Please accept our gratitude for helping my family, most importantly of all for helping my sister."
Help and Advice on Dealing with an Alcoholic In Denial
Dealing with an alcoholic is tough enough under the best of circumstances. Trying to cope with an alcoholic in denial is even worse. Alcoholics in denial work extra hard to try to hide their problems so that no one else can see them, but it seldom works. And when they do have episodes of lost control, they can become belligerent, abusive, and even violent.
As someone living with an alcoholic, the first thing to understand is that you cannot force anyone to get help. Overcoming alcoholism must be a personal decision that the alcoholic makes for him or herself, followed by willing participation in a proven treatment programme. Trying to force or manipulate your loved one to get treatment will likely only make things worse. Even if he or she does get help, the chances of treatment being successful with an unwilling patient are very low.
Having said that, you are not powerless in the situation. There are a few things you can do to help your loved one to overcome denial and get to a place of treatment. We have put together a list of five suggestions for you to consider:
1. Concern for Your Loved One's Health
The first time you address your loved one about a drinking problem, you might want to take the angle of showing concern for his or her health. Explain how you have observed certain changes that do not bode well for his/her future health. In this first approach, do everything you can to avoid an attitude of accusation with condescension. This first interaction is all about showing your concern.
By the way, there are a number of things you can look for that indicate the early presence of adverse health effects caused by drinking. These include:
- abnormal weight loss (alcoholics tend to lose weight because they do not eat well)
- regular bouts of insomnia and restlessness
- early signs of liver and kidney disease
- early signs of cardiovascular disease.
Alcoholics living in denial exhibit additional symptoms relating to the effect of alcohol on the mind. They begin to be less concerned about their personal appearance; they shirk their responsibilities at work for school; they avoid social situations involving family members or close friends.
2. Concern for Your Health
Our second suggestion for dealing with an alcoholic in denial is to show concern for your health and that of your family. Once again, calmly and rationally address your loved one for the purposes of explaining how his or her alcohol abuse is harming you and the rest of the family. You might explain, in the case of a partner suffering from alcohol-induced insomnia, how his/her lack of sleep is preventing you from sleeping as well. This is creating an unhealthy situation that you really would like to see settled.
When children are involved, feel free to address their physical and mental health. Let it be known that the children see what is going on and it is affecting them as well. Explain any health problems you have observed along with any difficulties the kids might be having in school.
3. Refuse to Enable
Making the decision to no longer enable your loved one is the third suggestion for dealing with an alcoholic in denial. This course of action requires you to honestly step back and assess every area of your life. Anything you do that makes it easier for your loved one to keep drinking needs to stop. You cannot enable him or her without making the situation worse.
Enabling behaviour can be something as little as calling in sick rather than forcing your loved one to do it him/herself. It could be making excuses for him or her to cover for missed family gatherings. It could even be providing the money needed to buy that next bottle of alcohol your loved ones after.
4. Conduct an Intervention
If approaching your loved one with your genuine concerns about physical and mental health does no good, you may want to consider conducting an intervention. Professional alcohol recovery counsellors favour intervention as a way to motivate the alcoholic to get treatment. You can conduct an intervention by yourself or utilise the services of a professional counsellor who can oversee the process.
An intervention involves a group of close relatives and friends who normally have sway with the alcoholic in denial. One by one, each member of the intervention team explains his or her concerns while encouraging the alcoholic to get help. When done in a non-confrontational way and with the right attitude, an intervention can be the motivation your loved one needs to finally admit his or her drinking problem and do something about it.
5. Research Treatment Options
Effectively dealing with an alcoholic in denial should be buttressed by knowing what to do in the event that person agrees to get help. Consider this: you may successively conduct an intervention that results in your loved one consenting to treatment by the end of the evening. But there is a very good chance that your loved one will change his or her mind by morning. Therefore, you need to have treatment options ready to go before the intervention begins.
Let's say you choose local clinic A to provide residential treatment for your loved one. You can call and make advance arrangements prior to conducting your intervention. Once the intervention is complete, you can immediately contact the clinic so that your loved one can be admitted before he or she has time for a change of heart.
The key to dealing with an alcoholic in denial is to approach the problem rationally and in such a way that it does not negatively impact you or the rest of your family any more than it has to. This is not always easy. Therefore, you may need to undergo counselling of your own. That's okay. It is perfectly normal for family members to seek counselling services in order to learn how to cope with an alcoholic.
If you need help dealing with an alcoholic in denial, please do not hesitate to contact us. We provide free advice and referrals to the families of alcoholics in need. All of our services are completely confidential; no one need know you contacted us unless you decide to tell them.
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Daniel’s guidance, professional and very heartfelt approach gave us the confidence and determination to go through with it."
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