December 6, 2023

How To Help An Alcoholic

A loved one trying to determine how to help and alcoholic family member

Determining how to help an alcoholic who doesn’t want help can be a challenging experience. Alcoholism (alcohol use disorder) is a chronic and relapsing medical condition that usually gets worse if untreated. If you’re unsure how to support an alcoholic in your life, this guide addresses issues that include:

  • How to help an alcoholic stop drinking.
  • How to help an alcoholic in denial.
  • How to help an alcoholic that doesn’t want help.
  • How to get help for an alcoholic in Southern California.

What Is the Best Way to Help an Alcoholic?

Supporting a loved one with alcoholism requires a thoughtful and compassionate approach. Here’s how to help an alcoholic:

  • Educate yourself: Understanding alcoholism as a complex and progressive medical condition is crucial. Educate yourself about the physical and psychological aspects of addiction, common signs, and available treatment options. This knowledge will enable you to approach the situation with empathy and provide informed support.
  • Initiate open and non-judgmental communication: Initiate a conversation with your loved one about their drinking in a non-confrontational manner. Express concern for their well-being and use “I” statements to avoid sounding accusatory. Listen actively, allowing them to share their feelings and experiences without judgment.
  • Offer support, not ultimatums: Instead of issuing ultimatums or making threats, emphasize your support and willingness to help. Let them know that you care about their health and happiness. Offer assistance in finding treatment options and be ready to provide emotional support throughout the process.
  • Encourage professional help: Suggest seeking professional help from healthcare professionals, therapists, or addiction specialists. A medical assessment can determine the appropriate level of care, whether it’s outpatient counseling, inpatient rehabilitation, or other tailored interventions.
  • Attend supportive meetings together: Encourage your loved one to attend AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) or other support group meetings. Offer to attend with them for support if they feel more comfortable. These groups provide a supportive environment where individuals can share their experiences and receive guidance from others facing similar challenges.
  • Be patient and understanding: Recovery is a process that may involve setbacks. Be patient and understanding as your loved one navigates the challenges of overcoming alcoholism. Celebrate their successes, no matter how small, and offer encouragement during difficult times.
  • Set boundaries: While providing support, establish clear and healthy boundaries. Avoid enabling behaviors and communicate the consequences of continued alcohol abuse. Setting boundaries helps protect your well-being while encouraging your loved one to take responsibility for their actions.
  • Seek family counseling: Consider participating in family counseling or therapy to address the impact of alcoholism on the entire family unit. This can provide a safe space to explore communication strategies, coping mechanisms, and ways to rebuild trust.
  • Encourage healthy lifestyle changes: Support your loved one in making positive lifestyle changes. This may include promoting physical activity, encouraging hobbies, and fostering a supportive social environment. Healthy habits can contribute to overall well-being and aid in the recovery process.
  • Celebrate milestones: Acknowledge and celebrate milestones in your loved one’s recovery journey. Whether it’s a day of sobriety, completing a treatment program, or achieving personal goals, recognizing these achievements reinforces positive behavior and encourages continued progress.

Remember that working out how to get an alcoholic help is a nuanced and ongoing process that involves prioritizing the person’s well-being with your own self-care. Seeking guidance from professionals, such as addiction counselors or support groups, can provide valuable insights and assistance in navigating the challenges associated with supporting a loved one through recovery.

An image of two people holding hands during a counseling session, depicting how to help an alcoholic

Intervention Techniques for Helping an Alcoholic

When a loved one’s alcoholism becomes a significant concern, intervention techniques can be employed. If you’re unsure how to convince an alcoholic to get help, here are some effective strategies for conducting an intervention:

Plan and prepare

Before the intervention, gather a group of close friends and family who are willing to participate. Plan the intervention carefully, ensuring everyone is on the same page about the goal – encouraging your loved one to seek treatment. Research treatment options and have a plan in place for what steps will be taken if your loved one refuses help.

Choose the right time

Select a time when your loved one is sober, calm, and least likely to be stressed or agitated. Avoid staging an intervention during or immediately after a drinking episode, as it may not be productive.

Express concerns with love and empathy

During the intervention, express your concerns without sounding accusatory. Share specific instances that have worried you and emphasize your love and concern for their well-being. Avoid blaming or shaming language, as this can be counterproductive.

Highlight the impact of alcoholism

Help your loved one understand the impact their alcoholism is having on themselves and those around them. Discuss how it affects relationships, work, health, and overall quality of life. Providing concrete examples can make the situation more tangible.

Present treatment options

Be prepared to present treatment options. Have information about rehab facilities, counseling services, and support groups readily available. Highlight the benefits of seeking professional help and emphasize that recovery is possible with the right support.

Set clear boundaries

Communicate clear boundaries and consequences if your loved one refuses treatment. It’s important to establish that enabling behaviors will no longer be tolerated. Be firm in your commitment to their well-being while expressing love and support for their recovery.

Involve a professional

Consider involving a professional interventionist to guide the process. An interventionist can provide expertise in managing emotions, keeping the conversation focused, and ensuring a more constructive and supportive atmosphere.

Encourage immediate action

Urge your loved one to take immediate action, such as entering a treatment program. Offer to assist with logistics, such as making phone calls, researching treatment centers, or accompanying them to appointments.

Follow through with support

After the intervention, continue to provide ongoing support. Attend counseling sessions, participate in family therapy, and actively engage in your loved one’s recovery process. Be patient, understanding, and reinforce positive behaviors.

Self-care for participants

Participating in an intervention can be emotionally draining. Ensure that everyone involved is taking care of their own mental and emotional well-being. Consider seeking support from therapists or support groups to navigate the challenges associated with supporting someone through recovery.

Remember that an intervention is a delicate and emotionally charged process. While the goal is to encourage your loved one to seek help, success may not be immediate. Be prepared for various outcomes and understand that the process of recovery is ongoing. Seeking professional advice and support can enhance the effectiveness of the intervention and contribute to a more positive outcome for your loved one.

An image of an individual therapy session, showing an example of how to help an alcoholic

How to Support an Alcoholic Through Treatment

Supporting a loved one through treatment for alcoholism is a crucial part of their recovery journey. Here are some ways to provide meaningful support during this process:

  • Educate yourself on the treatment plan: Understand the details of your loved one’s treatment plan. Familiarize yourself with the evidence-based therapies, counseling sessions, and any medications involved. This knowledge allows you to better comprehend their journey and provide informed encouragement.
  • Attend family therapy sessions: Participate in family therapy sessions if they are offered as part of the treatment plan. Family therapy can address dynamics within the family unit, provide guidance on communication, and help build a supportive environment for your loved one’s recovery.
  • Encourage compliance with medications: If medications are prescribed as part of the treatment, encourage your loved one to take them as directed. Be aware of potential side effects and communicate openly about any concerns with their healthcare provider.
  • Provide emotional support: Offer a listening ear and emotional support throughout the treatment process. Recovery can be challenging, and your understanding and encouragement can make a significant difference. Acknowledge their efforts and celebrate milestones, no matter how small.
  • Assist with practical matters: Help with practical aspects of daily life, such as transportation to appointments, childcare, or household responsibilities. Reducing stressors can contribute to a more focused and positive treatment experience.
  • Attend support group meetings together: Consider attending support group meetings together, such as Al-Anon or Alateen. These groups provide a forum for friends and family members of individuals struggling with alcoholism to share experiences, gain insights, and receive support.
  • Be patient and understanding: Recovery is a gradual process, and setbacks may occur. Be patient and understanding, recognizing that relapses are a common part of the journey. Nudge your loved one to learn from these experiences and recommit to their recovery.
  • Engage in healthy activities together: Encourage the development of new, healthy habits. Engage in activities that promote physical and mental well-being, such as exercise, hobbies, or relaxation techniques. These activities contribute to a balanced and fulfilling lifestyle.
  • Foster open communication: Maintain open and honest communication. Create a safe space for your loved one to share their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment. Address any concerns or conflicts in a constructive and supportive manner.
  • Celebrate continued progress: Continue celebrating your loved one’s ongoing progress. Whether it’s completing a treatment phase, achieving a specific goal, or maintaining sobriety, acknowledging their efforts reinforces positive behavior and provides motivation for continued recovery.

Taking Care of Yourself While Helping an Alcoholic

Supporting someone through alcoholism treatment can be emotionally challenging. Here are important self-care strategies to ensure your well-being:

Set boundaries

Establish clear boundaries to protect your own mental and emotional health. Recognize when you need to take a step back to avoid burnout. It’s okay to prioritize your well-being.

Seek your own support

Join support groups for friends and family of individuals struggling with addiction, such as Al-Anon. Sharing your experiences with others who understand can provide valuable insights and emotional support.

Consider individual counseling

Explore individual counseling or therapy to navigate the emotions and challenges associated with supporting someone through recovery. A therapist can offer guidance on effective communication and coping mechanisms.

Maintain your interests

Continue pursuing your interests and activities that bring you joy. Maintaining a sense of self outside of your role as a supporter is essential for your own fulfillment.

Know when to seek professional help

If the emotional toll becomes overwhelming, don’t hesitate to seek professional help for yourself. A therapist or counselor can provide tools to cope with stress and emotional strain.

Educate yourself on co-dependency

Be aware of co-dependent behaviors that may emerge in relationships with individuals struggling with addiction. Understanding these dynamics can help you establish healthier connections.

Practice stress-relief techniques

Incorporate stress-relief techniques into your routine, such as mindfulness, meditation, or exercise. These practices can help manage stress and promote overall well-being.

Communicate openly with your loved one

Maintain open communication with your loved one about your needs and boundaries. A healthy dialogue ensures that both parties are aware of expectations and can contribute to a supportive relationship.

Celebrate your resilience

Acknowledge your own strength and resilience throughout the process. Supporting someone through addiction recovery requires emotional fortitude, and recognizing your efforts is important.

Know when to step back

Recognize when you may need to step back temporarily. If your loved one is resistant to treatment or your own well-being is at risk, it’s crucial to prioritize your health and consider professional advice on the best course of action.

Remember that supporting someone through addiction recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. By taking care of yourself, you can continue to provide effective and compassionate support for your loved one. It’s essential to strike a balance between being supportive and maintaining your own mental and emotional well-being.

An image of Gratitude Lodge, where treatment for alcoholism is available

Get Treatment for Alcohol Addiction at Gratitude Lodge

We offer a variety of inpatient alcohol addiction treatment programs at Gratitude Lodge in Long Beach and Newport Beach, CA.

Start your recovery from alcoholism with medical detoxification at one of our beachside treatment centers. Benefit from medications and continuous care to streamline the alcohol withdrawal process.

During ongoing inpatient treatment, you will access a blend of these therapies:

Call 888-861-1658 for help combating alcohol addiction in California.

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Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
Jenni Bussi

Jenni Busse MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

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