Addressing Alcoholism: How to Help Friends or Family with a Drinking Problem
We make choices every day on how to cope with stress. Some people use sports, the arts, or other hobbies to take their minds off of their problems, but what about the people who turn to alcohol? There’s a difference between having a social drink with friends after a long work week and needing alcohol to get through the day. It’s important to notice the signs to make sure your loved ones aren’t hiding a drinking problem.
You may notice that your best friend lies to you about how often she goes to the bar, or your sister is having problems keeping up with her bills and other responsibilities. Maybe your cousin still goes out drinking with his friends even though he knows that it’s hurting his marriage. These changes seem small, but they may be signaling a bigger problem.
If you believe that a loved one is struggling with alcohol dependency, there are ways that you can help. The first step is talking to the person and addressing the issue. This can be the hardest part of the process for both you and your loved one, so it’s important to approach the situation with careful consideration. Be honest and vulnerable, and don’t be afraid to exercise a bit of tough love. Being nice is not always good, and often that approach is a selfish one that comes from your own uncomfortable feelings. You may need to put the relationship on the line and risk hurting his or her feelings in order to get through to the person. It may put strain on the relationship, but if you are able to get them help, they’ll thank you later.
If someone comes to you with a drinking problem, you should first thank them for trusting you enough to reach out. This starts the conversation by removing the shame that people often feel when admitting an addiction and affirming that they can trust you in the future. It’s important to ask questions first rather than accusing or approaching the subject as if you are an expert, which may make them turn away, feeling overwhelmed and uncomfortable.
Once you’ve heard their reasoning, it’s important to validate their feelings even if they don’t make sense with you. People develop alcohol addiction for many reasons and often due to a combination of factors, so keep an open mind when talking to someone about why they choose to drink. This is not to say that you should excuse their behavior; simply come to an understanding of how the habit developed to help them get sober.
Remember that this is a process that should not be handled alone. It takes a network of support to help someone stay sober, so it’s important to have other friends and family step in to encourage the person in need. Alcohol dependency is not something to take lightly, and there are many options for the person to get help. At Stenzel Clinical Services, we offer addiction counseling to help people get through the recovery process. If you think that your loved one may have a drinking problem, we are here to help.