Alcohol is a powerful substance that can take over lives, and stopping isn’t easy. Wanting to get someone to stop can be so overwhelming you might be tempted to ignore the problem, letting them fall deeper into the cycle of alcohol abuse and addiction.
But, don’t deny it. Although legal, alcohol is the most widely abused substance in the United States. It’s estimated nearly 16 million people suffer from alcohol problems, which can destroy lives, families, and professional careers. Someone you care about has a drinking problem, but you don’t know how to help them stop. While there is no magic solution, you can play a role in improving their lives.
Learn About Alcohol Use Disorder And Addiction
Before you approach them, it’s important to try and understand the complexities of an alcohol use disorder (AUD), which is the medical diagnosis for when drinking becomes severe. AUD is a relapsing brain disease characterized by:
- compulsive alcohol use
- loss of control over drinking alcohol
- negative emotional state when not drinking
This condition is more than just drinking too much every once and awhile. Understand that addiction changes functioning in the brain, which affects decision-making, judgment, and behavior. Be tactful, and avoid certain things.
Things You Don’t Want To Do
As you confront someone you care for about their drinking habits, understand they’re in a fragile state. They may be quick to anger or be in denial. Approach the subject with delicacy and compassion, and try not to do the following:
- don’t lecture, preach, or threaten
- don’t make them feel guilty
- don’t make excuses for their behavior
- don’t take over their responsibilities or protect them from consequences
- don’t argue with them when they’re drunk
- don’t drink around them or try to match to their drinking
Trying to get someone to stop drinking is difficult. You may find you’re tiptoeing around the elephant in the room, but don’t ever pretend there is isn’t a problem. Knowing they need help can be painful, but helping them enter treatment can be incredibly rewarding. Here is how to approach the subject.
Speak Up And Be Supportive
Choose a suitable time and place to have a conversation about their drinking. If possible, find a time when they won’t be intoxicated. Offer your help and support, and be willing to go with them while they seek help. Be gentle with your words and focus on your point of view. Let them know you’re there for them, no matter what. Be prepared and practice what you’re going to say, writing things down if necessary.
Express Your Concerns And Listen
Outline your concerns and be specific. Tell them what changes you would like to see. Use your compassion and love for this person, and be ready for a negative reaction. After that, listen. Hear what they have to say. Let them finish, be fair, and compromise with their point of view.
The goal is to get them help, so take their needs into account. There is no reason to let them hit “rock bottom” before giving them a push to seek treatment. The earlier a person receives treatment, the better the outcome.
Understand It’s Hard To Stop Without Help
You probably heard it before. They want to stop, they try to stop, they tell you they’ll stop, but they can’t. Quitting an alcohol problem without help can be extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible. Alcohol has taken over their brain, and the person needs support, coping skills, and treatment to overcome their addiction to drinking.
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Communicate Your Support During The Recovery Process
Managing addiction, and an alcohol use disorder is an ongoing process. Because relapse is common, it’s important they know you’ll stand by their side. Let them know you’ll be there to help and support long after they’ve entered treatment.
Be sure to take care of yourself, but also be committed to supporting them as they participate in meetings and support groups. Communicate you’re in it for the long haul, and you’re okay it won’t be easy.
Stage An Intervention
When all else fails, you might consider staging an intervention. An intervention is different than just talking to someone and trying to convince them they need help. Interventions require careful planning and often involve the help of an experienced interventionist or counselor.
The interventionist will help gather people together to confront the person about their drinking. Family and friends come prepared and share specific examples of how the person’s alcohol problem has affected them. Interventions come with pre-arranged treatment and can help loved ones know how to respond if the person refuses treatment or help.
What Happens Next?
When someone is willing to get help, it’s crucial to understand the options for the treatment. While many people assume treatment involves a 28-day program or self-help support groups, it goes beyond just that. There have been advancements in alcohol addiction treatment over the last several decades, and knowing what works is an important first step.
Treatment For An Alcohol Use Disorder
Behavioral therapy is the most common form of addiction treatment and is effective for changing thinking and attitudes towards drug and alcohol. There are numerous behavioral therapies, like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and general counseling services, to help someone develop the skills needed to stop drinking.
Medications are also an important part of treating an alcohol use disorder. This might be surprising, but medication can help offset the many changes alcohol caused in the brain. Non-addictive, government-approved medications include naltrexone, acamprosate, and disulfiram, which can help people overcome alcohol dependence.
A good option for treatment is inpatient rehab programs, which likely offer therapy, medications, and peer and professional support in the same place. These programs take place in highly structured settings with 24-hour care and supervision. Remember, though, there is no right treatment best for everyone. Pay attention to their needs, listen, and reach out for help.
Call now for more information on how to help someone receive treatment for alcohol abuse and addiction.
For more information be sure to check out these additional resources from DrugRehab.org:
- How Common is Alcohol Abuse?
- How Does Alcohol Abuse Affect The Body?
- The Dangers of Alcohol Withdrawal
- What Are The Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning?
- How To Stop Alcohol Cravings
Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand—Concerned About Someone’s Drinking?
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence—Helping a Family Member or Friend
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism—Treatment for Alcohol Problems, Alcohol Use Disorder