Please accept our gratitude for helping my family, most importantly of all for helping my sister."
How to Help an Alcoholic – Proven Strategies That Work
Are you in the terrible position of having to live with an alcoholic spouse, parent, or child? Are you concerned that someone at work might be battling with alcoholism despite maintaining a high level of functionality? Are you aware of an old friend who has succumbed to the effects of alcohol yet has no one around to offer help and support? If any of these scenarios are familiar to you, we want you to know that there are things you can do to help.
Before we get started, understand that learning how to help an alcoholic does not mean your efforts will be successful. You can do everything right and still not be helpful to someone who does not want to be helped. The only one who can ultimately make the decision to stop drinking and undergo treatment is the alcoholic him/herself.
Below are a number of suggestions for how to help an alcoholic, recommended by experts all over the world. Some are things you should do, and others are things you should not do. All have proven to work to one extent or another in most routine cases.
Do Not Enable Someone with Alcoholism
One of the most common characteristics of families living with alcoholics is the tendency to enable the person's behaviour. For example, the alcoholic may need a drink but have no money to buy more alcohol. The family member who gives him/her the money is enabling both the alcoholic and his/her habit. This is something that should be avoided at all costs.
Enabling can also take the form of making excuses for the alcoholic, taking over the alcoholic's responsibilities at home, covering for him/her after missing work, and so forth. Essentially, any action taken on your part in an attempt to avoid forcing the alcoholic to deal with this problem can be considered enabling. Such actions may make you feel better about the situation, but they only make the problem worse.
Be Supportive, Do Not Attack
It is very common for alcoholics to believe the entire world is out to get them. They become very suspicious of everyone else's intentions, sometimes to the point of near paranoia. These feelings of suspicion and paranoia are only made worse when family members and friends verbally attack the alcoholic with unkind and non-supportive words. In short, be very careful what you say to the alcoholic and how you say it.
It is important to be supportive with your words whenever you are talking about the problem at hand. Explain to the alcoholic you're concerned for his or her well-being along with your willingness to come alongside and help in any way you can. Gently encourage the alcoholic to seek treatment by framing alcoholism as a medical issue. This sort of approach can alleviate feelings of condemnation and give the alcoholic hope that recovery is possible.
Consider Conducting an Intervention
Intervention is an excellent tool that counsellors and psychologists have come to rely on for all kinds of addictions. What is an intervention? It is a gathering of close family members and friends for the purposes of helping an alcoholic in denial confront his or her issue. More often than not it is conducted with the assistance of a trained interventionist or alcohol abuse counsellor, although family members can conduct interventions by themselves.
When interventions work as intended, they provide motivation for the alcoholic to get help. However, before conducting an intervention you need to know the following:
- No Guarantees – There are no guarantees of success with an intervention. As good a tool as intervention is, sometimes the alcoholic is just not ready to come to terms with reality. You may have to conduct multiple interventions before success is realised.
- Different Approaches – There are different approaches to intervention, depending on the counsellor or interventionist you are working with. Some prefer to explain to the alcoholic how his/her addiction is destroying his/her life. Others prefer to take the opposite tack. They address how the alcoholic's behaviour is affecting family members and friends. You need to find an approach that works best for you.
- When Success Is Achieved – A lot of people go into an intervention unprepared to act if they actually succeed. The truth is that any decision by the alcoholic to seek treatment after an intervention may be a short-lived one. Therefore, those involved should do research into treatment options well before the intervention takes place. That way they are prepared to get the person into treatment quickly before he or she has a change of heart.
If you would like more information about how to conduct an intervention, please do not hesitate to contact us. We can refer you to counsellors and interventionists who specialise in this sort of thing. Done properly, an intervention could be just the motivation your loved one needs to get help.
Set and Enforce Boundaries
Learning how to help an alcoholic includes learning to do some things that may not be pleasant. One of those things is setting and enforcing boundaries. Remember what we talked about concerning enabling the alcoholic? Boundaries go hand-in-hand with the principle of not enabling.
One example of a boundary might be that you will no longer provide the alcoholic with money that is used to purchase more alcohol. Should you discover that money you provide for other things is being used to support drinking, your only choice is to cut off the money supply entirely.
For your protection and that of your family, you may have to set a boundary that says your loved one is no longer welcome in your house if he or she does not seek treatment. This is an uncomfortable boundary that sometimes has to be set and enforced. Understand that the point of setting boundaries is not to punish. It is to motivate the alcoholic to get help while also providing some means of protection for you and the rest of your family.
Get Counselling for Yourself
Our last proven strategy for helping an alcoholic is to get counselling for yourself. As much as you want to help, any help you offer will be ineffective if you do not know how to do it. Counselling gives you the knowledge and tools to be effective with the help you offer. Counselling also helps you to maintain your own healthy mental state, protect yourself and your family from harm, and cope with the challenges of living with an alcoholic.
You may not be able to change someone with an alcohol problem, but you can employ the strategies we described as a means of helping the situation. If need be, there are professional counsellors and charities that can teach you how to help an alcoholic effectively.
- Alcohol Helpline – Talk to Our Friendly Experts For Free
- How to Get Fast and Effective Help with Drinking Problems
- Help to Stop Drinking – The Simple Guide to Your Options
- How to Help an Alcoholic – Proven Strategies That Work
- Help for Alcoholics – How to Get the Support You Need Now
- Finding the Best Alcohol Help and Advice in Your Area
Daniel’s guidance, professional and very heartfelt approach gave us the confidence and determination to go through with it."
- Free advice from a trained alcohol counsellor
- Access the best treatments in the UK and around the world
- Care for the alcoholic AND their family