence for alcohol abuse and so it is important to know first and foremost what you’re dealing with before approaching the individual about the issue.

Know how you’re going to approach this person and what you want to say. Not only being aware of what you want to say, but you should also be aware of your tone when you approach the topic. You want to make sure that this person isn’t feeling judged or attacked when you bring up a topic that is likely going to be touchy for them. Another thing you’ll want to consider is the location. Make sure you approach your loved one in a safe space where they feel comfortable speaking openly. Above all, ensure you are approaching the conversation with compassion and understanding that this issue has likely become out of the control of your loved one.

Be prepared for push back. As we mentioned earlier, the person you are approaching may not yet accept that they have a problem. Sometimes the alcoholic won’t recognize at all that they have an issue, or they may have recognized it and suppressed that thought until now. They may often feel embarrassed, ashamed, and scared. So, it is possible that they may push back on your concerns and deny the fact that they need professional help. Ultimately, we cannot force someone we love to seek treatment. All we can do is offer our unconditional support and empathy for what they are going through.

If the individual’s alcoholism continues to worsen even after they have been approached about the issue and encouraged to seek help, it may be time to consider an intervention. An intervention is a bit more involved and requires a lot of careful planning. With an intervention, loved ones, friends, coworkers, and anyone close to the individual who has been affected by their addiction will come together and voice their concern, but also their support. Your group will typically have treatment options researched and available for the individual should they choose to seek treatment immediately.

As someone who struggles with alcoholism makes an effort to seek treatment and begin the road to recovery, it is more important than ever to continue to offer your support. Recovery is a long and grueling journey for many that can often include some twists and turns. Having a continued support system of loved ones and new - sober  - friends is incredibly important. Some ways you can continue to support your loved one is through offering to attend meetings with them, assist them with light responsibilities if needed, avoid drinking around them and more. Patience is important when supporting someone who struggles with this disease. It may take time for them to feel stable and relapse is always a possibility as well. Make sure you never take on full responsibility for the individual or their addiction, ensure you are caring for yourself first and foremost in order to best be able to offer support to others.

If you are seeking help for a loved one, make sure to reach out to our team. We would be happy to provide you with all of the information you need to get your loved one on the path to recovery today.