When someone you love struggles with alcohol addiction, it can create feelings of helplessness and heartbreak. While you want to do everything in your power to help, you may not know what to do or how to help. Additionally, you don’t want to engage in helping behaviors that may do your loved one more harm than good.
In the following article, you will learn simple but effective ways to help your loved one escape alcohol addiction.
Step #1: Educate Yourself
Before you can help a loved one escape alcohol addiction in a meaningful way, you need first to educate yourself on alcohol addiction itself. Addiction is a complex issue and develops through a mix of social, biological, and environmental factors. It is important to know the physical and psychological signs of alcoholism so you can jump into action.
There is a myriad of resources available to you. For starters, you can talk to your doctor or trusted medical professional. You can also speak to an addiction treatment professional in your area to get more information about the disease of alcoholism as well as treatment options. There are also numerous reputable websites that can give you the information you need.
Examples of these include the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCAAD) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Step #2: Approach with Empathy
Once you do diligent research on alcohol addiction, it is time to approach your loved one. Talking to a loved one who is addicted to alcohol can be very tricky. Those who are addicted to alcohol live under heavy denial and don’t see the damage their addiction is doing to themselves and others. If you take the wrong approach, you can drive a wedge between you and your loved one—and you can further complicate matters.
When you approach your addicted loved one, be empathetic and open. It is essential to listen to what they are going through, their fears, anxieties, and what they need to heal. While the situation may be emotionally charged, it is crucial to remain calm and genuinely express your concern. You want to avoid judgment and blame and steer clear of confrontation.
Additionally, it is essential to approach them one-on-one and when they are sober. Talking to them in front of others about their addiction issues compounds the guilt and shame they already feel. Trying to approach a loved one while they are under the influence will not work simply because they are too impaired to have a serious conversation.
Step #3: Establish Boundaries
An important part of helping a loved one escape alcohol addiction is setting healthy boundaries and avoiding enabling behaviors. While it is human nature to help those we love, helping an addicted loved one presents formidable challenges—especially when it comes to enabling behavior.
Enabling behaviors remove negative consequences, and make it seem like everything is ok. As a result, your loved one will continue to use alcohol—which worsens their addiction. Examples of enabling behavior include paying rent or mortgages, bailing them out of jail and covering for their absences at work or family events.
When offering help, be clear in your boundaries and expectations. Be polite and firm in explaining that you cannot support them financially or bail them out in any shape or form. However, do tell them you will support them in finding professional help. Be in their corner in not only finding treatment but take part in the treatment process by attending family therapy as well as Al-Anon meetings and other support groups.
Step #4: Interventions
If you have tried the right approaches and you loved one is still resistant, an intervention may be an option you can pursue. An intervention is a carefully orchestrated event where friends and family come together to confront the addict about their use. In a carefully structured environment, family and friends are encouraged to express their feelings and concerns over the addict’s well-being. An offer for treatment is made to the addict to accept at the end of the intervention which they can accept or reject.
If you and your family are considering an intervention, it is highly advisable that you work with an experienced interventionist or addiction treatment professional. As with any conversation regarding addiction, an intervention can become highly emotional. With the guidance of an interventionist, you and your family can plan and rehearse the intervention process. With careful planning, you increase the chances of your loved one accepting treatment.
Helping a loved one escape alcohol addiction can be fraught with challenges. With knowledge and support, you can increase the odds of your loved one finding long-term recovery.