How to help an alcoholic friend
Alcoholism describes a person who has an alcohol use disorder (AUD). This person often has a physical and psychological dependence on alcohol that can range anywhere from mild to severe. Alcohol addiction is a chronic but treatable psychological condition that involves changes to how rewards, stress, and self-control in the brain are processed. Alcohol abuse often stems from a negative response to environmental stressors, developmental disorders, emotional dysregulation or a learned behavior. There are many factors that can lead to the development of alcohol addiction.
Factors that can contribute to alcohol addiction:
- Personality and behavior
- Biology and genetics
- Social and economic factors
- Cultural factors
Alcohol addiction can affect an entire community extending to family members and friends. It can take an emotional toll on the entire support system. If you suspect your family member, friend or a loved one may be suffering from alcohol addiction, there are ways to help them. The first step in how to help an alcoholic friend is to identify the signs and symptoms of when a person has a drinking problem.
When does drinking become a problem?
There are many ways to recognize the signs that a person might have an alcohol addiction. Alcoholics are very good at manipulating situations. It is not always easy to tell especially if the person is trying to hide it.
When a person begins to consume alcohol to cope with stressful situations, to deal with personal or professional difficulties, or to avoid negative feelings, they may have alcohol use disorder. If a person is constantly neglecting important responsibilities, regularly binge drinking, or lying to cover up drinking, they may have alcohol use disorder. If a person is constantly blacking out while drinking or using alcohol as a form of self-medication, they may have alcohol use disorder.
Other signs and symptoms of alcoholism can include:
- Drinking regularly more than intended
- Inability to cut back on drinking
- Spending a lot of time obtaining alcohol
- Spending a lot of time drinking or recovering from alcohol
- Trouble performing daily activities at work, home or school because of alcohol
- Trouble with relationships because of alcohol
- Missing important events and activities because of alcohol
Learning about AUD and the signs of alcohol addiction can help prepare you to better assist your loved one who might be struggling with alcohol abuse. Consider exploring resources such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) or National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). These resources will help you learn more about addiction and understand some of the experiences your loved one may be going through.
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Confront them in the appropriate setting
Choose an appropriate time and place to express your concerns to your alcoholic friend or loved one. A quiet and private environment without interruptions would be the best situation. It is also best to make sure the person is sober and not currently drinking alcohol or recovering from alcohol. Having an important conversation with a clear mind might help the person better understand where you are coming from and the intricacies of the situation in which you have brought up concern.
Practice and prepare what you are going to say to your loved one
Approaching a friend who you believe has an alcohol addiction can be a difficult task. The best way to start is to prepare and practice what you are going to say to them. Formulate statements that are positive, encouraging and supportive. Try to avoid negative statements and presumptuous statements that can point blame on the person. Initially, you may receive a negative or hostile response, so prepare for every reaction and stay calm. Continue to assure the person that you are there to support them.
Talk and discuss your concerns and feelings about their drinking habits while avoiding blame. Explain your concern for their health and well-being and how some of their behaviors have begun to affect others around them. Try to avoid preaching and lecturing. Statements that put them in a position to feel guilty or threatened should also be avoided. Do what you can to encourage your friend to open up and be honest about their issues and to consider getting help with your support.
Offering your support
Showing and offering support is one of the best ways to help an alcoholic friend or loved one. You cannot force someone into getting help. But you can encourage them and ensure your support for their decisions to get healthy. There are many ways you can support your alcoholic friend.
- Offer to help them find and take them to 12-step meetings or any other type of addiction recovery support group.
- Offer to go with them to see a health care provider experienced in alcohol addiction or behavioral health.
- Encourage them to participate in new activities, hobbies or interests that do not involve drinking or alcohol.
- Encourage them to seek out counseling or therapy to address underlying issues that may be contributing to their drinking problem.
- Get your loved one into professional treatment care.
- Alcohol use disorder is a continuous journey of healing. Be supportive of their treatment and recovery by not drinking around them.
- Stop providing them with financial support unless it is for treatment.
- Stop taking on their personal responsibilities.
- Stop lying and making excuses for their uncharacteristic behaviors. The majority of alcoholics will not sober up or get healthy until they are faced with extreme life consequences.
Reach out to Hotel California by the Sea
We specialize in treating addiction and other co-occurring disorders, such as PTSD. Our Admissions specialists are available to walk you through the best options for treating your addiction.
Being part of a support system for someone suffering from alcoholism can take an emotional toll on your psyche and mental health. It can become a huge emotional rollercoaster as a supporter when you share the ups and downs during treatment and recovery.
Check on yourself. Ask for help when you need it. How can you care for your loved one if you cannot care for yourself?
Empower yourself with tools and resources to protect your own mental health. Join support groups that are meant for community members dealing with the loved ones of addicts. Support groups such as Al-Anon, help families and friends of alcoholics better understand addiction and how they can be supportive of their loved one. This also helps you connect with a community of peers who are facing similar experiences associated with a loved one with addiction.
Hotel California by the Sea offers a comprehensive alcohol addiction treatment program. An alcoholic’s brain chemistry may be compromised to the point where they are behaving unusually and making irrational decisions. Inpatient programs that include detox and residential programming offer medication management and intensive therapies. Outpatient treatments that include continued CBT, DBT and EMDR therapy, help addicts heal and transition into life outside of rehab.
If you are looking for how to help an alcoholic friend, professional help from a trusted behavioral health care provider can be the best path forward. Hotel California by the Sea provides clients with an individualized treatment plan to help them heal and recover from alcohol addiction.