Alcoholism is a term used to describe someone who has both a physical and psychological dependence on alcohol. It is called an ‘Alcohol Use Disorder.’
An Alcohol Use Disorder can range from mild to severe. Those that suffer may have problems controlling their drinking habits and will keep drinking even though it causes problems. These problems can affect social relationships and their health, and some mild problems can develop into more serious complications.
Early treatment, help, prevention and intervention can really help people with an alcohol use disorder. It is difficult to make an alcoholic stop drinking – only the alcoholic themselves can make that decision. BUT you CAN help an addict to seek alcohol rehab.
Seeking treatment for alcoholism is the first step in recovering and becoming sober – and you can help them.
Helping an alcoholic in recovery
Once an alcoholic begins the process of recovery through an alcohol rehabilitation programme, your role changes from ‘helping an alcoholic’ to ‘supporting the alcoholic’s recovery’. Understanding the process of alcohol rehab and recovery is the first step in helping an alcoholic through the recovery process. Make sure to attend all recovery-related meetings or appointment, whether or not the alcoholic attends or not.
Here are some helpful pointers to help you to support their recovery process.
1. Learn about ‘Alcohol Use Disorder’
The most important thing is to be sure that your friend or loved one actually has an addiction to alcohol. Alcoholism is more than just a few drinks from time to time. If you are unsure if they have an alcohol addiction, it’s best to seek advice before you do anything. If you feel they show symptoms of alcoholism, it may help to answer our questionnaire ‘do I have a drinking problem?’ here. There are many other references available to help you or your friend to establish whether it is an Alcohol Use Disorder. The NHS website, or www.drinkaware are very good site authorities.
2. Think about what you’re going to say
It’s a good idea to let the person that is seeking help know that you’re ready and available, and that you care. It helps to make statements that are positive and supportive, and to avoid being negative and hurtful. Try not to use accusatory statements such as “you’re an alcoholic”; instead use ‘I’ statements, which allow you to be a positive participant in the discussion. Perhaps mention that alcohol may cause a negative outcome, such as “I love you and I am concerned about how much you’re drinking. I’m worried it may be harming your health” rather than “You need help. You’re hurting me/us.”
You must prepare yourself for every possible response. Whatever the reaction, it’s essential to stay calm and reassure them that they have your support and respect.
3. Choose the perfect time and place
Pick the correct time and place to have those important conversations. It’s helpful if you both speak in a place where you know that you’ll have peace and quiet and privacy. You will also want to have each other’s full attention, so you should make sure that your friend is not preoccupied or upset. It is also very important that the person should be sober for your chat.
4. Listen well and have compassion
If the person involved does have an alcohol addiction, it’s best to be open and honest about their situation. Listen to what they have to say, let them know that yes, you think they are drinking too much, but that you want to be supportive. Be prepared for any negative reactions, as they may be defensive. Try to get past any negative resistance they have to your suggestions. The addict will probably be in denial of their problem, and they may react in an angry way. It’s important to not take it personally. Give them time to take it all in and to make honest decisions.
5. Offer support
The biggest, and hardest, realisation is that you can’t force someone who doesn’t want to go into treatment. All you can do is offer your help to them. It’s up to them if they take you up on your offer. Being non-judgmental, empathetic and caring is all you can be. It can help to imagine yourself in their situation and try to think what your reaction might be.
The alcohol addicts may promise to quit or cut back on their own, but actions speak louder than words. Encourage them to embark on an alcoholism treatment programme, and support them through the treatment.
It may be a good idea to see if their other family members and friends want to help and be involved. Be aware if the individual is a private person – you could suffer the consequences if you involve family and they may not have a good relationship with them.
Sometimes approaching someone isn’t enough. This is where intervening can be successful. An intervention may be the best course of action if the addict is resisting any offers of getting help. Intervention is a proven successful process that has enabled many people to receive treatment for drug or alcohol addiction when they have refused to seek help for themselves. It is based on the idea that a well prepared and organised group of family and friends can overcome any objections to obtaining the help required – which may be necessary when that person has reached a stage that they cannot come back from.
How to support your loved one through their recovery
The rehabilitation and treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder is an ongoing process. Your part in their recovery definitely does not end after they are in alcohol rehab. If they allow you, offer to attend meetings with them. Helping with day-today activities, shopping, housework, and childcare while they attend treatment – everything helps.
It’s important to stand by your friend and to see their progress during and after treatment. There are ways that you can encourage their sobriety and to help to keep them that way. Alcohol is difficult to avoid, and for a recovering alcoholic, temptation is everywhere. Try to keep away from situations that will include alcohol when you’re together, and opt for meeting in places where there is no option of having a drink. Keep interested in their long-term recovery, strategies and progress in the future months and years.
If you are considering a private alcohol rehab programme for yourself, a friend or family member, our addiction counsellors are always available to help. Call today on 0800 955 0945.