Alcoholism is a difficult yet unfortunately common disease in America. According to the National Institute of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, 14.4 million American adults suffer from alcohol use disorder. With that being said, many of us have personal experience with alcoholism and the effects associated.
Even further, some of us may not have struggled with alcoholism ourselves, however, we witnessed a friend battle an alcohol use disorder. It’s not easy to help an alcoholic friend, but it is possible.
Furthermore, watching your friend’s battle with alcoholism can be frustrating and heartbreaking. You may constantly wonder how, or even if, you can help them. While you can’t save someone dealing with alcohol dependence, there are a few things you can do to help an alcoholic friend. First, you have to determine whether or not your friend really has a problem with alcohol.
Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholism
In order to truly help an alcoholic friend, it is important to fully understand what alcoholism is and how it affects an individual. Alcoholism is characterized by an individual being unable to stop drinking despite social, legal, emotional, and health-related consequences. Every alcoholic is different. There are hard drinkers, functioning alcoholics, and more. However, there are several common signs of alcoholism.
The common signs of alcoholism include, but are not limited to:
- The inability to limit alcohol consumption
- Having an incessant urge to drink and not being able to successfully stop drinking
- Spending a lot of time obtaining and drinking alcohol
- Frequent hangovers that cause the inability to fulfill obligations
- Having a hidden stash of alcohol around the house or at work
- Strong cravings or urges to drink
- Continuing to drink despite consequences
- Developing a tolerance or a dependence on alcohol
- Canceling plans or calling out of work to drink alcohol
In addition, alcoholics often have complex relationship issues. Often times, alcoholics experience a shift in personality and behavior that pushes friends and family further and further away. However frustrating, many friends of alcoholics yearn to help their friends recover.
Talking to your Friend About their Alcoholism
When attempting to help an alcoholic friend, early intervention is key. This is due to the severe mental and physical effects that alcohol has on the mind and body. Therefore, it is vital to know how to properly converse with your friend about his or her alcoholism.
Discussing a person’s alcoholism should be delicately planned out in advance. In fact, there are three important things to consider before having a discussion.
Remain Calm and Supportive
Let’s be honest, many friends and families of alcoholics become frustrated with their loved one’s behavior. While this is completely normal, it is vital that you maintain a loving and supportive attitude while discussing your friend’s alcoholism.
Alcoholics endure a lot of pain. Most of them truly desire to quit drinking – they just don’t know how to start. In addition, alcoholism often accompanies other mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Bringing up their faults and using the “tough love” approach may only further hinder their recovery. In order to avoid this, make sure to let them know that you support them no matter what.
Research Treatment Options
Confronting a friend’s alcoholism typically works best when you know the options available to them if they agree to receive treatment. Typically, treatment for alcoholism begins with a medical detox facility. Alcoholics often go through severe and even life-threatening alcohol withdrawal symptoms when they quit drinking. Therefore, ensuring that you can offer one of these facilities to your friend will make their decision to quit drinking less stressful.
Additionally, people often choose to continue treatment through residential programs or outpatient treatment options. Looking into local alcohol detox programs and residential facilities before confronting your friend will allow them to begin to consider their options.
Host an Addiction Intervention
If your friend is unable to see that he or she has a problem, you may want to stage an intervention. An intervention is a tool used by family and friends of an alcoholic to attempt to convince their loved one to get help. Commonly, interventions are most efficient when done by the advice of a doctor or therapist. Interventions are carefully planned between friends, family, and a professional interventionist.
During planning, friends and family outline their concerns and hope for their loved ones. This is done in hopes that the alcoholic sees the consequences of their drinking problem, leading them to seek out inpatient alcohol rehab.
What to Avoid When Trying to Help an Alcoholic Friend
Oftentimes, friends and family end up harming their loved ones through enabling behaviors. While you were only trying to help, you may be allowing your alcoholic friend to continue drinking by not setting proper boundaries.
Harmful behaviors to avoid when trying to help an alcoholic friend:
- Letting your emotions override conversations
- Lending money to your friend while they are still drinking
- Drinking with your friend
- Making excuses to their bosses, teacher, or other friends for their alcoholism
- Lecturing them while they aren’t sober enough to have a rational conversation
- Letting their needs trump yours
While it is very important to support your loved one during a tough time, always make sure to continue practicing self-care. In fact, not maintaining your own physical and mental health may prevent you from being helpful towards your loved ones. Additionally, setting boundaries with your alcoholic friend or family member is vital for their recovery.
Although these things may be difficult, there are support groups such as al-anon that help families and friends set these boundaries and help their alcoholic friends. When an alcoholic does not receive any consequences of their actions, it is difficult for them to identify that they have a problem.
You Don’t Have to do it Alone
Alcoholism is a very dark and lonely place. However, recovery from alcoholism requires continued love and support. Addiction treatment programs like Agape Treatment Center offer a full continuum of care in order to ensure patients are comfortable and safe. As a result, each patient’s friends and family can feel confident that their loved ones are in good hands. If you or a loved one is currently suffering from alcoholism, we can help.