Helping an Alcoholic Family Member

Alcoholism doesn’t just affect the person suffering from the addiction. It affects everyone close to that person. By helping your alcoholic family member overcome their alcoholism, you can help your whole family heal from the wounds of addiction.

But how can you help your alcoholic relative? Your loved one is probably in denial about their drinking problem and might even get defensive or combative when the subject comes up. Here are some tips to help you confront your alcoholic relative and support their recovery from alcoholism.

Steps for Getting Help for a Loved One with an Alcohol Problem

Here are the steps one can take for getting a family member or friend treatment who is addicted to alcohol:

Step 1 – Discuss Your Loved One’s Drinking While They’re Sober

If your loved one’s drinking problem is severe, this could be difficult. You may have to find a time very early in the day to talk to your loved one about their drinking problem.

Step 2 – Approach Your Loved One at a Time When They May Be Considering Quitting

This could be a time when your loved one has recently experienced some serious consequences of their alcoholism. Perhaps your family member has just had a brush with the law because of their drinking. Maybe there’s been a big family fight about your relative’s drinking.

If your loved one’s drinking hasn’t yet led to serious consequences, don’t let that stop you from bringing it up. The sooner your loved one gets help, the better their chances for a long-term recovery. Even a bad hangover could leave your family member feeling remorseful enough about their drinking to take your concerns seriously and consider checking into rehab.

Step 3 – Make It About Your Feelings

Don’t nag or pass judgment. Tell your alcoholic family member how their drinking makes you feel. Talk about the changes you’ve seen in your loved one since they started drinking, and about how their alcoholism is affecting those close to them. Use “I” statements — “I feel worried about how your drinking affects the children” or “I feel like you’re a completely different person when you drink” — so that you present your concerns in a way that sounds respectful and supportive.

Step 4 – Call In the Cavalry

You may not necessarily want to stage an intervention the first time you confront your alcoholic family member, but you can ask others to speak to your loved one separately about their concerns. Close friends (not drinking buddies), relatives, religious leaders, and your family doctor are good people to turn to for help in this matter. If your family member has a close friend or relative who has successfully recovered from alcoholism, ask this person to speak to your family member about addiction and rehab.

Step 5 – Be Patient, and Keep Trying

You may hope that your loved one will listen patiently to your concerns about their drinking and agree to seek professional help right away, but that might not happen. Many alcoholics are deeply in denial about their problem and it may take several conversations about your loved one’s alcoholism before they’re ready to get help. That’s why it’s important to ask others to speak to your family member separately. Each of these conversations will work to weaken your loved one’s denial, until they’re ready to seriously consider rehab.

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