How to Deal with an Alcoholic

Discover practical steps on how to deal with an alcoholic, from setting boundaries to seeking help.

Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder

The first step in learning how to deal with an alcoholic is to understand the nature of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), its impact and prevalence. This knowledge will provide a solid foundation to navigate the complexities of this condition.

Definition and Impact

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is a chronic relapsing brain disorder characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences. It's a pervasive condition that can significantly impact the lives of those afflicted and their loved ones.

The impact of AUD is broad and profound. It can lead to health problems such as liver disease, cardiovascular disease, and neurological damage. It can also result in social and behavioral issues, including family problems, poor work performance or job loss, and criminal justice issues. Most significantly, AUD can create a difficult living environment for family members, with 1 in 10 children living in a home with a parent who has a drinking problem.

Prevalence and Statistics

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reports that more than 14 million adults ages 18 and older have AUD. This statistic underscores the sheer prevalence of this disorder and the need for effective treatment options.

Moreover, research indicates that about one-third of people who are treated for alcohol problems have no further symptoms 1 year later. Many others substantially reduce their drinking and report fewer alcohol-related problems.

AUD Statistic Number
Adults (18+) with AUD Over 14 Million
Children living with a parent with a drinking problem 1 in 10
People with no further symptoms after treatment 1 in 3

This data highlights the importance of seeking help for alcohol problems, as treatment can lead to significant improvements and a reduction in the negative impacts of AUD.

Understanding AUD is a critical part of learning how to deal with an alcoholic. With this knowledge, one can better navigate the challenges of this disorder and work towards the goal of recovery.

Supporting a Loved One

Dealing with an alcoholic requires understanding, patience, and a structured approach. It's essential to establish boundaries, communicate transparently, and set consequences for certain behaviors. This section discusses these aspects in detail.

Importance of Boundaries

Setting boundaries is crucial when supporting an individual dealing with alcoholism. Boundaries are not about controlling the person or forcing them to change; they're about establishing how you want to be treated and preserving self-integrity in a chaotic environment [2].

According to Peaks Recovery, setting consequences and boundaries are essential to inspire change and prevent the continuation of self-harming behavior that supports addiction. Without boundaries, the entire family continues to suffer. Establishing these limits is an integral part of learning how to deal with an alcoholic.

Moreover, the best success in aiding recovery is achieved when immediate family members and loved ones come together and agree to adhere to the same set of boundaries. This united front provides the best chance for recovery.

Transparency and Communication

Transparent communication is pivotal when dealing with an alcoholic. It's important to communicate your feelings, concerns, and expectations clearly and honestly. Express how their behavior affects you and others around them.

When communicating, it's crucial to focus on the person's behavior and its impact rather than labeling them as an alcoholic. Using "I" statements can help in this conversation. For instance, "I feel worried when you drink excessively" instead of "You're always drinking."

Remember, the goal of communication is to express your feelings and concerns, not to blame or shame the person dealing with alcoholism. It's essential to approach these conversations with empathy and understanding.

Setting Consequences

Setting consequences for unacceptable behaviors is another integral aspect of dealing with an alcoholic. Consequences should be reasonable, enforceable, and directly related to the behavior. For example, if an individual chooses to drink excessively, they may lose the privilege of attending social events or driving the family car.

Safety should always be the top priority when dealing with an alcoholic or addict, especially when they create an unsafe environment. Leaving the situation or seeking additional help may be necessary to maintain safety [2].

Remember, setting boundaries and consequences is not a way to control or punish the alcoholic but a tool to protect yourself and other family members while providing the alcoholic a clear choice between their behavior and the associated consequences.

Seeking Professional Help

When dealing with an individual suffering from alcohol use disorder, it's crucial to seek professional help. There are various treatment options available, each with their own benefits and approaches. These include behavioral therapies and medication assistance.

Treatment Options

There are several treatment options available for individuals battling alcohol use disorder. The most effective treatments often involve a combination of professional counseling, medication, and peer support. It's important to remember that every person's journey to recovery is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. The treatment approach should be tailored to the individual's needs, preferences, and unique circumstances.

One commonly used treatment approach is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other 12-step programs. These provide peer support for people quitting or cutting back on their drinking. Combined with treatment led by health professionals, mutual-support groups can offer a valuable added layer of support.

Behavioral Therapies

Behavioral therapies play a crucial role in alcohol use disorder treatment. These therapies aim to change drinking behavior through counseling. They are backed by numerous studies showing their effectiveness in helping individuals reduce or stop their alcohol consumption [1].

Behavioral therapies can take different forms, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational enhancement therapy, and marital and family counseling. These therapies can help individuals understand their triggers, learn coping strategies, improve communication and problem-solving skills, and rebuild damaged relationships.

Medication Assistance

Medication can be a valuable tool in the treatment of alcohol use disorder. In the United States, there are currently three approved medications designed to help people stop or reduce their drinking and prevent relapse. These medications can be prescribed by a primary care physician or other health professionals and may be used alone or in combination with counseling [1].

Medications for alcohol use disorder work in different ways. Some help curb the cravings for alcohol, while others create an adverse reaction when alcohol is consumed. It's important to note that these medications are not a cure for alcohol use disorder, but they can be an effective part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

In conclusion, dealing with an alcoholic requires a comprehensive approach that includes professional help, behavioral therapies, and medication assistance. Always consult with a healthcare professional or a mental health expert to explore the best treatment options for your loved one.

Community Support

Finding ways to deal with an alcoholic can be challenging, but having a strong community support system can make the process considerably less daunting. In this section, we'll discuss two forms of community support: peer support groups and mutual-support programs.

Peer Support Groups

Peer support groups are a valuable resource for those coping with a loved one's alcohol use disorder. These groups consist of individuals who are facing similar challenges and can offer a safe space to share experiences, gain insight, and find comfort in knowing that they're not alone.

Peer support groups also provide practical advice on how to approach difficult situations. For example, setting boundaries is a common topic discussed in these groups. Boundaries can be set regarding being in the presence of someone who is drinking or using substances. Individuals may establish limits on their tolerance for such situations, such as leaving when the person starts drinking or avoiding certain topics of discussion when intoxicated [2].

Boundaries can also extend to requests for money, shelter, transportation, and favors from addicts or alcoholics. It's essential to establish limits on the assistance you're willing to provide, such as driving to work but nowhere else, not giving or lending money, or not assisting with legal issues like DUIs [2].

Mutual-Support Programs

Mutual-support programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other 12-step programs, provide peer support for people quitting or cutting back on their drinking. These programs are often led by individuals who have experienced and overcome similar struggles, making them a valuable source of inspiration and motivation.

According to the NIAAA, these mutual-support groups, combined with professional treatment, can offer a valuable added layer of support. They can reinforce the importance of boundaries, emphasize the impact of alcohol use disorder on loved ones, and provide strategies for communication and consequence-setting.

Mutual-support programs also emphasize the importance of family involvement in recovery. Research suggests that the best success in aiding recovery is achieved when immediate family members and loved ones come together and agree to adhere to the same set of boundaries, providing the best chance for recovery.

Whether through peer support groups or mutual-support programs, community support is a crucial element in effectively dealing with an alcoholic. It can provide much-needed encouragement, understanding, and practical advice, making the journey less overwhelming for all involved.

Taking Care of Yourself

While supporting a loved one battling alcohol use disorder, it's essential not to lose sight of your own physical, mental, and emotional needs. It's important to balance the support you offer them with the care you need for yourself.

Self-Care Prioritization

Taking care of your own needs first will make you better equipped to help your loved one through their difficult journey of recovery. Dealing with the serious issue of substance use can be mentally, physically, and emotionally draining. It's crucial to protect your mental and emotional well-being by ensuring that self-care is a priority.

Self-care can involve a variety of activities, such as regular exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, ensuring adequate sleep, and engaging in activities you enjoy. It may also involve seeking professional help, like counselling or therapy, to help manage the stress and emotions associated with supporting someone with alcohol use disorder.

Remember, it's not selfish to prioritize your own well-being. It's a necessary step to ensure that you can continue to provide the support that your loved one needs.

Support Group Participation

In addition to self-care, participating in support groups can also be beneficial. Support groups can provide a sense of community and understanding that you may not find elsewhere. They can also offer practical advice on how to deal with an alcoholic, and provide a safe space to share your experiences and feelings with others who are in a similar situation.

Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and similar types of self-help groups can be a great resource, not just for the individual with the substance use disorder, but also for their loved ones [6].

By taking care of yourself and seeking support, you can navigate the challenges of supporting a loved one with an alcohol use disorder more effectively. Remember, it's okay to ask for help and take time for yourself. Your well-being is important too.

Resources and Helplines

In the journey of dealing with an alcoholic, both for the individual and their loved ones, having access to the right resources and assistance is crucial. There are numerous helplines and services available at both national and provincial or territorial levels that can offer guidance, support, and treatment referrals.

National Helplines

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) operates a national helpline that offers confidential, free, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information services for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders. In 2020, the SAMHSA National Helpline received 833,598 calls, which was a 27 percent increase from the previous year.

Other ways to get help include talking with a mental health professional or seeking help from a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous or a similar type of self-help group.

National Helpline Contact Information
SAMHSA National Helpline 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
Alcoholics Anonymous AA Contact Directory

Provincial/Territorial Services

In addition to national resources, there are numerous provincial and territorial services available in Canada for individuals seeking help with substance use. These include helplines, text services, online support groups, and other resources [8].

It's important to remember that reaching out for help is a significant step in the journey of dealing with alcohol use disorder. Whether you or someone you love is struggling, these resources can provide valuable support and guidance.

Provincial/Territorial Service Contact Information
Alberta Health Services AHS Contact Page
BC Mental Health Support Line 310-6789 (No Area Code Needed)

Please note, the contact information provided above is just a small selection of the resources available. Always consult with a healthcare professional for the most appropriate direction and support when dealing with alcohol use disorder.

References

[1]: https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/treatment-alcohol-problems-finding-and-getting-help

[2]: https://psychcentral.com/blog/imperfect/2017/08/how-to-set-boundaries-with-an-alcoholic-or-addict

[3]: https://peaksrecovery.com/blog/other/holding-boundaries-tough-love/

[4]: https://www.healthpartners.com/blog/how-to-support-someone-through-substance-use-recovery/

[5]: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/substance-use/talking-about-drugs/help-friend.html

[6]: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcohol-use-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20369243

[7]: https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

[8]: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/substance-use/get-help-with-substance-use.html

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