Helping the Alcoholic Within the Family

Most adults engage in the consumption of alcoholic drinks in a responsible manner. As such, the road to alcohol addiction for some can come at the cost of the well being of those who care about the addict the most. If someone you care about is abusing alcohol, "hard love" may be the only way to ensure that person receives the treatment they urgently require.

Alcohol is around us all the time. In modern society it is at the very hub of social gatherings. It is accessible at all times, in most public places and in the home, and if it is not available, then the credibility of a night out or celebration tends to be questioned. So it is not surprising that the lines between alcohol use and alcohol abuse often become blurred. It is not always apparent when we are crossing the line between enjoyment of alcohol and alcohol addiction

The family see the problem first


In so many cases it tends to creep up on the addict slowly and he/she does not realise there is a problem until it is too late. The fact is it is not usually the addict who is first to notice there is an issue. More often than not it is close family friends and loved ones who first begin see the danger signs. Signs of an alcoholic problem include a change in behaviour, a lessening interest in the world around them, deterioration in functioning and responsibility, violent mood swings, and an insatiable desire for the drug which is starting to control their lives.

Family Collusion


While the alcoholic bears the brunt of this destructive illness loved ones and families are deeply affected by the effects the addiction. These effects can include feelings of shame, guilt and anger to more long term problems such as divorce, unemployment, poverty and isolation. Families and loved ones tend to find themselves colluding with the alcoholic in the short term in order to keep the peace, pretending everything is ok due to a fear of unpredictable behaviour, and in a mistaken idea they are helping the addict.

Hard Love


Unfortunately by not showing the alcoholic clearly how their behaviour is causing problems they are allowing him to carry on regardless. Not only does the alcoholic need to know the effects their behaviour is having, they also need to take responsibility for their actions if they are going to change. An alcohol treatment centre would call this “hard love”. I feel this title is so useful because I think it reminds those closest that they are giving the sufferer a form of love even when they are being tough. It reminds those around the alcoholic that their own feelings are just as important, and above all no progress or healing can be made until the alcoholic makes the decision to change. In order for that decision to happen they must clearly see the chaos they are causing around them.

Nick Cassells 2011

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