It is important to put the responsibility for dealing with the alcohol / addiction problem squarely on the person in question while continuing to love him or her. What works depends on the individual.
Doing the “right” thing can depend on how severe the alcohol problem is and on how in touch with it the person in question seems to be. What works for someone who is highly functional in daily life and who knows that alcohol is causing trouble, for instance, may not be the solution for someone who denies that there is a problem.
Suggestion #9: Be there for them when they’re ready
Most comments on this subject go like this: “Be available when the alcoholic reaches out.” “When they hold out their hand for help, grab it.” “Help as many times as you are asked. Be there.”
When I asked an alcoholic why she thinks her husband stayed with her through her drinking days, she responded, “His parents taught him that if you care about someone, you never give up on them. I think he always thought I’d come out of it. He just didn’t know it would take twenty years!” She feels that one of the most important messages for friends and family is to “encourage the problem drinker to try again and again.” One adds, “Be loving but firm, and understand that they may need a number of tries to get and stay sober.”
A number of people recommend encouraging any positive change in the drinker. A partner advises, “Encourage efforts to quit even when they don’t seem to be working. Relapses are learning experiences.” Although one alcohilcs husband and son were skeptical of her vow to quit because of her many short-lived attempts, their praise made it all the more difficult for her to go back.
If the person seems somewhat ready to change, you might also help him or her explore recovery alternatives. A husband goes so far as to suggest, “Put scientific literature about alcoholism (not religious or moral tracts) in their way where they just might glance at it or pick it up. Make sure that they are aware there are alternatives.” A wife says, “Do the research to see what kind of help is available in your area, so that when the person is ready, you will have that information for them.” You might even attend some recovery groups yourself to have a better understanding of the options. Alcoholics Anonymous and others, for instance, welcome friends and family members at their meetings.