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How To Help An Alcoholic

Published on August 30, 2021
How To Help An Alcoholic | 10 Ways To Support A Loved One In Recovery

Nearly 15 million Americans struggle with alcohol use disorder (also called alcohol addiction). This disease makes you feel unable to control your alcohol use. 

If your family member or friend is recovering from alcohol use disorder, you can offer support in a number of ways. Here are ten.

1. Educate Yourself

Like all diseases, alcohol use disorder is complicated. Luckily, there are numerous books, videos, websites, and other materials that explain the disorder and recovery process. 

Spend time learning about the disease’s causes, symptoms, and treatment options. The more you learn, the more effectively you can support your loved one.

2. Help Your Loved One Manage Stress

When you’re addicted to alcohol, stress is one of the main causes of relapse. That’s why you should encourage your loved one to engage in relaxing activities such as:

  • meditation
  • yoga
  • deep breathing
  • journaling
  • spending time in nature

You should also encourage your loved one to get at least eight hours of sleep a night, exercise regularly, and eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, and other healthy foods. These behaviors lower stress levels and reduce the risk of relapse. 

3. Help Your Loved One Find New Hobbies

Alcohol addiction causes most people to lose interest in activities that don’t involve drinking alcohol. By the time they start the recovery process, they may have abandoned all of their former hobbies. A lack of hobbies can lead to boredom, which is another common cause of relapse.

Help your loved one rediscover old hobbies and explore new ones. Popular hobbies for people in recovery from alcohol use disorder include:

  • painting
  • cooking
  • gardening
  • dancing
  • knitting
  • volunteering
  • photography

4. Practice Self-Care

While it’s important to help your loved one destress and enjoy life, you shouldn’t neglect your own well-being. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of other people. 

That’s why you should practice the same self-care activities you encourage your loved one to practice. 

In other words, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, eat right, and make time for relaxing activities. Also, remember to spend time with friends and family besides your recovering loved one. 

5. Attend Support Groups

It’s not always easy to support someone in recovery. You may often feel stressed, confused, or alone. In these cases, turn to a support group for people whose loved ones have struggled with alcohol abuse or other forms of drug abuse. Examples include:

In these groups, members discuss the challenges and triumphs of helping people recover from addiction. They share important tips that can benefit both you and your loved one. 

6. Know The Signs Of Relapse

For most people, recovery is a lifelong process that includes at least one relapse. Contrary to popular belief, relapse doesn’t mean your loved one failed. It just means they need additional or modified treatment. 

The sooner you recognize a relapse, the sooner you can help your loved one seek treatment. Warning signs of relapse include:

  • loss of interest in activities and hobbies
  • sudden change in friends
  • sudden decline in self-care
  • talking about past alcohol use in a positive way
  • experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety, irritability, and mood swings

7. Help Your Loved One Avoid Alcohol Triggers

Alcohol triggers are stimuli (such as people, places, sounds, or feelings) that make a person want to use alcohol. For example, many people with drinking problems are triggered by parties and other events that feature alcohol. 

You can help your loved one avoid triggers by keeping alcohol out of the house, encouraging your loved one to stay away from places that serve alcohol, and encouraging your loved one to make sober friends. Also, ask them if they have any other triggers you can help them avoid. 

8. Don’t Judge

Some people refuse to talk about their alcohol problems because they don’t want to be judged. As your loved one recovers, they may experience strong cravings for alcohol as well as other uncomfortable feelings. Let them know they can discuss these feelings with you. 

When you show compassion instead of judgment, your loved one is much more likely to open up to you. You can then help them seek treatment when they experience cravings or other feelings that threaten their long-term sobriety. 

9. Don’t Enable 

Although you should support your loved one in the event of a relapse, you shouldn’t enable them. 

For example, if your loved one starts abusing alcohol again and struggles to keep a job, they may ask you for money. If you give it to them, you’ll shield them from the consequences of their alcohol abuse. They’ll then be less motivated to resume their recovery. 

Other examples of enabling include:

  • buying alcohol for your loved one
  • excusing your loved one’s alcohol use or behavior
  • taking on your loved one’s responsibilities, such as housework or child care 

10. Help Your Loved One Manage Co-Occurring Mental Health Issues

Often, substance abuse problems occur alongside other mental health issues, such as depression and schizophrenia. To achieve long-term recovery, a person with alcohol addiction and a co-occurring mental health issue must receive treatment for both issues. 

If your loved one has a co-occurring mental health issue, encourage them to seek professional help. Depending on their diagnosis, treatment options may include therapy, psychiatry, and support groups. 

To learn more about supporting your loved one’s addiction recovery journey, please contact an Ark Behavioral Health specialist. Our inpatient and outpatient drug addiction treatment programs provide medical detox, mental health counseling, and other recovery-focused services.

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Alcohol Facts and Statistics
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder
U.S. National Library of Medicine - Addiction Relapse Prevention

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