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  • Unfortunately, there’s no way to force someone to admit they have an alcohol problem and get help if they don’t want it.

    However, there are steps you can take to help someone you love to understand your concerns as you encourage them to stop drinking and get professional help.

    1. Understand Alcohol Use Disorder

    If you want to learn how to help an alcoholic, you first have to understand what they are up against.

    Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a diagnosable brain disorder. This condition involves changes to the structure of the brain, physical dependence, and dramatic changes to an individual’s patterns of behavior that can be intensely difficult to break.

    While AUDs can be mild, moderate, or severe, they may be difficult to overcome at any level of severity, and often worsen with age.

    While anyone can develop an AUD, they are most common among those with: 

    2. Recognize The Symptoms Of Alcohol Abuse

    When a person has AUD, their alcohol consumption is, by definition, outside of their total control. This can lead to symptoms and patterns of behavior including:

    • problematic drinking habits (binge, heavy, or continuous drinking)
    • drinking more than intended
    • increasing sensitivity, secretiveness, or aggression
    • difficulty with work, school, or personal obligations
    • blackouts
    • alcohol cravings
    • impaired coordination
    • impaired judgement and risk taking
    • becoming anxious or physically uncomfortable if alcohol isn’t available
    • developing alcohol withdrawal symptoms if they stop drinking alcohol
    • drinking more and more over time
    • worsening well-being as alcohol-related health problems develop
    • becoming annoyed or indignant when others talk to them about their drinking

    3. Stop Enabling Future Alcohol Abuse

    While it is important to help those with AUDs, you should not enable them.

    Consider the difference between enabling and helping your loved one:

    • enabling is doing things for someone that they normally could or would do for themselves
    • helping is doing things for someone that they wouldn’t be able to do for themselves, even if they were sober

    This means you should:

    • set, explain, and stick to clear boundaries moving forward
    • no longer make excuses for your loved one or their behavior
    • not take over their personal responsibilities
    • not shield them from the legal consequences of their actions
    • refuse to give or loan them money
    • never buy or give them alcohol
    • never drink with them
    • not speak or be near them while they are drinking or intoxicated
    • decline to react emotionally when they bring up their latest need, mistake, or misadventure

    4. Stay Calm & Authentic

    Because those struggling with alcohol addiction often have deep feelings of shame, anger, loneliness, and helplessness, it’s important to be intentional and delicate when speaking with them.

    Stay calm, use clear language, and be open and authentic while you let your loved one know how much you love and care for them, why you are worried, and how worried you are.

    5. Research Different Treatment Options & How To Access Them

    When you approach someone with an AUD, it can be important to have real, workable solutions for them. This includes issues like where the nearest alcohol rehab center is, what it costs, how long it takes, what they offer, etc.

    This way you can introduce the concepts of detox, inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, counseling, medication-assisted treatments, and 12-step programs more easily, helping your loved one take that all-important first step toward recovery.

    6. Offer To Attend Support Groups Or Therapy With Them

    AUDs can make those struggling with them feel that they are alone in the world and that everyone is out to get them or has given up on them.

    You can help your loved one face these feelings by offering to go to peer support meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous or SMART Recovery. You could also attend family therapy with them, helping them feel supported and giving them a friendly face to turn to.

    7. Get Care & Support For Yourself

    Watching someone you know suffer from a drinking problem can be painful and frustrating, especially if it’s someone you love and depend on. And the mental weight and emotional stress of their problem may leave you feeling guilty, exhausted, and helpless.

    This is why support groups and 12-step programs like Al-Anon Family Groups and Alateen exist. They provide resources and encouragement not only for those who struggle with AUDs, but also for their friends and family members who carry this emotional weight with them.

    Alcohol Addiction Treatment

    If your loved one is searching for a solution to their substance use, Ark Behavioral Health may be able to help.

    Our professional treatment centers provide a full range of compassionate, evidence-based services for alcohol use disorders and co-occurring conditions.

    To learn more about our alcohol treatment options, contact our helpline today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2022 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    Mayo Clinic - Intervention: Help a loved one overcome addiction
    National Institute on Aging (NIH) - How to Help Someone You Know with A Drinking Problem
    National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) - Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder
    Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) - Find Treatment

    Medically Reviewed by
    Manish Mishra, MBBS
    on June 21, 2022
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