How Do I Help An Alcoholic?
Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Patricia Sullivan, MD MPH on 5/3/2022
It can be challenging to talk to someone about their excessive drinking. No one wants to hear there’s a problem. People do not want to feel judged or looked down on. So how do you approach a friend or family member who might have a severe issue?
Understanding how to help an alcoholic friend or how to help an alcoholic in denial is crucial. You should have a plan in place and be prepared for how the person might react. Understand there is more than one way to work with someone who needs help. In this guide, we discuss specific ways that you can help someone who is struggling from alcoholism.
If you’re truly concerned for the welfare of a loved one, please give us a call today to discuss treatment options.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Understanding an Alcohol Use Disorder
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) finds that around 17 million adults have an alcohol use disorder. Often they don’t realize it. As a result, friends and family members often struggle to figure out how to help an alcoholic that doesn’t want help.
Most people know someone who has an apparent drinking problem. It is common to see drinking issues within a family tree, and many social activities revolve around excessive alcohol use. Our society has not only normalized alcohol, but it often glorifies it.
Alcoholism and Compulsive Behavior
An alcoholic is not someone who drinks regularly or drinks too much. Alcoholism is a compulsion—something a person feels compelled to do without thinking about it. Furthermore, an alcoholic needs a drink to feel normal, and most of their activities revolve around drinking.
There are warning signs that someone may have an ongoing problem:
- Drinking more often than usual or in larger quantities
- Using alcohol to combat a mental issue, like severe depression or anxiety
- Trying unsuccessfully to cut down or quit drinking
- Displaying risky behaviors when drinking, like drunk driving or having unsafe sex
- Exhibiting withdrawal symptoms, such as sleeplessness, shakiness, or nausea
- Letting drinking interfere negatively with family life, work, or school
- Being increasingly withdrawn from social activities and general communication
If the person in question exhibits more than one of these signs, they may have an alcohol disorder. It is not as simple as a choice to drink or not drink for these people. Someone who drinks heavily for years or even decades finds their mind and body need alcohol to survive. When an alcoholic isn’t drinking, they are uncomfortable physically and mentally. Feeling calm, happy, or friendly is out of the question. Just listening to an alcoholic can clue you into their state of mind.
The person may always complain when they are in situations where they can’t drink. They might glorify or brag about “getting wasted” or doing activities while drunk. You also might notice they act like a completely different person under the influence of alcohol. Learning to recognize these red flags is a first step in determining how to get an alcoholic help. Call us today if you, or someone you love, are battling an addiction to alcohol.
Staging an Intervention for an Alcoholic
Sometimes a one-on-one conversation is all it takes to get your friend or family member into treatment. However, some people are not even aware they might have a problem. Explaining your concern, giving legitimate reasons why, and offering to help are all positive tips on how to help an alcoholic realize they need addiction treatment.
If this does not produce results, it may be time for an organized intervention. Consulting with a mental health professional beforehand will allow you to figure out a safe and constructive plan. You can work with a certified counselor, psychologist, or interventionist. The idea behind an intervention is to confront a person about their addiction, address negative behaviors, and offer support for their recovery.
In a typical intervention, friends and family members sit down with the loved one and collectively address the situation. This may include the reading of letters addressed to the person, stating the effect their drinking has had on everyone present.
It also offers a solution in the form of a treatment option… and potential consequences if the person refuses to accept treatment. Having a professional run, the meeting can ensure that it is structured and stays on topic. Additionally, this provides the presence of a neutral party in the room.
Ideally, all this leads to the person acknowledging their addiction and accepting help. However, not all interventions are successful. Sometimes further action is necessary, and a poorly planned intervention can have the opposite of the intended effect.
An intervention is not meant to be an attack on a person. Rather, it is an expression of love and concern and an opportunity to assist their struggle. It can be an important tool in understanding how to get an alcoholic help.
Options for Alcohol Abuse Treatment
If an intervention is successful, people with substance abuse disorders can benefit greatly from professional treatment. This can come in several forms.
Treatment programs for alcohol dependence can be highly beneficial. Options include extended inpatient stays at a rehabilitation facility and outpatient programs that require weekly attendance.
These programs feature education on substance abuse, individual and group therapy, and offer an opportunity to interact and share with others who are experiencing the same affliction. They offer an excellent opportunity for alcoholics to examine the nature of their disorder in a controlled, non-judgmental setting.
Another option is professional counseling. This will involve a licensed addiction counselor or someone with a background in substance abuse issues.
Sessions allow the person to examine the psychological part of their disorder and talk openly about their drinking issues. Analyzing the problems that lead to addiction can go a long way toward helping someone get back on track.
Additionally, properly prescribed medication can help curb cravings for alcohol or address mental health disorders that may have contributed to addiction. In many cases, drinkers drink excessively to push back against mental distress or to help alleviate another ailment. Several FDA-approved medications are specifically targeted at Alcohol Use Disorder.
All these approaches aim to benefit an alcoholic and get them back on track. Sometimes a person just needs a sympathetic ear to listen.
In more serious cases, a regimented program can help educate and give structure to someone with a drinking disorder. Professionals usually use the medication in conjunction with other treatment options.
Need more information about the treatment options available to you? Then call us today. Our team of experts will work with you to find the best option for you.
Tips on How to Help an Alcoholic in Denial
One of the most difficult aspects of getting a loved one help is that they sometimes refuse to acknowledge their problem. Denial can play a large role in the alcoholic’s life.
Many problem drinkers insist they have everything under control. Some are even high-functioning—able to maintain a relatively stable lifestyle while still drinking to excess.
If you have considered approaching a person about their alcohol use, take precautions. Consider how the person views their relationship with you. An addict is more likely to respond positively to someone they trust.
Be prepared to give concrete reasons why you believe the person is abusing alcohol. If they deny their problem, be able to layout facts about their use honestly.
This could include citing specific instances where alcohol has affected their life negatively. As previously discussed, if the person still refuses to recognize their drinking problem, you may need to get others involved, whether informally or with an organized intervention.
Often, hearing similar input from multiple sources close to them can be more convincing to an alcoholic.
You may also need to lay out consequences if they refuse to get help. This might include declining to drink with them anymore, cutting off financial support, or ending contact if they don’t get help. This part of the proceedings will depend on your relationship with the alcoholic and their current situation.
Do not give up hope if they deny their problem at first. It is a common and natural reaction. However, you may need to be persistent or consider a different approach to helping them. It can be tough figuring out how to help an alcoholic in denial. Consider consulting a professional if the person you care for refuses to acknowledge their drinking issue. There are different ways to handle a defensive attitude.
Consequences of Being an Alcoholic
Abusing alcohol leads to adverse outcomes. In terms of health, excessive alcohol consumption can result in irreparable damage to the liver and injury to the heart.
Drinking too much raises blood pressure and weakens the immune system. There is also evidence that shows a link between the over-consumption of alcohol and certain forms of cancer.
This is not to mention all the social, financial, and personal disasters that drinkers may go through. In many cases, it can severely affect families and relationships.
When you are considering how to help an alcoholic friend or family member, or help an alcoholic who doesn’t want help, know the stakes.
You are dealing with someone who has a legitimate health disorder and could be jeopardizing their life. Take the situation seriously, but also approach it with compassion. A person addicted to substances does not enjoy being an addict.
How to Get an Alcoholic into Rehab
People often drink excessively to escape the pain—either physical or mental. An alcoholic can easily get caught up in a cycle, in which they consume to feel better, yet drinking too much creates a negative effect. To fight this adverse effect, they think the only solution is to drink even more.
It can be hard to grasp why a person cannot stop drinking. At a certain point, it goes beyond merely “choosing to stop.” As a result, your family member or loved one may need professional assistance to do it.
In conclusion, there are many avenues for recovery from alcohol dependence. With advances in research, we now understand more about the chemical and psychological causes of addiction and how to control it.
However, call us today if you are looking to help an alcoholic. We are here to provide you with the help you need to help anyone suffering from addiction.
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