How To Help Someone Addicted To Alcohol

Learning how to help someone addicted to alcohol can be challenging. But by providing assistance before, during, and after treatment, a positive support system can help a person to stay sober.

When a loved one is struggling with addiction to alcohol, it’s difficult to understand how to help them. Your loved one may deny the addiction, and become defensive when asked about it.

Some who attempt to help may inadvertently contribute to the loved one to stay addicted, even when they are trying to help. However, there are a number of ways you can help your loved one when they are addicted to alcohol.

What Are The Signs Of Alcohol Addiction?

When those close to an individual begin to notice that a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction, a number of signs may become apparent.

Some of the signs of alcohol addiction include:

  • increased tolerance to alcohol
  • poor performance at work or school
  • reckless behavior as a result of drinking
  • damage to personal relationships
  • neglect of personal responsibilities and hobbies once enjoyed
  • experiencing legal problems as a result of actions while intoxicated

The signs of addiction may be subtle at first, but more may appear over time. No individual has the same experience of addiction to alcohol as another, and a person may be attempting to hide these signs.

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What Is High-Functioning Alcoholism?

High-functioning alcoholism can be more difficult to detect. A person with high-functioning alcoholism likely still performs well in work or school and has no difficulty with interpersonal relationships, or legal problems.

They may go to lengths to hide alcohol at home and rarely display signs of intoxication. In reality, their tolerance becomes higher and higher, and they likely drink more amounts of alcohol to achieve the same effects. Since alcoholism may not impact their responsibilities, it is easier to hide the problem. Someone with high-functioning alcoholism may not even realize they have an issue with alcohol addiction.

No matter the visibility of problems a person displays with alcohol, close friends and family members may still be able to detect there is a problem. But when one is able to function fairly normally in everyday life, the individual may be more reluctant to admit there is a problem at all.

Codependent Relationships And Alcohol Abuse

Codependent relationships are understood as when a partner or friend enables another person to stay addicted to alcohol. They do this in a number of ways, often at their own emotional and mental expense.

The following are signs that a person is in a codependent relationship with someone addicted to alcohol:

  • supplying alcohol or money for the person addicted to it
  • experiencing anxiety when unable to satisfy the addicted person’s desires
  • making excuses for the behavior of the person addicted to alcohol
  • abandoning one’s relationships and responsibilities
  • continuing to provide support despite experiencing emotional and mental issues

They may fear that the relationship with that person could come to an end if they address the abuse of alcohol, and will go at any length to prevent that from happening. Rather, they will continue to help that person continue to be addicted, usually without realizing what they are doing.

How To Approach Your Loved One About Alcohol Addiction

While difficult, an important first step in helping a person you care about entering treatment is addressing the problem directly. One way of doing this is by staging an intervention, where the impact of one’s alcohol addiction can be addressed.

Staging An Intervention

The goal of an intervention is to help the individual enter treatment. Often, a person with alcohol addiction at the center of intervention will deny there is a problem. This is why the effects of their actions on others should be addressed, in order to reveal that their problem has become a problem for others.

An intervention should consist of a group of loved ones with concern about another’s alcohol addiction. It can be beneficial to have a professional counselor or specialized interventionist on hand to facilitate the discussion. This group can help reveal the impact that the addicted individual has had on their lives as a result of addiction, as well as demonstrate their impact as a support system.

It is important to explicitly state the effect that one has had on another while actively addicted. For example, rather than saying that their loved one has a problem, they should express the emotional toll that they have experienced as a result of the addiction.

If the person has been aggressive, violent, or emotionally abusive while intoxicated, those staging an intervention should mention that they have felt hurt and saddened by these actions. This would be more effective than outright blaming a person for their actions.

Seeking Treatment For Alcohol Abuse

Those who have helped stage an intervention can help a loved one to seek out treatment plans. It can be difficult to know where to begin.

The following are questions one can ask when seeking treatment:

  • Should one seek out an inpatient or outpatient program?
  • Is the treatment plan individualized?
  • What types of medical professionals run the program?
  • What are the expectations of the person seeking treatment?
  • What kind of relapse-prevention plans are available?
  • Is aftercare an option?

Being Supportive During Treatment

The intervention session is only the beginning of the treatment program. It is important for family members and friends to be available throughout an individual’s time in recovery.

For example, a treatment center may offer family counseling sessions to address issues such as codependent relationships. Support can be provided in other ways, such as help with monetary expenses related to treatment. If the individual is attending an outpatient program, friends or family members can help in other ways, such as providing transportation.

Depending on the recovery program, there may be the option to attend visiting hours. This can help the person in treatment to remain connected to their outside life throughout the program and know that they have the support they need.

One of the most important factors in being supportive is understanding the factors behind what creates addiction and makes people stay addicted. It’s important to continually seek out educational resources that will help you to better understand what your loved one is going through. Some treatment centers may offer seminars, support groups, or reading materials that can help to develop this knowledge.

Support After Treatment For Alcohol Abuse

After a treatment program for alcohol has been completed, friends and family members can continue to extend support. If the person is not admitted to an aftercare program, such as a sober living facility, they might stay with family.

The family members would be responsible for creating an environment that would help with maintaining sobriety. For example, an alcohol-free household would help to limit the temptation of using.

Medical professionals believe that a positive support program is a large part of success in sobriety. And even when relapse happens, it’s crucial to stay supportive. There is no one method that works for becoming sober from alcohol. What works for one individual may not for another.

The road to sobriety is full of challenges, and by meeting those challenges with your loved one, you will be helping them toward success. Extending patience and understanding to your loved one will help the most.

For more information on ways to help your loved one who is addicted to alcohol and treatment options, gives us a call today at

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help

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