Things to Consider When Approaching the Alcoholic in Your Life
“Drinking habits are firmly rooted in one’s personality, and the alcoholic’s compulsion to drink often creates stubborn resistance against help. To admit to being an alcoholic, simple and evident as it may seem, implies committing oneself to doing something about one’s drinking. And the alcoholic may not be ready for this. A frequent component of the disease is the alcoholic’s belief that drinking is necessary to cope with life. In an alcoholic’s confused mind, the need to drink may literally seem like a matter of life or death.” Download the full pamphlet: Is There an Alcoholic in Your Life?
So experience has shown that in order for the alcoholic to hear us (and they still may not if they aren’t ready to admit defeat), we must come from a place of love, understanding, and patience. Following are a few things you might consider before trying to sit down with your loved one:
Research potential places for the individual to go for help
Research places where your loved one can go for treatment or family therapy, or simply 12-step meetings that they can try out. For an active alcoholic, seeking information can be very daunting, especially for those who are not sure if they want to quit yet. Be prepared to provide options and choices from which they may decide and not press upon your loved one what you think they should do. If they ask for your help, feel free to guide them.
If they have expressed in the past that they want to quit or acknowledged that they have a problem, gently remind them of this fact
Your loved one may have mentioned in the past wanting to quit drinking or using drugs. If you gently refer to their having done so, they may decide that they are ready to seek help.
Be caring, empathetic and non-judgmental
The book Alcoholics Anonymous has an entire chapter dedicated to “working with others,” meaning other alcoholics, and the principles therein are very much applicable to a non-alcoholic family member who wishes to help their loved one. Insightful advice found in Working with Others includes: “Don’t start out as an evangelist or reformer.” “Cooperate, never criticize. To be helpful is our only aim.” “If he does not want to stop drinking, don’t waste time trying to persuade him. You may spoil a later opportunity. This advice is given to his family also.” “Continue to speak of alcoholism as an illness…” For the whole chapter, see https://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/en_bigbook_chapt7.pdf The foregoing advice may seem counterintuitive, but experience has shown that this approach will more likely lead to long-term success and sobriety for the alcoholic.
Remain calm regardless of your loved one’s response
Ultimately, if you have a loved one struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, you likely want to help them simply because you love them and don’t want to see them suffer. If you remain calm in your demeanor, they are more likely to accept help than if they’re treated with blame and judgment. If you would like some help or resources or have any questions, please feel free to contact us. Here is a list of resources for the families of alcoholics and drug addicts: Resources for Family members: Al-Anon Family Groups Nar-Anon Family Groups ACA – Adult Children of Alcoholics Co-Dependents Anonymous SMART Recovery Family & Friends