It’s particularly trying to watch someone struggle with alcohol addiction. You naturally want to do everything in your power to help—from helping them check into alcohol rehab, to simply providing emotional support as they work through the recovery process. Many ask us time and time again, “How do I help an alcoholic?” At Inner Voyage Recovery, we’re here to help answer that question for you.
Treatment centers and therapy are typically the best way to go as these options involve trained professionals that can help your loved one understand the causes and triggers of their addiction and guide them on how to overcome it. Relatives and friends without medical training, though, may approach the situation with good intentions but often fail to grasp that they might be doing or saying things that hurt their loved ones and hinder the recovery process.
For example, many people with friends or family members dealing with alcoholism might take a “tough love” approach to help those people heal. Typically, this is because individuals are under the impression that being hard on someone will help them see the right path or recover altogether. Unfortunately, this approach often has the opposite effect and can actually strengthen the reliance on alcohol to get them through the day. To avoid this, there are a few things you should avoid when helping an alcoholic through their recovery.
Though there may be good intentions behind it, when you lecture an alcoholic about their behavior, it won’t cause them to change it. The individual in question may be using alcohol as a way to relieve the stress and anxiety that they are already experiencing and this constant pushing can easily cause someone to feel an immense amount of added pressure. Instead of working to solve the underlying issues, your loved one might start wanting to drink even more because of the stress caused by the person nagging them.
Recovering from alcohol abuse is a lengthy process that can stir up various conflicting emotions in the people closest to the individual recovering. Frustration, anger, impatience, and disgust are common reactions; though it is natural to feel this way, you should avoid taking your feelings out on the person. Similar to nagging and fault-finding, shaming them will only add to their sense of inferiority, which they might try to mitigate using alcohol.
Attempting to motivate someone by threatening or punishing them is rarely successful. When you threaten an alcoholic, they might cease drinking for a few days, making you believe that you have made progress. However, since threats are external and often viewed as empty, this will not last. This is because the person has not worked to build up the habits to sustain the self-control to stop drinking in a lasting way.
Also, be careful to avoid using rehab as a threat. People should want to enter a treatment center to better themselves and live a more fulfilling life, and should not be scared or pressured into it as that tends to undermine the recovery process.
You cannot control people’s actions—only they can. Managing another person’s drinking by watching the number of drinks they have, hiding their alcohol, or manipulating their behavior in any other way, will only make them feel resentful of you. As a result, they might start drinking in secret, making the recovery process increasingly difficult for them and those closest to them.
On the other hand, be careful not to enable their habits. Enabling is a mistaken form of kindness. When you bail out an alcoholic by giving them a ride home because they’re drunk, paying their tickets for drunk driving, or making excuses for them at work or at home, you are preventing them from making progress and confronting their issues.
The best way to help a loved one struggling with alcoholism is by recognizing the limitations of their situation. No matter how well you know someone, nagging, controlling, or enabling their behavior will never get them to change. The most important thing you can do is sit down with them, listen without judgment, and allow for a rational discussion. You should also refer them to a trained professional to help them work within a trusted framework for their recovery. At Inner Voyage Recovery, we utilize a number of evidence-based treatment approaches at our alcohol rehab in Atlanta, including the following:
Turn to Inner Voyage Recovery Center for alcohol abuse therapy and intervention. As a premier addiction treatment center, Inner Voyage tailors recovery plans based on each patient’s personal life experiences. Get in touch with us today to learn more.