A person who has fallen to alcoholism would not realize how much it could affect their close circle until later. As would other addictions, alcoholism leads a family to believe they have failed to nurture a good environment for their loved one, if not to harbor unpleasant feelings such as shame or disappointment. It could even lead to severed relationships.
Still, it should not be the family of all people who should turn their backs to an alcoholic. The family is their only refuge in this time when they see only a bleak future. One of the first steps to take the savior role in their life is to accept that no one wins if this is left unaddressed and simply gives up on the problem at hand.
Spotting the Signs
And so, do not be too quick to judge them for drinking more frequently than they used to. Calling them out for their unhealthy behavior would only lead them to do it more. Instead, observe for early signs of alcoholism and, while their case hasn’t worsened yet, help them recover from it:
- They neglect their responsibilities just to drink.
- They sacrifice their relationships for drinking.
- They are not truthful about the amounts they regularly drink.
- They forget things they did or said while intoxicated.
- They attempted to self-medicate mental health issues, if any.
See Things from Their Perspective
Your initial apprehensive reaction can only be valid, but you should get past the negative connotations you have of your loved one’s situation. Then, try to understand how it is to be in their shoes. Realize how before you suffered because of them, they had to undergo a predicament so difficult that they habitually sought relief from something that turned out unhealthy for them.
Along the way, you will also connect one and one and realize that they did not have an adequate support system. There weren’t many people they could confide in when they needed advice or were just not mentally strong enough, but they chose to handle a problem themselves. This often leads to consecutive streaks of self-doubt or even loathing.
How to Speak to Them
Understand that a person who has succumbed to alcoholism is at their most vulnerable mental state. And so, it is important to reach out to them without stimulating their negative coping mechanisms and, if they do lash out, do not take this personally. Approach them with no intention of forcing them to quit drinking alcohol.
Do not be preachy or have emotional outbursts against their habit. Instead, tell them that you are sincerely worried about their well-being and that you are willing to help them overcome any of their issues. You cannot force them to pour their heart out instantly, but you can allow them time until they are ready to open up to you.
What Not to Do
No matter how much you want to dote on them, you want your loved one to take back the control they lost in their life. And so, be careful with the behaviors you display when they are around. For example, do not assume their responsibilities for them. If they did something wrong due to their addiction, do not defend them and make them accountable for it. If possible, do not drink even for social purposes.
Encourage Them to Undergo Treatment
You wouldn’t fully know how it feels to be stuck in an addictive rut, but you can always show more empathy and make them feel that you understand that what they are going through isn’t easy. Still, with non-judgment, gently break to them how you want them to bounce back and that, no matter how painful the withdrawal process would be, it is necessary for them to go through it. More importantly, you want them to understand that it is for them and for them to repair their broken relationships in and out of work.
If you find that they refuse all the help you have been offering, tap the help of family, friends, and colleagues and have them convince them to seek professional help. Still, unceasingly offer to join them in their meetings with their counselor or accompany them to a rehab facility for alcoholics. Reassure them that undergoing treatment will not make them less deserving of the family’s love and that they will just be as welcome once they finish their treatments.
It is painful to see a loved one resort to self-destructive habits like alcoholism. There are healthy ways you can help them without forcing them. By simply spending more quality time with them, constantly encouraging them, and allowing them to enjoy healthy diversions such as art, outdoor activities, and volunteering, you’re enabling them to create strides in their path to recovery.