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Helping and Supporting Family and Friends
As a family member or friend of someone struggling with an alcohol use disorder (AUD), it can be challenging to find the right words to say or things to do. It’s difficult to watch a loved one’s drinking pattern worsen, as it may take a toll on your relationship with them. While you cannot force a person to get help for alcoholism, there are various ways you can support them and encourage them to seek treatment.
Having a support system can make a difference in whether or not someone gets help for their drinking problem. It also increases the likelihood that they will maintain their sobriety after rehab. However, family and friends should understand that the recovery process can come with many ups and downs. Going to a support group meeting or counseling session with your loved one will guide you in how to handle different situations, including when tough times arise.
The best thing you can do for a loved one who is recovering from an AUD is to motivate and support them every step of the way. Learn about alcohol support options by giving us a call now.
Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)
The first step in helping a loved one overcome a drinking problem is to learn about their condition. Alcoholism affects millions of individuals across the United States every year. Over time, alcohol rewires a person’s brain and causes it to function differently. Some AUD warning signs are recognizable while others are subtle. For example, several telltale signs of a potential drinking problem are irrational behavior, lack of interest in hobbies and ignoring responsibilities.
Although there are certain risk factors that can increase the chance of developing a drinking problem, alcoholism can impact a person of any age, gender or ethnicity. You should also remember that your loved one’s drinking problem is not your fault. It’s up to the individual to want to overcome their AUD and actively participate in the recovery process.
If your loved one has recognized their problem with alcohol and is ready to begin their journey to recovery, there are several ways you can help. One such way is to offer to help research alcohol rehab programs and types of therapy. Deciding on where to go for treatment is one of the most important factors in a person’s recovery journey. Your loved one may also need help with their ongoing recovery plan post-rehab. Support group meetings and counseling sessions are great ways for you to learn about what your loved one is going through and how you can help.
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Effective Ways to Provide Support
There’s no exact formula telling you how to support someone recovering from an AUD. Every person is different; therefore, the recovery process is unique for each individual. For instance, some people may rely heavily on their support system and want to involve them in each step during treatment. Others are more reserved and may only come to you when they need a listening ear or want to talk.
Here are the most common ways that family and friends can take part in a loved one’s recovery:
Attend Support Group Meetings
Alcoholism affects those closest to the individual, including family members and friends. This can damage relationships and lead to a wide range of emotions like disappointment, anger, doubt and denial.
Support groups like Al-Anon and Alcoholics Anonymous can educate you about your loved one’s condition and empower you to stay strong. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a 12-step program that is often recommended during and after rehab. It encourages alcoholics to get and remain sober. AA meetings are generally open, which means you can attend with your loved one. Al-Anon is a program designed for the family members and friends of those struggling with an AUD. These meetings offer a great deal of support and advice on living with someone who has a drinking problem.
It’s ok not to have all of the answers. Many cities across the nation have local support groups that focus on alcohol use recovery. These programs are beneficial to family members and friends who are looking for guidance in helping their loved one remain sober. Support group sponsors are also great resources to answer any questions or concerns you may have about your loved one’s recovery.
Understand That the Recovery Process Takes Work
Recovering from an AUD doesn’t happen overnight. The individual has to be committed to investing the time to getting better and overcoming triggers. Unfortunately, you can’t rationalize with alcoholism to make it go away. A person must be open and willing to change their behaviors and habits to kick their drinking problem to the curb for good.
If your loved one is unwilling to put forth the work in their recovery, it increases their risk of a relapse. In cases such as these, you can express your concerns with the person and offer ways to help address the problem. Sometimes your loved one may be in denial that they’re reverting back to old habits. By communicating your feelings in a positive manner, you’ll keep them from becoming defensive.
In the event of a relapse, it’s important to not lose hope. This is the time your family member or friend will need you the most. Encourage your loved to to seek help from a professional to get back on track.
Show Support Without Enabling
When a person finishes alcohol rehab, their family members and friends want to do anything to help. Unfortunately, they may not realize that certain actions are actually enabling their loved one’s destructive habits. For instance, money can play a role in enabling harmful behavior. All too often, money from relatives and friends is used to purchase alcohol or turn to other substances that produce a similar high, including drugs. This can quickly become a slippery slope for someone with an AUD and potentially lead to destructive behaviors.
There are many online resources, alcohol support groups and counselors that can help family members learn how to support their loved one’s recovery without enabling them. Offering to attend support group meetings or attend a counseling session will help your loved one see that you are genuinely concerned about their drinking patterns. Sometimes the smallest acts of kindness can mean the most to a person recovering from an AUD.
Stop Blaming Yourself
It’s easy for family members or friends to over analyze how they could have prevented a loved one’s heavy drinking. You may begin to question whether or not you were responsible, possible warning signs and what you should have done differently. However, you are not to blame.
While there are many causes and risk factors associated with an AUD, it can affect a person of any age, gender and ethnicity. Alcoholism can develop aggressively, causing short- and long-term effects on a person’s body. The best way you can help someone recover from an AUD is to support them. When challenging times arise, encourage and motivate your loved one to continue on with treatment.
Don’t wait until your loved one has reached rock bottom before seeking treatment for an alcohol use disorder (AUD). The earlier they get treatment, the greater the success rate for long-term sobriety.
Support from family and friends should be ongoing and cover every stage of the recovery process, including aftercare treatment.
Express your concerns to your loved one. Opening up and being honest about your feelings increases the likelihood that they will get the help they need.
Make A Difference
You can make a difference in your family member or friend’s recovery from an AUD. The more support your loved one has, the greater the chance that they will maintain long-term sobriety.
Learn more about treatment programs available by speaking with a recovery specialist.
- Author — Last Edited: July 11, 2019
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (2015). Helping a Family Member or Friend. October 2016. https://www.ncadd.org/family-friends/there-is-help/helping-a-family-member-or-friend
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). How do I know if my adult friend or loved one has a substance abuse problem? October 2016. https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/treatment/what-to-do-if-your-adult-friend-or-loved-one-has-problem-drugs
The Scope: University of Utah Health Sciences Radio. (2014). Use the Right Words to Support a Recovering Alcoholic. October 2016. http://healthcare.utah.edu/the-scope/shows.php?shows=0_5t4fsqrc
Haber, Darren. How to Talk to Your Alcoholic Partner. October 2016. http://psychcentral.com/lib/how-to-talk-to-your-alcoholic-partner/
National Alliance of Mental Illness Montgomery County. There Really are No Secrets to Helping and Alcoholic Friend. October 2016. http://namimc.org/really-no-secrets-helping-alcoholic-friend/
Mayo Clinic. (2014). Intervention: Help a loved one overcome addiction. October 2016. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/in-depth/intervention/art-20047451