It’s not easy to figure out how to help an alcoholic family member. Helping an alcoholic isn’t easy, especially somebody that you love deeply. Your family member might not be ready to change yet or may slip back into drinking often despite sincere promises to change. Fortunately, you don’t have to help your alcoholic relatives alone. Consider calling us to get help dealing with an alcoholic family member’s addiction.
Dealing With an Alcoholic Family Member
If your husband, child or other loved one drinks too much, he might not realize he has a problem. He has to realize that he is alcoholic in his own time; however, there are several things you can do to help him come to that realization more quickly.
- Don’t hide the problem from other family members or friends. Relatives of alcoholics are often embarrassed by the alcoholic’s behavior. They may avoid social occasions because they don’t want to answer questions about the alcoholic’s absence or because the alcoholic family member drinks too much and acts inappropriately. However, hiding the alcoholic’s problem doesn’t help anybody. The alcoholic’s behavior is her responsibility; allow her to feel ashamed when she sobers up or experience consequences for her behavior such as not being invited to the next party. Remember that the more you allow the alcoholic to experience negative consequences for her drinking, the more likely she is to want to change her behavior.
- Talk to the alcoholic about her drinking only when everyone is sober and calm. Talking to the alcoholic when he is drunk is a waste of breath. He can’t rationally process what you say and may become defensive or angry. Similarly, if you’re angry or judgmental when talking about drinking, the alcoholic may shut down and refuse to hear what you say. Try to come from a position of love and concern rather than judgment or anger when talking about drinking. For example, say things like, “I notice you drink five or six beers every time we go out and I’m concerned that you may be addicted,” rather than, “You got drunk again last night. You have to stop drinking.”
- Set firm boundaries and stick to them. While you can’t directly stop the alcoholic from drinking, you can protect yourself from negative consequences of her behavior. Setting these limits can also help the alcoholic to decide she wants to stop drinking. Boundaries differ from person to person and should be based on protecting yourself from unwanted consequences of someone else’s behavior, not on punishing the person for drinking. For example, some families may choose to allow an alcoholic to stay in jail following an arrest related to drinking or may refuse to speak to the alcoholic on the phone or let him in the house when he is drunk.
- Seek help for yourself. Although only the alcoholic can decide to stop drinking, alcoholism affects everyone in the family. Counseling or therapy can help you differentiate between behaviors you have control over and behaviors you don’t, give you a greater understanding of why the alcoholic acts the way he does, resolve negative feelings related to the alcoholic’s drinking and figure out strategies for handling it when the alcoholic behaves in negative ways. The more you focus on yourself and getting yourself healthy, the more likely the alcoholic is to want to get healthy too. When you focus too much on the alcoholic, he can easily divert his attention to what you’re doing, but if you’re focusing on yourself he’s forced to face his own behavior.
Available Treatment for Alcoholic Family Member
If your family member is an alcoholic who hasn’t yet admitted he has a problem or asked for help, you can still get treatment for yourself. Counseling and therapy are excellent treatment choices. In addition, there’s a 12-step group for friends and family members of alcoholics. Just as some alcoholics benefit from going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, you might benefit from going to Al-Anon meetings. Al-Anon provides a variety of meetings where friends and family members of alcoholics can share their experiences and get support from one another.
Once your family member is ready to seek help for himself, there are a wide variety of treatment options available to him. Some people do well in rehabilitation facilities. These treatment centers require alcoholics to live at the center and interact with other people who are struggling with alcohol abuse. The alcoholic and his family may both benefit from therapy and counseling during treatment. Other alcoholics prefer an outpatient program, where they continue to live at home and go to work or school while going to a hospital or rehab center for treatment.
Regardless of the type of treatment an alcoholic opts for, they must be ready to change before the treatment will be effective. If you’re not sure how to help an alcoholic family member see that they need help, consider calling us to get the help you need for yourself or your family. Call today to take charge of your life again instead of feeling like you’re a victim of someone else’s alcohol problem.
You can also complete the free and confidential form below to see if your loved one’s insurance may cover substance abuse treatment.