It’s painful to watch a loved one suffer from an alcohol addiction. While they spiral into self-destructive patterns, making poor choices with potentially dire consequences, you feel powerless to help. If you’ve tried talking to your loved one about your concerns, you may have been dismissed or even lashed out at in hurtful ways.
Although you may think your attempts to help are futile, don’t give up. You will not be able to cure your best friend of her alcoholism or force your father into a treatment program, but there are still some concrete steps you can take to offer support, and ultimately, to help your loved one help themself.
Do your research to help an alcoholic
Before you can help an alcoholic, you must understand what alcoholism is, what the symptoms are, and how it’s most effectively treated. Armed with the proper facts, you’ll be able to ensure you’re making the right choices and actions toward helping your loved one. Alcoholics Anonymous and The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism are good places to start your research.
Listen to your loved one struggling with alcohol
One of the most important things you can do to support a loved one who is struggling with alcoholism is to listen to their concerns. Be there to offer a supportive ear, a shoulder to cry on, and a hand to hold. Let them know they can trust you with their feelings. Don’t make them feel guilty or ashamed, or they may not feel safe confiding in you in the future.
Recognize their autonomy
Don’t try to pressure them into giving up alcohol or pursuing recovery, and definitely don’t try to trick them into anything they don’t want to do. The decision to get sober must come from within; forcing the issue can do more harm than good. Avoid preaching, and always treat them with respect.
Refrain from enabling alcoholics and binge drinking
Enabling an alcoholic makes it easier for them to continue their self-destructive habits without consequence. Don’t give them money, don’t cover for them, and don’t clean up the messes left behind by their behavior. Sometimes, an alcoholic must hit rock bottom before they can decide to get sober, and an enabling relationship prevents them from ever experiencing their lowest low.
Form a united front to help an alcoholic
Once you make the decision to stop enabling your loved one, it’s time to make sure everyone else is on the same page. All close friends and family members must work together to set firm boundaries, educate themselves, and take the same supportive approach toward getting the alcoholic the help they need.
Practice self-care when helping someone addicted to alcohol
Dealing with an alcoholic can be exhausting and stressful, but if you wear yourself out, you won’t be of any help to your loved one. See a therapist to manage your emotional stresses. Attend Al-Anon meetings to connect with other people in your position. And don’t take on more responsibility than you can handle.
Don’t give up on an alcoholic loved one
If you’ve been struggling to help your loved one overcome their alcoholism for a while, you may be ready to throw in the towel. Fighting addiction isn’t easy, and it doesn’t go away overnight. In fact, staying sober can be a lifelong battle. But sustained recovery is possible, and it’s more likely that your loved one will get clean – and stay clean – with a strong support system behind them.
Your love and support matter more than you know
Remember, although you can’t force your loved one to make a change, your love and support matter a great deal. You may not see results as soon as you’d like to see them, but don’t give up hope. If you’re having trouble establishing boundaries with the alcoholic or taking care of yourself, please seek the support you need. Then, when your loved one finally takes that all-important step of admitting they have an alcohol problem, you will be there to help them make the leap into recovery.