It can be really frustrating and painful to see a loved one who is suffering from alcoholism. Knowing that they are struggling with a drinking problem can make you feel helpless and the situation is made worse when your attempts to help them are not appreciated or accepted. You are probably wondering about ways you can help an alcoholic effectively, or if he or she even wants your help.
Ways You Can Help An Alcoholic
When it comes down to it, you can’t really force anyone to admit that they have a problem or face their problems by getting the help they need. The desire to help oneself is important and making the decision to make changes in their life has to come from within. Even though you cannot decide for them, you can be a support while they go through what is needed to become sober again. The good news is that there are several ways that you can be of help and influence their lives in a way that will encourage them to reach out and take advantages of the help that is available to them while feeling supported and cared for.
The first step is to gain a thorough understanding of alcoholism so that you can be prepared to help them and to understand the dynamics at play since there is a big difference in someone enjoying a few drinks and someone who has become dependent on alcohol and cannot control their drinking. If they have a bottle of alcohol in front of them, they will want to finish it.
It is important to be able to recognize the signs of alcoholism and these are some of the many symptoms or signs that you can be on the lookout for:
- A very high alcohol tolerance
- Behaviour that is self-destructive
- Compulsive or aggressive behaviour
- Withdrawal symptoms when not drinking
- Poor coordination
If you are not well-educated on alcoholism it can be difficult to understand why stopping drinking is so challenging.
You can’t save anyone
When someone is an alcoholic, their ability to think rationally is severely diminished and they are difficult to engage with, convince or reason with. So, while you can’t save them from their self-harming behaviour, you can stop supporting their drinking. This can be done by not providing them with help and covering up once they are out of control with their drinking. This also means not providing them with any financial assistance or other enabling behaviour like taking them to establishments that serve alcohol or paying for any of their expenses.
Communicating with an alcoholic
Alcoholism is a very delicate subject and learning to communicate in a sensitive way is important. The way you approach someone with a drinking problem and how you speak with them can make all the difference. Remaining calm and loving while being honest will help the person feel your love and care. It you talk about how you are feeling about their life authentically and explain why you are worried about their behaviour, they will feel your love as well as your serious concern for them.
If you let them know that you would like to support them without putting pressure on them or forcing them, they will be more receptive and less defensive. Remember that a person who is facing this problem will often feel very guilty or shameful even if they are not able to admit it or deal with the problem yet. You will obtain the best results if you avoid sounding like a preacher or telling them what you think they should do by putting them down in any way.
Accompany to meetings
Show your support by offering to attend meetings. This is often the first step for people on the path to recovery and your offer will not only provide moral support but also help someone who is dealing with alcoholism take action with someone who is on their side. It will also reduce feelings of fear, shame and loneliness. This is a very powerful gesture of help as one of the feelings that alcoholics have is that they are alone and that somehow the world is against them. So your offer can help them break out of this cycle. If you offer to attend meetings, whether it is SMART Recovery or Celebrate Recovery or Alcoholics Anonymous, it will provide tremendous support.
Talk to your friend when they are sober
The best time to approach an alcoholic is when they are not under the influence and when they are at their best. If they are feeling stress or are under the influence, it is better not to speak to them about their problem. The best time to reach out is probably in the early part of the day before they start drinking. Try to find a comfortable and private place to have the conversation so that they will be less defensive and more receptive to your message. Hopefully they will feel comfortable enough to open up.
Find out what help is available
When you deal with a person who has a problem with alcohol, it is a good idea to approach them from a standpoint of offering solutions. You want them to feel like you have done research and have found out options that will help them. Review options like support meetings (group), one-to-one counseling, inpatient and outpatient programs and any other local options that are available in your area. Explain each of the options clearly and be patient with them as they become comfortable with the idea. Make sure they know how to get help on their own by providing them with helpful resources, information and contact information.
Attend an Al-Anon family group if you are feeling stressed
Helping someone who is struggling with an alcohol problem can be a very emotionally draining and stressful experience. There are special programs (Al-Anon family group) that are designed for friends and family of alcoholics, so make sure to take advantage of them if you are feeling stressed or are finding it difficult to cope.
If you have gone through the process of offering help but find that it has not resulted in any changes, you may want to contact a substance abuse professional or an interventionist to see what other options may be available for you. This is not a comfortable position to be in, but help is there for you should you find yourself in this position.