If your loved one is struggling with alcohol abuse, it can be challenging to figure out how to help them. By educating yourself on alcohol use disorders, considering different ways to talk to your loved one, and making a plan for your conversation, you’ll be better equipped to lend your support and get your loved one the help they need.
This article will help you understand alcohol use disorders, how to approach someone you think may have a drinking problem, how to assist them, and how to take care of yourself during this process. Remember, it may take more than one conversation with a person who has an alcohol use disorder to encourage them to seek help. However, by showing your support and concern, you may be able to help them to see they have a problem with alcohol and would benefit from addiction treatment.
Addiction is a chronic disease like diabetes, heart disease, kidney failure, or cancer. But unlike these conditions, addiction is often thought of as a moral failing. That can make addiction hard to talk about, but you need to remember that you’re a human being talking to another human being who’s battling a chronic condition. Be sure to keep that in mind as you talk about addiction with someone who has an alcohol use disorder.
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1. Approach Them Lovingly
Alcoholism can make your loved one aggressive, irritable, violent, and irrational. So approach your loved one lovingly and only when they’re sober. Ask to meet with them during lunch or their favorite meal of the day. You might also consider meeting with them privately to minimize any embarrassment they might feel.
How you choose to coordinate the meeting is up to you, but approach them lovingly and make sure to ask about how they’re doing. Inquire about their life, job, family, and potential stressors. Ask them if they’re feeling lonely, neglected, or bored. Let them know you care about what’s going on in their life. And, if and when they open up, listen.
2. Listen more than you talk
Your loved one is much more likely to confide in you if you listen to them without interrupting or judging their behavior. Don’t criticize them or try to fix their problems. Simply listen. Acknowledge what’s going on with them even if you disagree with their behavior. Make them feel safe.
Addiction happens for a reason, even if your loved one is hesitant to talk about their personal experiences. By listening more than you talk, you’re letting your friend or loved one know that you care about them and that they can trust you with private matters that they may want to keep secret.
3. Be Specific About What You’ve Seen and Are Seeing
After your loved one or friend has finished talking, share your perspective of the situation with them. Let them know that you understand the stress, pressure, or challenges they’re facing. At the same time, let them know that you’ve noticed they’ve been drinking more. Be specific. Tell them about times when they might have lost control of their alcohol usage.
Inform them of any hygiene, mood, or behavior changes you’ve noticed. Rather than using language like “You are,” “You did this,” or “You didn’t do this,” try using phrases such as “I feel like,” “I think that,” or “I’ve noticed that.” The key is to get them to realize the effect their addiction is having on those around them. But as you make those effects known, be sure to remain supportive and kind.
4. Seek Support
Seeking support for yourself through resources or therapy can help you feel like you’re not going through this challenge alone. These resources may provide additional strategies for addressing the person’s alcohol abuse problem and can also help you understand how to best approach your loved one.
There are many ways you can go about this—one idea is to talk to a therapist or mental health or substance abuse specialist to advise you on how to talk to your loved one about their alcohol use. You might consider reading articles, books, or websites, or accessing other free resources on AUDs, too.
5. Gently Discuss Future Consequences
This can be tricky, but you should talk about the consequences of addiction. Help your friend or loved one see what the future could look like for them if they continue abusing alcohol. Most alcoholics avoid thinking about the future. Instead, they use alcohol in the present to forget about what happened in the past.
But you can help them visualize what a life overrun with alcohol abuse would be like, especially when compared to a sober future not controlled by alcohol use. Talk about what they hope their family, career, and health may look like in the future. Helping your friend or loved one visualize the life they want might help them start thinking about what they need to do to abstain from alcohol.
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6. Have Treatment Options Ready
If your friend or loved one is receptive to what you’re saying, you need to be ready to talk about professional treatment options. Educate yourself about recovery programs. Research the differences between outpatient and inpatient treatment.
Search for professional alcohol detox programs in your area. Look up different types of behavioral therapies. Offer to visit rehab centers with them, or on their behalf. Let your loved one know that treatment can help rebuild their family, restore their physical health, and obtain the future they envision. You should also be prepared for your loved one to reject your attempt to change their life choices.
7. Participate in Your Loved One’s Treatment
When your loved one decides to enter treatment, you should plan to be involved. The support of loved ones is an important part of the recovery process. You may be asked to participate in couples or family counseling, or you may be asked to make changes in your behaviors, such as not drinking around your loved one or keeping alcohol out of the house
In addition, with the consent of your loved one, you may be asked to help the treatment center with aspects of their treatment plan, assist with setting goals, or participate together in mutual support group meetings. Avoiding alcoholic relapse often incorporates family support.
We Level Up treatment centers offer monthly family programs and family therapy to ensure that you have the option to be adequately involved in your loved one’s treatment and recovery. Staying involved is key to helping your loved one remain engaged in treatment and committed to their recovery.
8. Be Prepared for resistance
If your friend or loved one seems unwilling to change, you need to set some boundaries. Let them know what kind of behavior you will and won’t accept. Don’t be afraid to set limits and be sure to enforce the boundaries you set. Remember, you don’t want to enable them to continue abusing alcohol. Don’t make excuses for them. Instead, continue to lovingly encourage them to seek out professional help. You might even consider staging an intervention with a professional interventionist.
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Some Extra Tips
Focus on your concern about your loved one’s drinking
Remember to use “I” statements that express your feelings and your concerns and the ways that you are impacted by your loved one’s alcohol use. You could say, “I am concerned about your alcohol use. I’ve noticed that I’m increasingly worried when you come home late at night and I don’t know where you’ve been.”
Explain that you’re worried about your loved one’s health
We suggest that you genuinely express your feelings to your loved one by saying something like “I’m concerned that drinking so much every day is harming your health. I’ve noticed that you’re sleeping all day on the weekends.”
Avoid using labels like “alcoholic” or “addict”
Instead, focus on the person and their behavior instead of the label. People who are struggling with alcohol addiction can become upset or defensive when they’re referred to by these labels.
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Be empathic and understanding
Use empathetic, not blaming, statements such as “I know that you’ve been having a hard time at work and you’ve been feeling more pressure,” or “I know that you’re feeling more stressed than usual.”
Offer options instead of demands
Present options by saying something along the lines of “I was wondering if you would consider seeing a doctor to talk about your alcohol use,” instead of, “You need to get help.” Even though you think it’s obvious that your loved one should seek help, it’s always up to the person to decide what course of action is best for them. You can suggest they seek help, but you can’t force someone to do something they’re not ready to do.
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Alcoholism is a serious disease that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up rehab treatment & detox center can provide someone you love, the tools to recover from alcoholism with professional and safe treatment. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.
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 Medline Plus. (2020). Helping a loved one with a drinking problem.
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