Helping an alcoholic seek treatment or simply cut back on drinking is a difficult task. For everyone, there are different reasons you’re looking to help.
Maybe you are still cleaning up the broken glass from the ornaments shattered when Uncle Charlie knocked over the Christmas tree after finishing off that 12 pack of beer.
Maybe you are sitting in the emergency room with your sobbing child whose arm was dislocated when Daddy became outraged because she accidentally spilled his fifth drink.
Perhaps you are worried whenever there is the sound of emergency vehicle sirens in the near distance because you know that your girlfriend likes to stop in at the corner bar after work.
You know when it’s time to seek assistance for your loved one who abuses alcohol or is an alcoholic. So, how exactly to help an alcoholic? Read more to help answer that important question.
Addiction, whether of cocaine, heroin, prescribed medications, or alcohol, can elicit a toll on one’s life. In fact, addiction or alcoholism can elicit a number of tolls on one’s health, one’s ability to hold employment, to one’s emotional state, to one’s relationships with family, friends, and co-workers (NIH). Addictions, including alcoholism, affect the well-being of all who care for those who are affected. Outlined below are eight suggestions on how to help an addict and/or an alcoholic.
#1 Help Yourself First
What? I’m not the one who abuses alcohol! Why would I seek help? Alcoholism affects the entire family. Just as the instructions for airline travel includes placing oxygen on yourself prior to assisting others, the same goes for helping someone with an addiction. Alcohol abuse affects every aspect of one’s life.
Those who interact intimately with someone who abuses alcohol feels the stress of the uncertainty of what will happen next. How will I be able to awaken to go to work? How will I get home in time to watch the kids? How can I afford groceries after I spent all my money on alcohol at the bar? How can we afford the lawyer for the DUI charge, let alone fix the car?
There are so many uncertainties when you have a loved one who is an alcoholic. Seeking assistance for oneself in order to help that person navigate the difficult task of detox and rehab is a logical first step. It is important to express your concerns, your fears, and your disappointments. You will feel relief once you express your feelings and have them validated by those who have experienced similar issues.
Many addiction treatment programs offer assistance for family members of those who suffer from alcoholism either through family therapy or support groups. 12 step programs are known for providing support for spouses and children (Al-Anon) and support for the alcoholic (AA) or addict (NA). Remember that no matter how strong and in control that you are at this time, there may be a point in your future when you may need to interact with those who also have had emotional trauma from living with the specter of alcoholism.
#2 Seek Professional Assistance for the Alcoholic
You have had long, heartfelt talks with your loved one. He or she has admitted that it’s time to make changes in his/her alcohol consumption. Yes, he/she has made promises before. Yes, he/she has been able to stop drinking for days/weeks/months. Detox can be painfully difficult. Relapse is common and almost inevitable.
Withdrawal symptoms from being an alcoholic are related to the fact that alcohol is a depressant, and sudden stoppage can cause overstimulation of the brain and neurotransmitters (health.harvard.edu).
Withdrawal Symptoms May Include:
- Abnormal heart rate and/or pressure
- Heart attack
Seek assistance from accredited medical professionals. The first place to begin is with their family physician, someone familiar with their unique health concerns and needs. Although his or her physician may not share information with you without your loved one’s permission, he or she can listen to your concerns and recommend action. Many physicians are experienced in dealing with addictions like alcoholism or may be able to offer referrals to those who do. The professional healthcare provider (PCP) may also be able to recommend local groups that work specifically with alcohol addiction and its consequences like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
Professionals, like those at Coastal Detox, a licensed and accredited healthcare facility in Stuart, Florida, are trained in how to help an alcoholic or an addict by easing the alcohol withdrawal symptoms through medication, meditation, counseling, and a number of supportive holistic approaches.
#3 Realize That There May be Another Underlying Mental Illness or Disorder
What other disorder or illness may have contributed to one’s abuse of alcohol or other substances? Does your spouse have social anxiety? Does your wife have bipolar disorder? Has a childhood of trauma contributed to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? Chronic unrelieved pain may contribute and lead to addiction and/or alcoholism.
An untreated mental or physical illness will contribute to alcohol abuse or addiction (dual diagnosis or co-occurrence). That illness may create an unconscious effort by your loved one to self-medicate with alcohol or other substances.
Someone with high anxiety or experience the racing thoughts of one in the throes of mania (manic behavior) may seek the depressant properties of alcohol. Someone in physical or emotional pain may seek the solace and numbing of alcohol ingestion. Medical and professional assistance is vital so that your loved one will receive the appropriate intervention and treatment to help an alcoholic or an addict achieve long and lasting sobriety.
#4 Assist! Do Not Enable the Alcoholic
It’s very hard to be supportive while avoiding being enabling. When you rely on that person’s paycheck to pay the rent when you want your extended family to accept your loved one when you want to quell your own anxiety, you make excuses; you call them off work “sick,” you avoid those conversations. Don’t enable the alcoholic or addict! Instead, help them by showing them your resolve.
You have to make the alcoholic or addict responsible for their own actions. Address them with what you are feeling, witnessing, hearing, and ultimately experiencing. Tell that your concerns are based on love and concern for them and your relationship with them. Make them understand that you will do what you can to support them in their journey to sobriety from alcohol and/or drugs but that you can’t do it for them. Tell them that you respect their individual right to make choices for themselves but that you will applaud and assist them in celebrating their successes.
#5 Do Not Set the Alcoholic Up For Failure
When your loved one is in recovery from alcoholism and/or addiction, you will want to do whatever it takes to help them succeed. Plan activities without alcohol. Encourage engaging activities that your loved one enjoys. Use the healing power of the natural world by walking along a tree-lined path, visiting a zoo, or working in a garden – together. If the weather doesn’t permit outside activity, engage them in hobbies that they enjoy, games that are involving, or tasks that showcase their particular talents.
Keep the temptation of alcohol out of the home. If it’s not handy, then it becomes more of a conscious effort if your loved one chooses to drink or take drugs. One relative of mine would dilute vodka with water to extend the length of time a half-liter would last. It was counterproductive, though, as it took responsibility for the amount drunk from the alcoholic to the loved one. Remove it from home and transfer the responsibility to the alcoholic and/or addict.
Avoid attending restaurants and events that serve alcohol. There are plenty of excellent “family” restaurants. Enjoy the atmosphere and the tastes of food unaltered by the bitterness of alcohol.
#6 Praise The Alcoholics Efforts
Everyone responds to positive reinforcement. Encourage the alcoholic or addict efforts at sobriety. Congratulate them on their decision to seek medical and professional assistance. Praise their successes no matter how small. You can be their greatest cheerleader. Recognize that sobriety is probably the most challenging task they have ever attempted by an alcoholic and/or addict. It can be done, and your support and encouragement may be the key to their success.
#7 Reward Yourself
Congratulate yourself! It’s hard; it can be very hard living with and loving someone who abuses or is addicted to alcohol and/or drugs. Applaud your own efforts at assisting your loved one to find help to beat their alcoholism or addiction. Celebrate the changes in your interactions with your loved one at avoiding blaming them but encouraging their responsibility. Cheer your decision to keep your home free of the temptations of alcohol and avoiding places and situations where alcohol or drugs are frequently abused.
#8 Research Acceptable Places For Detox And Addiction Treatment
You care deeply for the health and well-being of your loved one. What better way can you show how much you care than by seeking and researching acceptable places for detox and rehabilitation from alcohol and/or drugs. As stated earlier, alcohol or drug withdrawal can be difficult and can cause serious health consequences. Alcohol and/or drug withdrawal should be medically supervised with the assistance of a trained medical and professional staff. A holistic, licensed, and accredited facility such as Coastal Detox, in the beautiful Treasure Coast city of Stuart, Florida, will assist your loved one in achieving their sobriety goals. Coastal Detox offers a variety of therapies to allow one to Sail into sobriety including:
- Infrared sauna
- Nutritional supplementation
Coastal Detox is open 24/7 and reachable by phone for tours at (866) 924-3350. Call and hear how Coastal Detox can make a difference in your loved one’s life and your own. You can also reach out to us online here.