If you care about someone addicted to alcohol, you are likely well-acquainted with moodiness and unpredictable behavior. You may have attempted everything you can think of to help him or her stop drinking—including emptying their personal stash of alcohol or threatening to leave if the person if he/she refuses to get help or do something about the problem. But nothing has ever worked, at least not for any significant length of time.
So what alternatives do you have? How do you remain in this kind of relationship, despite feeling hopeless, mentally drained, and frustrated?
First, you must remember that it has nothing to do with your mistakes—in fact, it’s not even really their fault. No one is to blame for drug dependency or addiction. It’s an end result affected by many factors that include biology, individual circumstances, and overall emotional well-being. If they are ever to improve, they will probably benefit from professional treatment.
What Is Alcohol Use Disorder?
According to the NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism), alcohol use disorder is “a chronic relapsing brain disease….characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not using.” Although alcohol use may not result in significant harm when drinking in moderation, many individuals who suffer from AUD often consume much more than the recommended limit of 7-14 standard drinks for men and women, respectively.
High-functioning alcoholics may drink alcohol in secret and do their best to hide their disorder’s intensity from loved ones, co-workers, and acquaintances. But it’s improbable that an individual can conceal the problem from close family and close friends for a prolonged period, especially those who stay within the same household. Because only 1 in 10 alcohol-dependent people seeks treatment for their condition, many families are forced to suffer in conjunction with their loved one.
During their lifetime, an alcoholic may experience several health disorders ranging from digestive issues and liver disease to high blood pressure and stroke. People who suffer from an alcohol use problem often have strong cravings when they aren’t using alcohol and find it challenging to stop. Over time, they will gradually develop a higher tolerance, which requires him or her to consume even more to continue experiencing the same effects.
In addition to the above, alcoholics may:
- Drink in isolation to conceal their addiction
- Experience blackouts
- Drink at scheduled times and become volatile if they can’t have access to alcohol when they desire it
- Hide alcohol in odd, secretive places, such as in a vehicle, or in basements or closets
- Drink mainly to get drunk
- Experience relationship, employment, financial, and legal troubles
- Experience a lack of interest in other activities once regarded as enjoyable or important
How AUD Can Destroy a Relationship
While a loved one or spouse may be a kind and thoughtful individual when not drinking, alcoholism may transform them into an entirely different person. Unfortunately, uncharacteristic mental or physical abuse can be inflicted on loved ones during intoxication. Indeed, of all the reported alcohol-related incidents of violence, an estimated two-thirds occur among close relationships.
This fact means that both partners and children are at a heightened risk of witnessing or becoming victims of violence, such as abuse or assault. Even if a loved one is not abusive when under the influence, he or she may still cause damage in other ways, such as spending too much free time at bars or frequently missing school, work, and other obligations.
You should be able to identify the signs of a potentially hazardous living situation when it occurs. If you are living with an alcoholic, ensure that you and other residents in the house are safe and do not permit verbal, emotional, sexual, or physical abuse. If this occurs, either you and the other family members or the alcoholic himself/herself needs to leave the situation.
How to Deal With an Alcoholic: On Taking Care of Yourself and Other Loved Ones
Remind yourself that you are not at fault for your loved one’s issues and behavior. Instead, go easy on yourself, as you are probably in a great deal of pain and have a lot of anger and bitterness due to months or years of frustration and unkept promises.
After safety concerns are met, consider seeking other types of external support using therapy, counseling, or group encounters. If you have children, ensure they have a trusted person outside the family to confide in, such as a therapist, counselor, or clergy.
Stop enabling others and set boundaries. Enabling is a common occurrence among family friends and family who are dependent on substances. Enabling activities include providing the person with money to purchase alcohol, supporting them by allowing them to live with you when they are abusive, and letting the person drink to potentially lethal levels while in your presence.
Unconditional love can be a fantastic thing, but if you cater to another person’s addiction and appetites by providing alcohol or not addressing the problem, you aren’t helping them to get better. Instead of enabling, you should resolutely set up boundaries for yourself and others and stick to them. You don’t have to be callous or mean, or give ultimatums, but you have to do what’s healthiest for you and everyone involved and let the individual know that your refusal to enable them is borne out of love, and is not a means of punishment.
Finally, please do not allow the loved one who has an addiction to blame you for their issues and the things they have done. You may need to get away from them to avoid a confrontation, or perhaps you have a trusted friend who can take your loved one to a safe place. It may be about trial and error, but eventually, you will figure out what works best by being vigilant and consistent.
How to Confront an Alcoholic and Intervene
If you plan on confronting a loved one or staging an intervention, choose a time when they are clear-minded and do not threaten them. Focus on your own emotions and concerns and express them in a caring manner without judgment.
Most often, alcohol addicts will resist attempts to discuss their problems. They may even attempt to change the focus of the conversation. Be prepared for this to occur and remain calm and controlled. Remember that you are planting the seeds of change at that moment, and you may have to allow a prolonged amount of time for them to take root.
When staging an intervention, it is best to have a bag packed for the individual and a rehab facility chosen. This way, he or she will be less likely to back out after agreeing to treatment. It is also helpful to have a professional therapist or counselor present who is trained to facilitate interventions, family members, and maybe even a few close friends who will not overwhelm, antagonize, or judge them too harshly.
During the conversation, be concise, and avoid lecturing. Do research ahead of time and be prepared to answer questions about the treatment process. If they are unwilling to go, remember that you cannot force them. Treatment is generally more effective when the person agrees to go voluntarily. You can always try again eventually.
Treatment for Alcoholism
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery are specialized addiction treatment centers that provide clients with the knowledge, skills, and support they need to get sober and experience long-lasting wellness and recovery from alcoholism. Our integrated approach includes evidence-based services, such as medical detox, behavioral therapy, counseling, group support, experiential activities like mindfulness therapy, and much, much more.
Addiction is a potentially life-threatening disease that can last a lifetime, but no one should have to suffer in silence or struggle on their own. Contact us today and find out how we can help!