What to Do if You Love an Alcoholic

It’s hard when someone you care about has a drinking problem. When you realize your loved one’s drinking is out of control, what do you do?Most alcoholics need professional treatment to stop drinking. Talking to your loved one about their drinking behaviors can be crucial to getting him or her treatment, but it’s important to broach the carefullysubject.

Alienating your loved one will likely encourage him or her to delay seeking treatment. Be patient; an addict’s denial can be powerful, and you may need to speak to your loved one about getting help more than once.


Avoid Being Judgmental, Blaming or Nagging

When you speak to your loved one about his or her drinking, you need to come off as compassionate and understanding. If you try to manipulate the alcoholic into changing, your attempts could backfire. Whatever things you may say to attempt to guilt-trip the alcoholic into changing, there’s a good chance he or she has already said those things to his or her self.

The alcoholic has lost control of his or her drinking — nagging, laying blame or guilt-tripping the alcoholic will most likely send the alcoholic into a shame-spiral that will make his or her drinking worse. At the very least, attempting to manipulate the alcoholic into quitting will only make him or her feel more certain of the need to lie and make excuses to hide his or her drinking from you.

Instead, you’ll have better luck getting your loved one into a treatment program if you speak to him or her with compassion. Focus the discussion on how you feel about your alcoholic loved one’s drinking and the consequences of his or her behaviors.

Make statements beginning with the words “I feel,” like, “I feel worried when you drive drunk,” or “I feel afraid you’re going to lose your job because you drink too much.”

Avoid absolutes like “you always,” and “you never,” as these can come off sounding accusatory and unrealistic. Clearly state you feel the alcoholic’s drinking has become a problem and you think they should seek help from an all-encompassing program for treatment.

Prepare to Follow Through on Threats

Creating consequences — such as refusing to financially support the alcoholic or refusing to let your children be around the alcoholic when he or she is drinking — is a perfectly reasonable way to protect your own needs and the needs of those who depend on you.But don’t make any “If you don’t stop drinking, I’ll…” sort of threats unless you’ve thought them through carefully and are prepared to act.

You must act on any threats of you may make, because if the alcoholic sees you as making idle threats, he or she won’t take you seriously and it will be harder to get him or her into treatment.

Avoid Enabling

Enabling occurs when the loved ones of an alcoholic act in ways that protects the alcoholic from the consequences of his or her drinking. If you’re doing things for your alcoholic loved one he or she should be doing for him or herself, you are enabling.

Enabling your alcoholic loved one only makes it easier for him or her to remain in denial. When you stop enabling, you’re clearing the way for your loved one to acknowledge his or her problem and seek help.

In the same vein, you shouldn’t allow the alcoholic to use his or her drinking as an excuse to behave in unacceptable ways. Don’t accept this behavior from the alcoholic.

Be Patient

When you first speak to your loved one about his or her drinking problem, he or she may deny there’s a problem or get angry. Denial is a powerful force for most alcoholics, and you may need to speak to your loved one several times to get through to him or her.

Even after you do get through to your loved one, recovery from alcoholism is a process that could take a while to finish. Allow the alcoholic to choose the treatment program and recovery path that works for him or her. Don’t be upset if you don’t approve of the path he or she chooses — it’s his or her choice to make.

If you someone you love is an alcoholic, it can be hard to know what to do or so. Express your concerns with compassion and be patient with your alcoholic loved one, but don’t enable his or her drinking or allow him or her to use drinking as an excuse for unacceptable behavior. If you make threats, you should be ready to make good on them — and you should do so, if necessary.

About the Author: Contributing blogger Amanda M. is a substance abuse counselor with RehabHotline.org.

Photo Credit By: holisticdrugrehab.org


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