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If you live with, or are close to an alcoholic, it can be difficult to know where to turn or what to do for the best. It’s likely that their behaviour is having a negative impact on lots of different areas of their life, as well as affecting those who are closest to them.

When it comes to helping an alcoholic, it’s important to understand that addiction often needs professional support, delivered within a specialist addiction rehab centre. A person suffering from alcoholism will rarely seek support from themselves as it’s possible that they’re in denial or don’t recognise the problem in themselves. That’s why it is often the close family or friends of an alcoholic who often take the first steps towards finding a rehab centre that can help. 

In this blog, we outline the steps involved in getting professional help for an alcoholic, as well as some of the ‘dos and ‘don’ts’ along the way.

Step 1 – learn to spot the signs of alcoholism in a loved one

A useful first step towards getting the person the help they need for their alcoholism, is to take some time to learn about the signs of alcoholism to look out for.

By being able to spot the signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction, you’ll be able to recognise patterns of negative behaviour and identify when the person is going through a particularly difficult time. This means you’ll be better equipped to know when they need help, so you can support them to find the best alcohol rehab treatment for them.

Do you find that they:

  • Now need to drink more and more to get ‘drunk’?
  • Drink heavily when they’re on their own?
  • Drink to the point of passing out?
  • Drink alcohol when it’s clearly inappropriate to do so, such as first thing in the morning?
  • Lie about the amount they drink and how frequently?
  • Become irritable and angry when they haven’t had a drink?
  • Miss out on important events and special occasions because of their drinking?
  • Continue to drink despite the negative effects that it has on their life?
  • Drink when they’re stressed or experiencing other difficult emotions?

These are all signs that they may be struggling with alcoholism and need professional help.

Step 2 - help them to open up to you

It’s a good idea to encourage the person to open up to you about their difficulties. Again, learning more about what they’re going through, as well as their feelings and emotions, puts you in a better position to support them to seek professional addiction rehab.

Do:

  • Try to have an open and honest conversation with them about their drinking. Make sure this is done in private and in a place where they feel relaxed, as they will be more likely to open up to you about how they’re feeling
  • Let them know that you have their best interests at heart and will always be there to support them. This will encourage them to come to you in future when they’re going through a difficult time and will help them to trust you in helping them on the path to recovery

Don’t:

  • It’s important that you don’t approach this conversation in a confrontational and accusatory way. The person may be in denial about their problem or may have recognised that they have an issue with their alcohol consumption and are still trying to come to terms with it themselves. If you approach this conversation in a judgemental way, it makes it more likely your loved one will become angry, upset or even further in denial, which means they’re unlikely to open up to you about what they’re going through
  • Instead, if you approach this gently and with compassion and concern, your loved one is more likely to want to talk about their problem and listen to what you have to say

Step 3 - help the person seek professional support for their alcoholism

If you’re worried that someone you care about is struggling with an alcohol addiction, the most important thing you can do is to help them to get the professional treatment they need.

You could offer to make a GP appointment on their behalf and go with them to the appointment as moral support. Their GP may then be able to refer them to a specialist rehab clinic, such as Life Works, in Surrey, where they will receive expert therapy for their drinking problem.

In addition, while we prefer people to have a GP referral, this isn’t essential and you can also call Life Works directly to find out more about the treatment we offer and to discuss the person’s needs.  

We are also able to provide advice and support on staging an intervention to help people enter treatment. An addiction intervention is the process by which the family and friends of someone who is struggling with an addiction, are supported to take action to persuade the person to enter treatment. This can be useful if your loved one doesn’t recognise or refuses to see they have a problem, or if they are unwilling to get help. You can find out more about Life Works’ intervention service on our staging an intervention page.

Step 4 – continue to support them even when they have entered treatment

At Life Works, you can continue to help the person when they are in treatment for their alcoholism. You can:

  • Attend sessions that take place as part of our exceptional family programme, and learn as much as you can about the treatment and recovery process
  • Keep in touch with the person, letting them know that you’re thinking of them and wishing them all the best for their treatment and recovery

With your help, as well as expert alcohol addiction treatment within a dedicated centre, your loved one will be able to address their drinking problem and take steps towards a more positive way of life.

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.

Coronavirus information

While the current coronavirus restrictions and social distancing measures are in place, we are offering online support to both new and current patients. We continue to offer access to inpatient services where this is required. For more information on our online therapy service, please visit our Priory Connect page or read our latest online therapy blog. For the latest information on how Priory are responding to coronavirus, and keeping our patients and staff safe, please visit our COVID-19 preparedness blog. You can also find out about our approach to addiction treatment during COVID-19 by accessing our dedicated page.

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