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It can be difficult when someone you are close to is an alcoholic. Their behaviours may be far-reaching and you may not know how best to deal with them and their drinking problem.

How to deal with an alcoholic

Here, we outline practical steps for dealing with an alcoholic, give advice on how to encourage them to seek help, and provide information on Life Works’ world class alcohol addiction treatment programme.

Learn the symptoms of alcoholism

A useful first step when dealing with an alcoholic is to take the time to learn as much about alcoholism as possible, as well as the symptoms that an alcoholic may present. These may include:

  • Lying or being deceptive about the amount and frequency of their drinking habits
  • Developing a tolerance to alcohol, meaning that they need to drink more to feel ‘drunk’
  • Drinking heavily when they’re on their own
  • Drinking to the point of passing out
  • Missing out on special occasions and important events because of their drinking habits
  • Drinking alcohol first thing in the morning
  • Being irritable and angry when they haven’t had a drink
  • Continuing to drink despite the negative effects that it has had on their life

It’s important to recognise that individuals don’t have to display all of these symptoms to have a drinking problem. For example, functioning alcoholics are able to maintain a career, have good relationships with family and friends and remain financially stable at the same time as having a drinking problem.

By learning as much as possible about the alcoholic’s symptoms and behaviours (whether these are very obvious or harder to spot), you will be better able to identify any patterns in their behaviour and support them accordingly.

Talk to the person

It’s important that you try to have an open and honest conversation with the person about their drinking problem. This gives you the chance to express your concerns and will also help them to realise that they can open up to you. There are a number of things to think about before starting:

  • Try to choose a time and a place that is private and where the person feels safe, comfortable and relaxed. You could suggest going for a walk together or ask the person if they would like to join you for a cup of tea or coffee where you won’t be disturbed
  • Try to use phrases that start with “I” as opposed to “you”. For example, you could say things like: “I’m worried about you”, “I’ve noticed that you’ve been drinking quite a lot lately” or “I’m concerned about the amount you’re drinking”. It’s likely that the person may already be feeling defensive about their alcohol use, so by focusing the conversation on you instead of them, they are less likely to feel criticised and will more likely open up
  • It’s also a good idea to try to use positive or neutral language, where you talk about “concerns” and “challenges” as opposed to negative labels such as “addict” or “alcoholic”. Also, try not to become frustrated, critical or disapproving. Instead, try to tackle this in a caring, sympathetic and gentle way
  • You could also use this discussion to discuss boundaries in order to protect everyone’s wellbeing. For example, you could let them know the types of behaviours that upset you or make you worried, such as when they’re drunk and irritable with you, if they lie to you about their whereabouts, or if they are drunk around your children. It’s important to explain that you will no longer tolerate these behaviours and the consequences of them crossing this boundary. For example, you could make it clear that it’s not acceptable for them to be drunk around your children and if they are, you will make sure that the children are in a different room to them or make arrangements for the children to stay somewhere else e.g. a grandparent’s house if possible. If you raise these points in a calm way and focus on how they make you feel, your loved one is more likely to take them on board and begin to realise the impact their behaviour is having on you and those around them
  • Make it clear that you are there to support them and will always listen to them if they ever wanted to talk

Look after yourself

Caring for and dealing with an alcoholic can be draining. That’s why you should make time to look after yourself – only when you feel both mentally and physically well, will you be able to effectively support someone else.

Make sure that you’re not neglecting your own needs. Ensure that you’re eating healthily and getting enough sleep. It’s important that you set time aside to keep doing the things that you enjoy and which help you to relax.

It may also be a good idea to share your thoughts and feelings with a person you trust, so that you are properly supported. You could even reach out to groups and organisations such as Al Anon and Families Anonymous where you have the opportunity to meet with other people who are going through similar experiences. These groups can provide you with the chance to discuss your feelings with people who can empathise with you, and receive mutual support as you navigate this difficult time.

Help your loved one to seek professional support

While the above points can help you some of the way towards dealing with an alcoholic, it’s important to recognise that alcohol addiction often needs professional help within an addiction rehab centre.

Therefore, a crucial step is to help your loved one seek this professional support. You could offer to go with them to their GP to discuss their problems. This could then lead to a referral to a specialist centre such as Life Works, where they will be able to undergo expert, evidence-based treatment for their alcoholism. In addition, while we prefer people to have a GP referral, this isn’t essential and you can also call the Life Works team directly to discuss your loved one’s needs.

Our world class Addiction Treatment Programme at Life Works consists of:

  • A free, no obligation addiction assessment
  • 10-day medically assisted withdrawal detoxification to remove all traces of alcohol from your loved one’s system
  • Group therapy, family therapy and individual 1:1 therapy programmes
  • A wide range of therapeutic techniques including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) informed groups and mindfulness
  • A high quality family programme
  • Access to 12-Step support groups
  • Access to 12 months of free aftercare and family support following treatment

With your help, as well as treatment within a specialist centre, your loved one can work towards achieving sobriety and returning to the healthy, happy and fulfilling life that they deserve.

Find support in Woking

Here at Life Works, we help to support individuals and families dealing with addiction. If you are seeking support for yourself or a loved one, you are welcome to talk to one of our team on the phone or come in for a visit and a free assessment. This is a great opportunity to ask any questions you may have and also to be able to take a look around the clinic for yourself.

If you would like information on treatment and rehabilitation programmes, please call: 0808 159 5652 or click here to book a FREE ADDICTION ASSESSMENT.

This blog was reviewed by Siobhan Ward (BA(Hons) Graphic Design, MSc in Addiction Psychology and Counselling, PgDip in Addiction Psychology and Counselling), Addiction Programme Lead at Life Works.

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