Watching someone you care about spiral out of control is heartbreaking.
If your friend or family member is showing signs of an alcohol use disorder, you may feel as though you’re hopelessly watching from the sidelines. However, there are several steps you can take to encourage your loved one to acknowledge the problem and begin their recovery journey.
1. Educate Yourself
Do not rely on pop culture portrayals of alcohol abuse or addiction stigma to guide your interactions with your loved one. Knowing the facts about alcohol use disorders can help you best support your loved one throughout the recovery process.
You can learn more about alcohol abuse by reviewing some of St. Joseph’s previous blog posts:
- What Is a Functioning Alcoholic?
- How Genes and Environmental Factors Contribute to Personal Addiction Risk
- Understanding the Relationship Between Binge Drinking and Alcohol Addiction
- Understanding the Relationship Between Alcohol and Depression
2. Get Support for Yourself
If you’re worried about a spouse, parent, child, or close friend’s drinking, you’re likely dealing with a number of serious concerns. You may be worried about their health, finances, and/or legal problems. Your relationship may be suffering due to things they’ve said or done while intoxicated. However, you can’t effectively address the problem of alcohol abuse if you’re ignoring your own needs.
Al-Anon is a support group for people who are worried about a loved one’s drinking. Meetings are free to attend and confidential. You will be welcomed even if your loved one has yet to seek addiction treatment.
If your loved one also suffers from a co-occurring mental illness, NAMI family support groups may be another helpful resource.
3. Be a Sober Role Model
You don’t necessarily need to give up drinking all together, but you should refrain from drinking around anyone whom you believe has a problem with alcohol. Seeing others consuming alcohol is a common trigger for cravings, especially in the earliest stages of recovery.
In addition to refraining from consuming alcohol around a person with a drinking problem, you should also avoid statements that glamorize excessive alcohol consumption. This includes support of celebrities known for their drunken antics, music or movies that endorse binge drinking culture, and social activities that are centered around alcohol consumption.
4. Stop Enabling
It’s tough to watch someone you love suffer, but your efforts to help your friend or family member may be allowing their addiction to continue. Enabling behaviors that prevent someone with an alcohol use disorder from experiencing the consequences of their actions include:
- Giving them money or paying their household expenses
- Handling household chores when they’ve been drinking
- Calling in or making arrangements on their behalf when they are too hungover to go to work
- Apologizing to others on their behalf when they’ve said or done inappropriate things due to drinking
- Bailing them out of jail, finding a lawyer, or paying their legal fees for alcohol-related expenses
- Lying or making excuses to others who have expressed concerns about their alcohol consumption
Enabling is often associated with codependency, which refers to an excessive reliance on other people for a sense of approval or identity. Codependency is often based on behaviors learned in childhood, such as when a child is forced to become highly attuned to a parent’s feelings due to addiction, mental illness, or other forms of dysfunction in the home.
5. Be Upfront with Your Concerns
Denial is common among people with alcohol use disorders. They may be justifying their behavior to themselves by saying they don’t have a problem because they only drink in the evening, haven’t been arrested, only drink wine instead of whiskey, or could quit drinking if they really wanted to.
If you’re worried about a loved one’s drinking, the worst thing you can do is stay silent. Pick a time when you know they are likely to be sober and find a quiet place to talk. Calmly and rationally list the behaviors that you’ve noticed. Reaffirm that you care about your loved one’s health and wellbeing, then ask them to see their primary care provider for a substance abuse evaluation. If transportation is an issue or you think they would appreciate the moral support, you can offer to attend the appointment with them.
If you’ve tried to talk to your loved one privately and they’ve been unresponsive to your concerns, an intervention may be in order. An intervention is a structured meeting where a group of family and friends confront their loved one about addiction-related behaviors, then state their agreed upon consequences if their loved one decides not to accept their proposed treatment plan. A certified intervention professional (CIP) can help you plan an intervention that best fits your loved one’s needs.
6. Stress the Need for Evidence-Based Treatment
Someone with an alcohol use disorder needs professional help to get and stay sober. Addiction is not caused by a lack of willpower, so it’s unreasonable to expect that your loved one will be able to quit drinking on their own. In fact, someone with an alcohol use disorder who abruptly quits drinking without any medical supervision is at risk for a dangerous and potentially deadly condition known as delirium tremens.
St. Joseph Institute for Addiction provides evidence-based drug and alcohol addiction treatment personalized to fit individual needs. We offer a full continuum of care, from detox and individual counseling to recovery prevention and aftercare services. This integrated approach will provide your loved one with the foundation for lasting sobriety.