How Alcoholism Affects Friends And Family
Alcoholism also referred to as “alcohol use disorder,” affects not only the drinker but also their families and loved ones. It can be both heartbreakingly painful and frustrating to watch a friend or family member struggle with a drinking issue. Your loved one may be upsetting family harmony by ignoring their duties, running into financial and legal issues, mistreating or even abusing you and other family members, or by engaging in any of these behaviors.
Shame, fear, anger, and self-blame are just a few of the distressing feelings that can arise when you witness your loved one’s drinking and the breakdown of your relationship. It may even seem easier to ignore your loved one’s addiction because it is so severe than to acknowledge it. Denying it, however, will ultimately do more harm than good to you, your loved one who has the issue, and the rest of your family.
It’s critical to keep in mind that you’re not fighting this battle by yourself. Millions of people from every social class, color, origin, and culture are impacted by alcoholism and alcohol abuse. However, assistance is accessible. While you can’t perform the difficult work of helping a loved one overcome addiction for them, your tolerance, love, and support can be extremely helpful to their long-term recovery. These suggestions will enable you to lessen the pain of your loved one, safeguard your own mental health and well-being, and bring harmony and stability back into your relationship and family life.
Identifying The Warning Signals Of A Problem
Drinking is a common activity for many people. The majority of the time, it is both morally and legally permissible for an adult to consume alcohol. However, because each person’s response to alcohol is unique, it can be challenging to determine when a loved one’s drinking has progressed from socially acceptable, responsible drinking to alcohol abuse. There is no set quantity that identifies the presence of an alcohol consumption disorder. Instead, it is determined by how drinking impacts the lives of your loved ones.
Many people are drinking more than they used to in an effort to reduce stress during these challenging times of the global pandemic, economic instability, and rising unemployment. Even though it’s simple to comprehend, this doesn’t make it any less of a worry. It may be a clue that your loved one’s drinking has developed into a problem if they use alcohol to deal with stress or issues or to avoid feeling unpleasant
Additionally, your loved one might have a drinking issue if they:
- Regularly disregard their obligations at home, at work, or at school because they are drinking or sobering up.
- They frequently drink excessively or on binges.
- Lie about their alcohol consumption or make an effort to hide it.
- Alcohol causes people to “black out” or lose all memory of their actions or words.
- Even when their drinking is interfering with their relationships with you and others, they continue to do so.
- Self-medicate with alcohol for mental health issues like anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder.
The first step in assisting a loved one who exhibits indicators of alcohol abuse or addiction is to educate yourself as much as you can on these topics. You’ll be prepared to talk to your loved one about their drinking and provide them with the support and resources they need once you’ve done your homework on all the available treatment and self-help alternatives.
How To Broach The Subject Of Drinking With Someone
Speaking with someone about their drinking is difficult. You can be concerned that if you voice your worries, the other person will become irate, defensive, lash out, or will merely deny that they are experiencing a problem. These are all typical responses, in actuality. However, that does not mean you should remain silent. If you don’t speak up, your loved one’s drinking is more likely to go worse before it gets better.
Although it’s crucial to be forthright and honest about your worries, you must keep in mind that you cannot make someone quit misusing alcohol. You cannot make someone stop drinking, no matter how much you might want to and how difficult it is to witness. They are free to decide. But you may support them by suggesting actions they can take to deal with their issue, such as phoning a hotline, consulting a doctor or counselor, enrolling in treatment, or attending a group meeting.
Factors That Can Help
Pick a time when you and your loved one are both calm and focused, and they are not drinking. Pick an area that is private and peaceful where you won’t be disturbed, and turn off your phone and other electronics to cut down on interruptions.
Be kind when expressing your worries. Share with your loved one your concerns about their drinking and how it is affecting your relationship, the family as a whole, and their health. Rather than criticizing or trying to shame your loved one, try to stay impartial and be kind.
Encourage your loved one to discuss the causes of their alcohol abuse. Are they, for instance, anxious, bored, lonely, or stressed? Your loved one may be drinking for a variety of reasons, but in order to stay sober, they must deal with any underlying issues.
If you’d rather not handle it on your own, think about setting up a family meeting or an intervention. Again, everyone needs to come from a place of caring rather than see this as an opportunity to bully, accuse, or vent their anger at the person with the drinking problem.
Things to Avoid
Don’t take any negative reactions personally. It may take several attempts to begin a real conversation with your loved one about their drinking. Expect pushbacks and denial. Allow the person some time and space to process your worries and begin to recognize the issue for themselves.
You shouldn’t try to intimidate, punish, bribe, or preach. Avoid making emotional appeals to problem drinkers since this will just enhance their guilt and compulsion to drink. Give suggestions rather than demands.
Don’t defend your loved one or offer justifications for their actions. Attempting to shelter them from their obligations will only keep them from realizing the repercussions of their drinking and may cause them to put off seeking treatment for the problem.
Put no blame on yourself. You aren’t liable or at fault for your loved one’s actions; you also have no power to make them stop drinking.
Urging Your Loved One To Get Assistance
Expecting your loved one to kick a drinking habit on their own is unrealistic. Even if individuals can safely withdraw without medical supervision, they will still need assistance, direction, and new coping mechanisms to stop drinking entirely or significantly reduce their consumption.
- Encourage your friend or relative to seek assistance by:
- Expressing interest in going with them to group gatherings, counseling sessions, and medical appointments.
- Sitting next to them while they dial a helpline for guidance
- Putting together a detailed strategy with them that specifies the modifications they’ll be making and how.
When a loved one decides to seek help, your responsibility doesn’t end. Recovery is a continual process that calls for patience and time. A person who abuses alcohol won’t suddenly change once they stop using it. They’ll actually experience a variety of fresh difficulties. They will need to develop new ways of surviving without alcohol, as well as deal with the issues that initially caused their alcohol dependence. But they can get there if you give them your unwavering love and support.
To Stop Or Reduce?
Of course, not all excessive drinkers are alcoholics. Your loved one might be able to cut back on their alcohol use to a healthier level rather than stop altogether, depending on the severity of their problem and their level of control over their drinking.
If your loved one wants to cut back on drinking, you can encourage them by working with them to establish new boundaries and practical strategies for maintaining those boundaries. What would your loved one do instead, for instance, if they pledge to abstain from alcohol for at least two days each week? How will they follow sensible drinking guidelines—no more than one drink for women and two for men—on the days that they do allow themselves to consume alcohol?
Assist your loved one in setting drinking objectives and developing a plan to stick to them. You could stop drinking at home, take a break in between drinks, stay away from negative influences, and discover other hobbies and social circles that don’t revolve around drinking.
The extent of your loved one’s drinking problem, the stability of their living circumstances, and any other health issues they might be dealing with all play a role in determining the best course of therapy.
The primary care physician or GP of your loved one can examine their drinking habits, determine their general health and identify any co-occurring problems, and offer treatment referrals. Your loved one’s doctor might even suggest medication that has been approved to assist treat alcohol dependence if it is acceptable.
One of the most popular forms of treatment for alcoholism and addiction is going to a 12-step program or another kind of support group. Your loved one can meet people going through the same issues through AA meetings and other groups. Your loved one can receive guidance on maintaining sobriety, lessen their sense of isolation, and open out to people who are familiar with their challenges. According to studies, these groups’ social connections can give your loved ones more self-assurance that they can maintain their sobriety and refrain from drinking in public.
Individual, group and family therapy sessions are a component of behavioral treatments. These can assist your loved one in discovering the underlying causes of their alcohol use, mending broken relationships, learning how to stop or cut back on their drinking, and developing coping mechanisms for situations that can prompt a relapse.
Residential treatment centers, also known as “rehab” centers, offer severe alcohol misuse or addiction treatment. For 30 to 90 days, your loved one receives care at a specialized facility, including detox, therapy, and medication.
Supporting The Healing Of A Loved One
The road to recovery from alcoholism or a drinking issue can be challenging. About half of those who successfully complete alcohol misuse treatment the first time remain alcohol-free, while the other half eventually relapse and resume drinking. People frequently need treatment more than once before achieving recovery. As a result, having patience will be a virtue as you aid in the recuperation of your loved one.
Encourage the person you love to pursue new hobbies. Cutting down or quitting can leave a large void in the lives of those who spend a lot of time drinking (and recuperating from drinking). Help your loved one find new interests and hobbies that don’t entail drinking. seeks out activities that will enliven and give meaning to their life, such as enrolling in a class to learn something new, going on hikes, camping trips, or fishing trips, volunteering for a cause that matters to them, taking up a sport, joining a hobby club, or pursuing the arts by creating art, writing, or going to museums.
Suggest engaging in non-alcoholic social activities. Despite the fact that you cannot protect your loved one from circumstances involving alcohol, you can avoid engaging in it yourself. Try to come up with non-alcoholic activities to do when you spend time together.
Assist the person in addressing the issues that caused them to drink. For instance, if your loved one was drinking due to boredom, worry, or loneliness, those issues will still exist once they stop drinking. Encourage the individual to develop more effective coping strategies for dealing with difficulties in life and recovering from setbacks without turning to alcohol.
Don’t help the individual. When you protect the person from the repercussions of their drinking, you are enabling rather than aid. When they lose their job or get into legal difficulty as a result of their drinking, you hide or discard their empty bottles, take up their obligations, or provide financial aid. Helping them entails keeping the individual responsible for their actions while allowing them to retain their self-respect and dignity.
Help them develop more effective stress management techniques. Stress might result from making a substantial life adjustment, such as quitting or reducing alcohol use. Similar to this, abusing alcohol excessively is frequently a bad way to deal with stress. By encouraging them to exercise, confide in others, meditate, or engage in other relaxation techniques, you can assist your loved ones in finding healthier ways to lower their stress level.
Don’t blame yourself for relapses; be prepared for them. Help your loved one make a plan for avoiding drinking triggers, dealing with alcohol cravings, and handling social situations where drinking is expected. In the end, only they are accountable for their sobriety.
You can assist your loved one in learning how to divert themselves when cravings strike—by phoning someone, going for a walk, or simply riding out the impulse, for example. Recovery frequently experiences setbacks. It is not your responsibility if a loved one relapses. All you can do is support them while they make another attempt at quitting drinking and encourage them to resolve to do so. They will arrive there with your assistance.
Assisting A Teenager Who Abuses Alcohol
Today’s teenagers dabble with alcohol more frequently and earlier than ever before. Compared to adults, they are more likely to binge drink and are more susceptible to developing an alcohol use disorder. This might be the case because a teen’s brain’s pleasure center develops earlier than their aptitude for wise decision-making. Whatever the case, youths who abuse alcohol run the danger of experiencing long-lasting health consequences as well as engaging in unsafe conduct like unprotected sex or driving while intoxicated.
If you find out your child is drinking, it’s acceptable for you as a parent or guardian to feel angry, worried, or bewildered. But it’s crucial to keep in mind that, particularly during their adolescent and early teen years, you continue to have a significant influence on the decisions that your child makes.
Remain composed and only address your adolescent when everyone is sober. Explain your concerns and make it clear that your worry comes from a place of love. Your teen needs to know that you are there for them.
Keep an eye on your teen’s behavior. Be aware of your teen’s whereabouts and friends. Remove or hide alcohol from your home, and regularly check for alcohol hiding places. Tell your teen that being discovered drinking has resulted in them losing their privacy.
Inform your child of underlying problems. Many teenagers use alcohol as a stress reliever, a coping mechanism for social pressures and academic pressures, as a form of self-medication for other mental health conditions, or as a way to deal with significant life changes like moving or divorce. Talk to your child about their current circumstances.
Establish guidelines and penalties. Your teen should understand that drinking alcohol comes with specific consequences. But don’t issue empty threats or impose limitations on your authority.
Promote additional hobbies and social activities. To prevent alcohol use, expose your teen to healthy pastimes and pursuits like team sports, Scouting, and after-school clubs.
Enlist the aid of outsiders. You do not need to struggle alone. Try asking a family doctor, therapist, or counselor for assistance.
Taking Care Of Yourself
Dealing with a loved one’s alcohol problem can feel like an emotional rollercoaster and take a heavy toll on your health, outlook, and well-being. It’s vital that you stay safe, take care of your own health, and get the support you need.
Don’t attempt to handle this by yourself. It’s crucial to have individuals who can be open and honest about your struggles. Consult dependable friends, a support network, members of your church, or your personal therapist.
Joining an organization like Al-Anon, a free peer support group for families struggling with a loved one’s alcohol consumption is a terrific place to start. It can be incredibly reassuring and supportive to hear from people who are going through similar things. It can also give you new coping mechanisms to try out. Similar support groups, like Alateen, are available for young people who have alcoholic relatives.
Be mindful of your own needs. Try not to let your loved one’s actions determine how you feel about yourself. Make time in your day for resting, taking care of your health, and engaging in your favorite activities. You must keep your life in the balance because your loved one’s recovery could take a while. Attend to your work, appointments, and social commitments.
Establish limits. There is only so much you can do, no matter how much you may love the person who has a drinking issue and how distressing it may be to see them battle their addiction. You cannot always watch over their behavior, make all of their decisions for them, or let their problems control your life. Don’t try to become your loved one’s therapist or AA mentor; those are roles that belong to others. Establish clear boundaries for what you can do in order to prevent burnout.
Stress management. Find ways to relieve the pressure because worrying and stressing about your loved one can have a negative impact on your mental and physical health. Maintaining a healthy diet, exercising frequently, and getting enough sleep can all reduce stress. As you navigate this difficult journey, you can also try one of the guided audio meditations on HelpGuide.
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