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How to Help an Alcoholic – Steps to Help Someone with a Drinking Problem

This article will provide an introduction to helping an alcoholic, including understanding the signs and symptoms of alcoholism and learning about available treatment options.

By understanding the nature of alcoholism and providing support, you can make a real difference in someone’s life.

Definition of Alcoholic

An alcoholic is someone who suffers from alcohol use disorder, which is a chronic and often progressive disease characterized by an uncontrollable urge to consume alcohol and an inability to limit the amount of alcohol consumed.

People with alcohol use disorder may experience physical, social, psychological and financial difficulty as a result of their drinking.

Alcoholism is a serious and complex problem that affects millions of people around the world. It can be difficult to know how to help someone who is struggling with an alcohol addiction but it is important to remember that there are steps you can take to support them. 

Overview of the Challenges of Assisting Someone with a Drinking Problem to Get Help

Helping someone with a drinking problem can be a challenge for many reasons. For one, individuals may not recognize that they have a drinking problem.

This could be because they are in denial about needing help, or they may be embarrassed or ashamed to seek help. Guilt and shame are very common among those suffering with substance use disorders.

Alcohol use disorder is often associated with underlying mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety which needs to be professionally diagnosed so effective treatment can be provided.

It can be difficult to get the individual to commit to treatment, as alcohol is highly addictive and difficult to stop. Abstinence is difficult and needs to be achieved by engaging in long-term treatment including therapy and support groups. 

Overview of the Effects of Drinking Too Much

Excessive alcohol use has a huge impact on society. In the US between 2015-2019, more than 140,000 people died from alcohol related causes. Alcohol was responsible for 1 in 5 deaths among people 20 to 49 years old.  In 2010, the economic costs were estimated at $249 million dollars. 

Alcoholism can have a range of negative effects on health and wellbeing, including: 

  • many serious health problems including liver damage, heart disease, various types of cancer, stroke and even a weakened immune system
  • depression, anxiety and other mental health issues
  • isolation due to the destruction of relationships
  • increased risk of accidental death, alcohol poisoning and suicide 
  • accidental injuries due to impaired judgment and coordination
  • risky behaviors such as drunk driving and unprotected sex 
  • domestic violence and child abuse
  • financial problems due to overspending on alcohol and possible job loss

Steps for Helping an Alcoholic

There are a number of things you can to do help someone struggling with alcohol addiction, such as:

  1. Establish trust, offer emotional support and understanding
  2. Talk to them about their alcoholism and try to listen without judgment 
  3. Encourage them to get professional help – detox, inpatient or outpatient treatment, support groups
  4. Offer to attend counseling sessions or support groups with them 
  5. Help find things that can replace drinking, such as hobbies and sports
  6. Be careful not to enable their behavior by providing access to alcohol
  7. Take care of yourself by joining a support group and practicing self-care
  8. Reach out to others for support such as family members and friends 
  9. Try to understand that it is not your responsibility to fix the person
  10. Be patient when they make mistakes or experience relapse
  11. Celebrate their recovery successes

What to do if you Suspect a Loved One is an Alcoholic

If you suspect someone is an alcoholic, it’s important to approach the situation with care and compassion. Start by talking to the person in a non-judgmental way and expressing your concern for their health and wellbeing.

Encourage them to seek professional help such as attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings or seeing a therapist. Additionally, offer your support – whether that be through listening, offering emotional support or helping them find resources.

It can be difficult to confront someone about their drinking habits, but it’s important to do so in order to get them the help they need.

Signs of an Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol use disorder is a chronic but treatable illness that is driven by an overwhelming compulsion to drink alcohol despite the long list of negative consequences it has on one’s health, relationships and overall wellbeing.  

The Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5) outline the signs of an alcohol use disorder as:

  • having failed attempts to reduce or stop drinking
  • continuing to drink alcohol even though it makes the emotional or physical problem worse
  • using alcohol under high-risk conditions like driving or swimming
  • having increased family conflict as a result of the drinking
  • using alcohol even when it impacts one from fulfilling their responsibilities at home or work
  • consuming more alcohol than was intended
  • having cravings to drink
  • spending time seeking out alcohol, using alcohol and recovering from it
  • having tolerance, meaning more alcohol must be consumed to achieve the desired effect
  • experiencing withdrawal symptoms when one stops using alcohol 

How to Convince Someone to go to Rehab for Alcohol Abuse 

Learn as much as possible about addiction and treatment options – in order to be successful in convincing someone to go to rehab, you need to be knowledgeable about alcoholism as well as the various treatment options available. Do your research, talk to a professional or members of a support group. 

Don’t wait for your loved one to hit rock bottom – many people have the misconception that one needs to hit rock bottom before they will accept help for addiction.

While denial often prevents people from getting help, don’t wait for a catastrophic event to happen before confronting the person and trying to help. By the time someone hits rock bottom, it may be too late.  

Plan an intervention with the help of a professional – interventions can prove to be quite successful as the person has no choice but to go to treatment or face the serious consequences laid out in the intervention which usually include no further contact, no more financial support, no place to live, etc. 

Codependency and Alcoholism

Codependency is a condition of being dependent on another person to the extent of the relationship being dysfunctional and feels similar to an addiction.

For example, in a marriage where one partner is an alcoholic, the other partner may become almost addicted to helping the other by buying alcohol for them despite being well aware of the negative outcomes.

Codependency issues are common among families. Codependency is a taught trait that puts another person’s needs above their own, often to the point of completely ignoring them. 

By providing justification for their actions or acting as their go-between with family members or coworkers, a codependent individual may enable the alcoholic.

Even though the codependent person believes they are supporting them, the loved one’s actions may actually encourage them to continue drinking because there are few, if any, repercussions.

Learning to deal with codependency can be achieved by attending support groups and receiving therapy. Connecting with others experiencing similar things can help build the skills necessary to break the cycle of codependency.

One such group is Al-Anon. You can learn more about your codependent habits and work on modifying them by working with a therapist. 

Help for Alcohol Use Disorder

The treatment options for alcohol use disorder depend on the severity of the condition and the individual’s unique circumstances. Generally, treatment includes detox, counseling and therapy, medication, support groups and lifestyle changes.

Detox should always be medically supervised, attempting it at home is not recommended. It is aimed at helping people safely and comfortably withdraw from alcohol, reduce cravings and is the first step towards recovery.

Detox treatment often includes medications to help reduce alcohol cravings, manage withdrawal symptoms, and can also include counseling and therapy to help people understand their underlying issues and develop healthy coping skills. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy and other evidence-based therapies can help individuals identify triggers and develop strategies to reduce alcohol consumption and cope with cravings. CBT is a form of psychotherapy that has been proven to be effective in treating Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).

IT helps individuals become more aware of their thoughts, feelings and behaviors and helps them identify and address underlying issues that may be fueling their AUD, such as anxiety or depression.

Through a combination of individual counseling, group therapy and lifestyle changes, CBT helps individuals learn how to resist the urge to drink, manage their triggers and make healthier decisions.

Other forms of therapy, such as family therapy, are also helpful to address issues related to family dynamics and relationships. This approach involves the entire family in the treatment process. 

It also provides education on the effects of alcohol use disorder, mental health issues and other related topics. Family therapy can help to create a safe, supportive environment for those in recovery, allowing them to discuss and process their thoughts and feelings in a positive space.

Medication-assisted treatment is sometimes used to help during the detox period and to reduce cravings or to help individuals remain abstinent. This is an evidence-based approach that combines the use of medications with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat AUD and help individuals achieve and maintain long-term sobriety. 

The medications commonly used will help manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce the risk of seizure.

Support groups such as AA can provide emotional support and practical advice to individuals with alcohol use disorder. These groups can also help individuals stay accountable and remain abstinent.

Support groups for alcohol use disorder provide a safe and supportive environment for individuals to share their experiences, offer advice and support to one another and learn new coping strategies to help them manage their addiction.

Through sharing stories and learning from one another, members of these groups can gain insight into their own experiences and form a sense of community. 

Finally, lifestyle changes are an important part of treatment. Making changes to learn how to avoid triggers, engaging in regular exercise, eating a healthy diet and getting adequate sleep can help individuals with alcohol use disorder stay sober.

Lifestyle changes for successful recovery:

1. Abstain from alcohol use: The most important lifestyle change for individuals with alcohol use disorder is to abstain from alcohol use. This means avoiding all forms of alcohol, including beer, wine, and liquor. 

2. Avoid high-risk situations: People with alcohol use disorder should avoid situations that may lead to alcohol use, such as bars, clubs, or parties where alcohol is present. 

3. Find activities to replace drinking: Finding activities to replace alcohol use can help individuals stay sober. Some activities that may help include exercise, spending time with friends and family, hobbies, and volunteer work. 

4. Seek help: Seeking help is a vital lifestyle change for individuals with alcohol use disorder. This includes seeking professional treatment and joining a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous. 

5. Develop healthy coping skills:Learning healthy coping skills to cope with negative emotions can help individuals resist the urge to drink. Some healthy coping skills include deep breathing exercises, meditation, journaling, and talking to a friend.

Treatment and Recovery Help for Alcoholism

Please reach out to Luxe Recovery to discuss your situation and learn about how we can help you and your loved ones who are affected by alcohol use. Our friendly admissions staff are here to help guide you towards a life of sobriety. 

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