Helping someone with a drinking problem. Is someone you love drinking too much? Dealing with a loved one’s alcohol abuse or alcoholism can be painful and challenging for the whole family, but there is help available.
Helping Someone With A Drinking Problem
How alcohol abuse affects family and friends
Alcohol abuse and addiction (also known as “alcohol use disorder”) doesn’t just affect the person drinking—it affects their families and loved ones, too. Watching a friend or family member struggle with a drinking problem can be as heartbreakingly painful as it is frustrating. Your loved one may be disrupting family life by neglecting their responsibilities, getting into financial and legal difficulties, or mistreating or even abusing you and other family members.
Witnessing your loved one’s drinking and the deterioration of your relationship can trigger many distressing emotions, including shame, fear, anger, and self-blame. Your loved one’s addiction may even be so overwhelming that it seems easier to ignore it and pretend that nothing is wrong. But in the long run denying it will only bring more harm to you, your loved one with the problem, and the rest of your family.
It’s important to remember that you’re not alone in your struggle. Alcoholism and alcohol abuse affects millions of people, from every social class, race, background, and culture. But there is help available. While you can’t do the hard work of overcoming addiction for your loved one, your patience, love, and support can play a crucial part in their long-term recovery. With these guidelines, you can help ease your loved one’s suffering, preserve your own mental health and well-being, and restore calm and stability to your relationship and family life.
Recognizing the signs of a problem
For many people, drinking is an ordinary part of life. In most places, it’s legal and socially acceptable for an adult to enjoy an alcoholic drink. But since alcohol’s effects vary so much from one person to another, it’s not always easy to tell when a loved one’s alcohol intake has crossed the line from responsible, social drinking to alcohol abuse. There’s no specific amount that indicates someone has an alcohol use disorder. Rather, it’s defined by how drinking affects your loved one’s life.
In these difficult times of the global pandemic, economic uncertainty, and high unemployment, many people are drinking more than they used to in an attempt to relieve stress. While it’s easy to understand, that doesn’t make it less of a concern. Consuming alcohol to cope with stress, deal with difficulties, or to avoid feeling bad, may be a sign that your loved one’s drinking has become a problem.
Your loved one may also have a drinking problem if they:
- Regularly neglect their responsibilities at home, work, or school because they’re drinking or recovering from drinking.
- Often binge drink or drink more than they intended to.
- Lie about or try to cover up how much they’re drinking.
- Black out or can’t remember what they said or did when using alcohol.
- Continue drinking even when it’s causing problems in their relationships with you and others.
- Use alcohol to self-medicate a mental health problem such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder.
If you recognize the warning signs that your loved one has a problem with alcohol, the first step to helping them is to learn all you can about addiction and alcohol abuse. When you’ve researched all the different types of treatment and self-help options open to them, you’ll be ready to talk to your loved about their drinking and offer the support and resources they need.
How to talk to someone about their drinking
It’s not easy to talk to someone about their drinking. You may be worried that if you bring up your concerns the person will get angry, defensive, lash out, or simply deny that they have a problem. In fact, these are all common reactions. But that’s not a reason to avoid saying anything. Your loved one’s drinking isn’t likely to get better on its own; it’s more likely to get worse until you speak up.
While it’s important to be open and honest about your concerns, you need to remember that you cannot force someone to stop abusing alcohol. As much as you may want to, and as hard as it is to watch, you cannot make someone stop drinking. The choice is up to them. What you can do, though, is offer them steps they can take to address their problem—whether that’s calling a helpline, talking to a doctor or counselor, entering treatment, or going to a group meeting.
Do you or a loved one need help with substance abuse?
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