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What help is available for the families of individuals with alcohol abuse problems?

The biggest obstacle to treatment of alcoholism is getting the alcoholic to break through the denial that is a hallmark of this condition – to realize that help is needed. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism suggests that you ask the following questions to help your loved one determine if he or she has a drinking problem:

  • Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
  • Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
  • Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
  • Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?

More than one “yes” answer means it is highly likely that a problem exists. If you think that someone you know might have an alcohol problem, it is important for him or her to see a doctor or counsellor. A doctor or counsellor can help determine if a drinking problem exists and plan the best course of action.

If a friend or family member has a drinking problem but is unwilling to get help, you can’t force him or her to do so. However, many alcoholism treatment specialists suggest the following steps to help convince an alcoholic to get treatment:

  • Stop all cover ups and other “enabling” behaviors (don’t try to protect the alcoholic from the results of his or her drinking)
  • Time your intervention (the best time to talk to the drinker is shortly after an alcohol-related incident has occurred)
  • Be specific (use examples like the most recent incident to show how his or her drinking has caused problems)
  • Explain to the drinker what you will do if he or she doesn’t seek help (do not make any threats you are not prepared to carry out)
  • Gather information about local treatment options (if the alcoholic is willing to get help, call immediately for an appointment with a treatment counsellor)

For additional help, resources, and support:

Learn as much as you can about alcoholism, addiction, treatment programs and the recovery process.

Consider joining a self-help group for families of alcoholics, such as Al-Anon or Co-dependents Anonymous. You will meet others who are experiencing similar challenges and learn ways to cope.

Once your family member is receiving treatment, continue to show your concern and express your support. Becoming alcohol-free takes effort, time and patience for both the addict and his/her loved ones.

Take good care of yourself and expect challenging periods. Make efforts to create a healthier lifestyle for you and your loved ones, even if the abusing family member chooses not to get help.

Related Reading:

Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself
Alcohol lied to me (the intelligent escape from alcohol addiction)
Under the Influence: A Guide to the Myths and Realities of Alcoholism
The Dilemma of the Alcoholic Marriage