What to Do When Your Loved One Has a Drinking Problem

Living with an alcoholic partner, friend, or family member can be overwhelming. You might wonder what you can do to help them and whether they even want your help.

If someone you love is struggling with alcoholism and has lost control of their life, the first thing you should do is understand their disorder. Having the right knowledge will put you in a better position to support your loved one.

What is alcoholism?

Alcohol use disorder, or alcoholism, occurs when a person drinks so much that they become physically and psychologically dependent on alcohol. Alcoholics won’t be able to resist having only one drink. They will continue to drink even when it causes adverse effects on their career, health, and relationships.

Long-term alcohol misuse can cause severe health conditions, including stroke, heart disease, liver cancer, mouth cancer, and others. It can also lead to social problems, including divorce, domestic abuse, homelessness, and unemployment. Additionally, people who binge drink tend to behave recklessly and are at higher risk of being in an accident.

How can you help?

soberiety meeting

Although the road to sobriety is a lifelong process, the right treatment and support can help alcoholics fight relapses and manage triggers. Here are some ways you can make their journey more comfortable.

Set firm boundaries

The sad thing is you can’t directly stop them from drinking. The decision must come from their own free will.

Alcoholism makes people irrational and manipulative. People with drinking problems might use your kindness and love for them against you. For example, they can ask you for bail money, and because you love them, you wouldn’t be able to say no. In doing so, you prevent them from facing the real consequences of their disorder.

What you can do instead is shield yourself from the negative repercussions of their behavior. Saying no to an alcoholic will not only protect you but can also influence them to stop drinking.

Boundaries differ for everyone. For example, you can refuse to answer their calls or let them in the house when they are drunk. They exist to protect you, and not to punish your loved one for drinking.

Actively pursue treatment

Alcoholics who are ready to seek treatment can enter into rehab groups or private alcohol detox programs. These programs often involve counseling sessions, medications, and behavioral therapies. Through treatment, your loved one will be able to share their experiences with professionals and others who are fighting the same disorder.

Continue learning

Alcoholism affects not just the alcoholic but also everyone around him. Counseling or therapy can help you better understand your loved one’s behaviors. It can teach you how to handle future relapses and manage your expectations. You can, in turn, share your newfound knowledge with friends and family to ensure you’re all on the same page.

Treatment of alcoholism doesn’t stop in rehab. Even after recovery, your loved one might encounter triggering situations. You can prevent this by avoiding talking about alcohol when you’re together or refusing to drink in social gatherings. Ask about new strategies they learned or new friends they’ve gained in meetings. Showing your support in their long-term recovery will push them to get better.

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