How To Help Someone With An Addiction To Alcohol

It can sometimes be difficult to tell whether or not someone you love is struggling with a drinking problem, and it can be even more difficult to bring it up. Though you can’t force someone with an addiction to alcohol to get help, you can initiate a dialogue that lets them know you’re there for them and that they do have different options and resources available when they decide it’s time to get help.

Is Your Loved One Addicted To Alcohol?

Though addiction looks different for everyone and affects people in varying ways, there are some common themes that can help distinguish someone with a drinking problem from someone who drinks socially. Here at The Summit Wellness Group, we have resources available to help you and your loved one identify a potential alcohol problem, and take that first step towards recovery.

It may be difficult to tell whether or not someone is struggling with alcohol abuse, especially because they typically try to hide their drinking from family members or friends who might notice a problem. Some of the signs of  to look for if you suspect that someone you know is drinking too much include:

  • Failing or strained relationships with other people.
  • Lack of school or work effort.
  • Financial problems that lead to borrowing or stealing money.
  • Engaging in risky behaviors during or after drinking.
  • Needing to drink more and more alcohol to reach their desired state.
  • Exhibiting signs of irritability or extreme mood swings.
  • Making excuses for their drinking, or making excuses to get a drink.
  • Becoming isolated or distanced from friends or loved ones.

Does Your Loved One Have An Alcohol Addiction?

Signs of Worsening Alcohol Use

Alcohol addiction always follows a downward spiral, the only variable is how fast things fall apart. Some signs of worsening or accelerating alcohol addiction may include:

  • Anger When Confronted About Alcohol Use: Someone struggling with an alcohol addiction will frequently get angry, defensive, or try to excuse their drinking. This can manifest as them avoiding or pushing away people who try to talk to them about their drinking.
  • Rapidly Declining Health: Alcohol is toxic to humans, and heavy drinking will quickly produce negative consequences. Frequent vomiting, gagging, stomach ulcers, digestion issues, impaired coordination, and general poor health due to gastrointestinal problems are usually the first signs of potentially worse problems to come.
  • Binge Drinking: Some people binge drink as a matter of course, but others may have to work up to that. In the case of alcoholism, this is typically a multi-day, or sometimes even a multi-week drinking spree.
  • Getting Fired for Performance Issues: This is common in worsening alcoholism, as work performance declines as drinking becomes more and more of a priority. When drinking becomes the primary concern, things which used to matter lose their importance.
  • Open Hostility Towards Friends or Family: This is unfortunately very common as friends and family are typically close enough to see that things are getting bad. When they try to help, someone may isolate from them to continue their drinking uninterrupted.

How To Approach A Loved One About Their Drinking

Navigating addiction is tricky, and saying too much or too little can prevent your loved one from seeking help. As a family member, friend, or significant other, it can often feel like it is your responsibility to take care of that person and make sure that they get the help they need, but the road to recovery can be long and sometimes frustrating for both parties involved. When results aren’t immediate, recovery can be discouraging. When it comes down to it, people will only get clean and sober when they want to, and people who are forced into treatment often relapse because they never wanted to get sober in the first place. It has to be their decision, their desire.

That being said, there are things that you can do to help someone with an addiction to alcohol:

The Do’s

  • Come to the conversation prepared. Do your research and have resources ready to provide. This shows that you care, that you’re taking this seriously, and that you are willing to help in any way you can to make this as easy as possible.
  • Have the conversation when they are sober. There is no point trying to rationalize with someone who is under the influence, especially when they may become aggressive, upset, or agree to treatment simply to avoid conflict.
  • Listen to them. If they want to talk about how they are feeling or what is going on in their lives, whether it makes sense to you or not, just listen.
  • See a therapist or call a recovery center to ask for their advice or opinions on how best to approach the situation.

The Don’ts

  • Stay away from labels. Never tell someone that they do or don’t have something. You are not trying to diagnose them, you are trying to help them reach out to a professional for help.
  • Never force someone into treatment or threaten them with ultimatums if they don’t want to go. This could lead to resentment or anger, and it may push this person further away from seeking help.
  • Never make it seem like you know better or that because you don’t have an addiction, you know what’s best for them. You may think you know what’s best and you may have their best interests at heart, but let the professionals decide the proper course of action for this situation.
  • Never blame them, or yourself, for the addiction. It’s no one’s fault, and nothing ever gets solved by playing the blame game.

Take Care of Yourself Along the Way

When someone you care about is struggling with an alcohol use disorder, it can be frustrating and stressful, especially when they do not seek help as quickly as you would like them to. We often think we know what is best for the people we love and we want to help in any way we can, but the reality of the situation is that you can’t force them to get help. They have to choose to do so on their own.

What you can do is provide them with resources and support, and you can show them how much you care and want them to get help. And, you can take care of yourself by seeking counseling to manage your stress and frustration over the situation. Getting help from a counselor will allow you to be as emotionally strong and supportive as you can be for your loved ones during their time of need.

You also need to remember that it’s not your fault if they choose not to seek treatment or if they relapse. Alcohol addiction has many faces and there are often underlying mental health conditions that need to be addressed alongside the alcohol abuse that may be uncomfortable or scary for both you and the person needing help. Taking guilt and blame out of the situation entirely is the most effective way to battle addiction. No good will come out of trying to place blame, and at this point, the blame doesn’t matter. What matters is that this person is struggling with alcohol abuse and they need help, not feelings of blame or guilt or shame, to climb out of this hole they’ve found themselves in. Sometimes the best thing you can do is let them know how you feel, provide them with support and resources, and then control what you can about the situation: you. You can control your actions, protect your mental health, and improve your ability to support your loved one by taking care of yourself first.

If you feel that you need extra support during these difficult times, the counseling staff at The Summit Wellness Group is here to help. Call us 24/7 at 770-299-1677.

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