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How to Help a Loved One with Alcohol Addiction

How to Help a Loved One with Alcohol AddictionWatching a friend or family member suffer from alcohol addiction is one of the most difficult challenges we face as loved ones. You may feel angry, sad, frustrated, or hopeless—sometimes all at once. While your emotions are valid no matter how unmanageable they may feel, there are right and wrong ways of expressing them to the addict. Whether you’re in desperate need of self-care or struggling to help a friend, employ the following tips to help guide your thoughts, words, and actions.

Dos:

  • Research alcohol dependency. In addition to the social stigma, there is a lack of knowledge about alcoholism as a disease in terms of triggers, behaviors, treatment, and the dangers of quitting cold turkey. Educate yourself in order to be most helpful.
  • Gain new perspective whether it means listening to a podcast about addiction or reading a memoir written by an addict in recovery. The difference of opinion can shed light on your individual experiences and help you feel less alone.
  • Attend a meeting like Al-Anon or a similar local support group for families of alcoholics. You can find a meeting almost anywhere in the US.
  • Express your concerns to the addict. This is by far the most challenging undertaking as alcoholics are likely to react out of fear, anger, resentment, or denial. Approach the conversation with love and empathy while conveying how their addiction makes you feel and how it impacts your life.
  • Ditch your expectations. Recovery is not a linear process and it doesn’t work the same way for every addict. Respect the journey and understand it may come with relapses. The only thing you can control is your willingness to show love and support through commitment to their recovery.
  • Find an outlet. Addiction doesn’t just affect the user. Don’t neglect your own well-being in the process of helping another. Whether you attend church, practice yoga, write in your journal, or talk to a therapist (friends work too), find a healthy way of expressing your emotions and balancing your positive and negative energies.

Don’ts:

  • Don’t expect to have rational conversations when the addict is using. Whether you’re trying to convey your pain or encouraging rehab, the discussion will be less productive when the addict is under the influence. This understanding will also help you avoid unnecessary arguments.
  • Don’t feel guilty. Though it’s easier said than done, recognize that the addict is the only one responsible for their behavior. As a mother, father, sibling, or partner, please know it’s not your fault.
  • Don’t drink with them. You may feel the need to connect with the addict on their level, but it will do more harm than good. Alcoholics will always look for reasons to justify their behavior and your drinking will only fuel the fire.
  • Don’t preach or be accusatory. Demoralizing your loved one won’t help; in fact, it may cause them to regress and sink further into their addiction.
  • Don’t lie for them or excuse their behavior. This may be especially hard if the addict is a member of your family since you may feel embarrassed for them. Try instead to acknowledge the addiction for what it is—a disease that requires professional treatment.

Some alcoholics need to hit “rock bottom” before seeking help while others respond positively in earlier stages of addiction. Regardless of their path, try to direct your attention to only the factors over which you have control. For a list of resources, support groups, and recovery centers, visit the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.

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