The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Addiction has revealed that well over 16 million Americans suffer from alcohol use disorder (AUD). It’s easy to see how they are destroying their health, happiness, prosperity, relations and pretty much everything good in their life by falling prey to alcohol addiction.
Unfortunately, however, most alcoholics fail to realize this. The ones that do don’t really care, and continue drinking their life away.
Given the complex nature of the problem, it’s only natural to wonder how to help an alcoholic, especially if you’re someone close to an alcohol addict. Well, the first thing we could say is that, it may not be easy, and you need to be prepared for a rough ride.
However, if that doesn’t scare or worry you, then stick around as we walk you through what seem to be 15 fairly effective ways of helping an alcoholic.
#1 Become knowledgeable on alcohol abuse
To deal with a problem, you have to first understand it. And when it comes to alcohol abuse, things can be much more complex than they seem on the surface.
Hence, even before you make any serious effort to help an alcoholic, you would probably want to educate yourself first on what alcohol addiction is all about.
Learn about the kind of effects alcohol has on a person, their mind, signs of alcoholism and most importantly, their psychological state. Knowing these things may help you get in a much better position to help them without making things worse.
Similarly, you will be able to better understand the state they are in, which is crucial to help them get out of it. This may help you address the right things, and avoid having a discussion that’s all over the place.
#2 Be compassionate
Remember that you’re trying to help them, not insult them. Thinking of them as a diseased person can help you be compassionate to them while trying to make them give up their alcohol. This is really important as without the feeling of compassion, you may find it extremely challenging to help them in a way that brings about a significant change.
Needless to say, making them feel like a loser for their alcohol habit is likely to make matters worse and it may even push them into their alcohol addiction even further. On the other hand, being compassionate towards them may make them share things with you that have led them to drinking.
And once you get to know the reasons they went into drinking and want to avoid going sober anytime soon, you may be able to come up with a plan that targets exactly those reasons, making it much more effective.
#3 Prepare well
Instead of just getting into a discussion with the alcoholic out of nowhere, you would probably get much better results if you prepare everything you can think of about having a discussion with them beforehand.
This is again something where your knowledge of alcohol addiction is going to come in handy. Similarly, being compassionate is going to turn out to be crucial as well.
You need to follow everything mentioned in the above point, too. You should not get hurtful, use a negative tone or try to make them feel miserable or say anything that makes them feel insulted.
In other words, you may want to avoid saying something like, ‘You’re heavily into alcoholism – you need to do something about it and seek help.’ Instead, something along these lines is going to be a much better thing to say – I’m worried and concerned about your alcohol habit; it’s making you a different person and your health may be getting affected big time.’
While using “I” in your discussion often is going to help you establish yourself as someone who is actually involved in their matter, showing that you’re concerned is going to make them more likely to consider what you say. And when you make a good start to your discussion with this approach, you can bring up a specific incidence where the use of alcohol led to a very undesirable outcome for them.
Of course, the alcoholic person may try to make excuses, and so you need to prepare yourself for their responses as well. And finally, remember that no matter what, you wouldn’t want to lose your cool and get into a heated argument as that would do more harm than good.
#4 Choose the place and time wisely
Make sure that you have this discussion at a place where you’re not likely to get interrupted, and it would be easy to get a productive discussion going. Choosing the right time for the discussion is just as important, if not more.
The person you’re trying to help should have their mind clear at the time and not be preoccupied with other issues. They should also not be feeling stressed and be in a good mood overall.
Of course, they also need to be perfectly sober at that time, or you might just end up wasting your efforts for nothing.
#5 Be prepared for negative reactions
It’s quite likely that the alcoholic – even if they are someone close to you – would react negatively to your attempts to make them quit alcohol. They may even get angry and say things to you that won’t be pleasant for you to hear.
However, this is going to be a part of the process and, unless you’re prepared to deal with it in a positive way without taking anything personally, things may not work out well. Instead of feeling bad about the way they react, you can actually use it as an opportunity to get things out of them that may help you in strengthening your plan against their addiction.
For example, if they try to deny the fact that it’s not affecting their health, you can keep that in mind and come up with something, say asking them to visit a doctor for consultation, just so to address their misconception or excuse that they are using as a shield.
Once this happens, they may likely get softer and try to understand your points, but only if you manage to be supportive, compassionate and polite to them all the time, instead of just focusing on how it’s also affecting you in a bad way.
#6 Don’t get your expectations high
If you expect your alcoholic loved one to go sober after just that first discussion, you’re likely to be disappointed. Alcohol addiction is very real and can be extremely difficult to get rid of, especially if the alcoholic has no plans to give up on it anytime soon. It’s probably going to take quite some time to bring them to a point where they are willing and ready to do it.
Your first discussion is going to be more of a gateway to finding out the reasons behind the alcohol addiction of your loved one, and motivating him to kick it out from their life for good. Even if it doesn’t yield much in terms of result, don’t lose your motivation.
Heavy drinkers with a stubborn attitude towards their drinking often need more work, as for the first few times they may not even be willing to have a serious conversation with you about their alcohol addiction.
#7 Talk to them more when they are sober
It’s close to impossible to talk and develop a stronger relationship with someone when they are drunk. But it’s important to be someone the alcoholic you’re dealing with likes to talk to; it will go a long way in they taking your advice seriously and increasing the chances of making them go sober for good significantly.
An ideal approach to this would be trying to talk to them more when they are perfectly normal and not under the influence of alcohol. You need not bring up drinking often; you can just talk about the other things they like, appreciate the other good qualities in them and the good memories you may have shared together.
This can be a great start to getting to the point where they will be much more likely to listen to you, even if it’s about an addiction that they are dealing with.
#8 Don’t cover up for them
Covering up for them or giving excuses to justify their alcohol addiction would motivate them to go even deeper into their alcoholism. Furthermore, you covering up for them likely also means that you haven’t yet realized the state they are in; maybe you still don’t have an idea of the intensity of the problem they are facing.
Well, if you don’t, then let us tell you that it’s just as dangerous as something life-threatening, if not more. So it shouldn’t hurt to have the alcoholic face some criticism or negative responses due to their alcohol habit and the things it leads to.
#9 Don’t help escape legal consequences
Well, although alcoholism may not be having any legal consequences, the things that it makes the alcoholic do certainly do. And this often turns out to be a blessing in disguise.
Many times, heavy drinkers involve themselves in situations and alcohol-related crimes that makes them end up behind the bars. When something like this happens, they are more likely to realize what a mess their life has become due to alcohol, and, hence, become more likely to get the motivation they need to quit drinking.
If you bail them out of jail, you will make them lose this opportunity to get their life back on track. Not to mention, it will also kind of make them feel that no matter what, you would always have their back and so they don’t need to worry about the situations their alcohol addiction gets them in.
#10 Don’t relieve them of their responsibilities
If you help the alcoholic with fulfilling their responsibilities, you actually give them the liberty to continue their alcohol addiction. Don’t help them out when it comes to facing the outcome of their carelessness with respect to their responsibilities.
It will then be a matter of time before the pressure starts mounting and forces them to start taking things seriously, which may be just the push you need to trigger the process that will help them quit alcohol.
#11 Don’t help them financially
Although this should go without saying, but it’s worth a mention all the same. This is especially true given that alcohol addicts are usually very manipulative and they will have more ways than you can imagine to get money out of you to satisfy their thirst for more alcohol.
Hence, you should never land them any money, unless if they end up in hospital and you’re paying the hospital bills directly. Something important to note here is that alcoholics often become experts at lying, so you may also want to verify pretty much everything important they tell you about their financial condition or other similar matters.
#12 Never join them for an alcohol session
Even if you drink like a couple tablespoons of alcohol when you do, it will still be a kind of approval for them to pursue their alcohol dream. And if this happens, then it may get way more challenging to make the alcoholic take a step back on their alcohol habit.
So, never, we repeat, never, ever join them for an alcohol session, even if there are other friends joining them as well. In fact, if the other friends, too, are close to the person in question, then you may even want to consider convincing them to not drink with the alcoholic.
You can go a step further by asking all the close friends of the alcoholic to avoid hanging out with them when they are planning to drink. It may make the alcoholic feel isolated due to their drinking habit, which can be a great source of motivation to weaken their alcohol desire. Also, it would be a great help if you can avoid drinking altogether, even if you don’t drink often.
Many times people drink simply because they enjoy drinking with their friends or family. When they would no longer have the company of their friends when drinking, their alcohol addiction will weaken quite a bit.
And that precisely may be your perfect “strike when the iron is hot” moment.
#13 Don’t argue or fight with them
An alcoholic tends to seek refuge in alcohol whenever they have an argument or fight, especially with someone close to them. Similarly, they are more likely to drink when they are feeling stressed, and arguments and fights are obviously going to be a reason for their stress.
That said, it doesn’t mean you don’t try to hold them accountable when things start getting out of hand. This is especially if you have tried being compassionate and motivating them to stop alcohol from dominating their life, only in vain.
However, do everything carefully. Don’t let your anger or negative emotions get the better of you. Think practically and consider all your options when it comes to confronting them.
Try to experiment a bit to find which ones are working considerably better than the others, and stick to them.
#14 Talk about the effects on you and your relationship with them
Experts suggest avoiding accusing the alcoholic, which is something close ones often do. A good way to do this is to make sure you’re not using a “You” tone with many hints of accusations in it.
Instead, make the conversation focused around you, and how their alcohol habit is affecting you and the relationship that you share with them. This would make them feel comfortable with the conversation, making it much more effective.
Some of the things you can bring up are how their alcohol habit has resulted in mental and emotional stress for you, how you’re finding it incredibly difficult to stay financially afloat and how much more work you’re having to do with no support from him or her.
Then talk about how your relationship with them has been going downhill, before moving on to telling them rather subtly about their increasing absence at home or not spending enough time with you or the kids.
This often works well because many alcoholics tend to care more about their loved ones and the relationship they share with them than their own health or job.
#15 Maintain your calm
Although it can be difficult, it’s crucial. When you confront an alcoholic, they may start blaming you for their problems or even their addiction to alcohol.
If you lose your calm at that point, matters are almost sure to get worse. The person you’re trying to help may no longer be willing to listen to you, and it may make them start drinking even more.