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How to help and support an alcoholic

Watching a loved one succumb to the effects of alcoholism can be traumatic, as you wonder what can be done to lead them on the path to recovery.

When drinking alcohol becomes compulsive to the point of dependency, this can lead to serious long-term health complications that require treatment and rehabilitation.

While it is ultimately down to the person with an alcohol dependency to acknowledge they have an addiction, there are several ways you can help them to understand their condition and seek treatment as a result.

Approaching the subject of alcoholism

Discussing your concern with someone you believe may have an alcohol addiction can be difficult. It is important to fully understand the signs and symptoms of alcoholism beforehand to make sure that you know whether your friend or loved one has an addiction.

When starting the conversation, gently focus on the most recent negative event caused by their drinking and point out a repetition of such damaging behaviour if this isn’t the first time. This can help them to understand the impact drinking has on their mood and subsequently the emotions of those closest to them.

If you have felt worried or sad as a result of a drunken outburst, clearly state how the event made you feel.

When approaching someone about alcoholism, also remember the following:

  • Express your concerns with kindness
  • Know that their recovery will be a lengthy process
  • Realise that the person may not be able to quit alcohol without help from addiction specialists
  • Practice what you want to say and try to remain positive and supportive
  • Listen compassionately and prepare for a negative reaction
  • Give them the time and space required for them to make a decision for the next step
  • Urge them to attend an addiction assessment to begin a formal treatment program

Providing support throughout the recovery journey

Emphasising your desire to support your loved one throughout their recovery journey can be reassuring for them, but can be mental and emotionally challenging for you.

Ways to offer support might include volunteering to drive them to treatment or therapy sessions, or agreeing to accompany them on a leisure activity away from places where alcohol is tempting or accessible.

Try to involve other friends and family members in the day-to-day management of recovery to help ease the strain for both yourself and the person with alcoholism.

Long-term support after treatment

While a period of alcohol rehabilitation from healthcare therapists and professionals can prove effective, staying sober remains a lifelong process.

Continuous and ongoing support from family and friends is required to ensure a person doesn’t relapse back into addiction.

If you live in the same household as a person in recovery, ensuring alcohol doesn’t enter the home is important.

If a relapse does happen, it becomes more important than ever to remain positive about the chance of recovery and maintain good mental and physical wellbeing. Step work is extremely advantageous in helping people with this process.

Step work groups, such as the 12-step programme, is a process that provides both emotional support and moral nurturing, and can often help in relapse prevention. 

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For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding addiction treatment and rehabilitation, please call 0800 144 8969 or click here to book a FREE ADDICTION ASSESSMENT. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here

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