Alcoholism is a serious disease affecting millions of people in the United States annually. If you have an alcoholic loved one, it can be difficult to know how to help them.
This article by The Holistic Sanctuary Luxury Alcohol Rehabs will provide steps to approach this difficult situation. We’ll cover everything from what alcoholism is to the signs of addiction to how you can help an alcoholic get sober. Let’s get into it!
What is alcohol addiction?
Alcoholism also called alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a broad term for any drinking of alcohol that results in problems. It was previously divided into two types: alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. In a medical context, alcoholism is said to exist when two or more of the following conditions are present:
- a person drinks large amounts over a long period
- Has difficulty cutting down
- Acquiring and drinking alcohol takes up a great deal of time
- Alcohol is strongly desired
- Usage results in not fulfilling responsibilities
- Usage results in social problems
- Usage results in health problems
- Usage results in risky situations
- Withdrawal occurs when stopping
- Alcohol tolerance has occurred
Alcohol abuse vs. alcohol dependence: what’s the difference?
While alcohol abuse and dependence were previously considered two different disorders, they are now included under the diagnosis of AUD. The main difference between the two is that alcohol dependence includes physical symptoms of withdrawal and tolerance.
For example, alcohol-dependent people may drink daily to avoid withdrawal symptoms, such as shaking, sweating, and nausea. They may also need to drink more and more to feel the effects of alcohol (tolerance).
Stages of alcoholism
The signs and symptoms of alcoholism can vary from person to person. Some people may be able to drink a lot without any noticeable effects, while others may start to experience problems after only a few drinks.
There are three main stages of alcohol use disorder:
In the early stage of AUD, you may be able to drink more than you used to without getting drunk. You may also start to crave alcohol and feel the need to drink more to feel its effects. This can lead to drinking more alcohol than you intended or drinking in dangerous situations, such as while driving.
In the middle stage of AUD, you may experience more serious problems due to your drinking. For example, you may get into legal trouble or have financial problems. You may also experience health problems like liver damage or heart disease.
In the late stage of AUD, you may have severe health problems like liver failure or pancreatitis. You may also experience mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety. You also start to lose interest in activities that you used to enjoy. This is a very dangerous phase of the disease and can lead to death if not treated.
How to help an alcoholic: Steps
If you think someone you know has AUD, you can take steps to help them. Let’s review some things you can do to help an alcoholic get sober:
1. Talk to the person about your concerns.
The first step is always the hardest, which is no different when talking to a loved one about their drinking. Talking with them about your concerns and how their drinking affects you and others is important.
Start by expressing your concerns in a non-judgmental way. For example, you might say, “I’ve noticed that you’ve been drinking a lot lately, and I’m worried about you.”
It’s also important to avoid giving ultimatums or making threats. This will only make the person defensive and less likely to listen to you.
2. Identify their motivation for change.
The next step is to help the person identify their motivation for change. This could be like wanting to improve their health, repair relationships, or keep their job.
You can ask them their motivation directly, or look for clues by asking how they feel about their drinking. For example, you might say, “How do you feel when you drink?” or “What are the good and bad things about drinking?”
Remember that motivation can change over time. So even if someone is not ready to change right now, they may be more open to it in the future.
3. Help them make a plan.
While going to a healthcare professional is the best way to get help for AUD, there are some things you can do to help in the meantime.
One thing you can do is help the person make a plan to stop drinking. This could involve setting limits on how much they drink, avoiding situations where they’re likely to drink, and making sure they have support from friends and family.
You can also help them by making sure they have a safe place to stay if they’re trying to quit drinking. This could be your home or a sober living facility.
If the person has severe withdrawal symptoms, you should take them to the hospital. Note that withdrawal from alcohol can be dangerous and even life-threatening.
4. Help the person find a health care provider.
If the person is willing to stop drinking but finds it extremely difficult, help them find a health care provider. This can be a primary care doctor, a mental health professional, or a holistic rehab center like Luxury Rehab Centers.
It’s important to find a health care provider who is experienced in treating AUD. They will be able to help the person develop a treatment plan that meets their needs.
If the person is not ready to seek help from a health care provider, you can still offer support and resources. We’ll go over them in the next step.
5. Offer support and resources.
There are many resources available to help people with AUD. You can offer to go to counseling sessions with the person or help them find a 12-step program, such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
You can also offer to be a sober buddy for the person. This means you’ll be there for them when they struggle to stay sober.
6. Do not enable the person.
While your support is important, ensure you’re not enabling the person’s drinking. You shouldn’t buy them alcohol or cover for them when they miss work or school.
Enabling the person’s drinking will only make it harder for them to get sober. Enabling can also be tricky to spot. For example, if you make excuses for the person’s behavior, such as “they’re just going through a tough time,” you’re already enabling their drinking.
Draw a line between supporting the person and enabling their drinking. You can do this by setting boundaries and sticking to them. You might say, “I’m not going to buy you alcohol or drive you to the liquor store. I will, however, go to counseling sessions with you.”
7. Take care of yourself.
Dealing with someone with AUD can be draining, both emotionally and mentally. It’s important to take care of yourself during this time. Make sure to eat healthy meals, exercise, and get enough sleep.
Finding a support system to help you deal with stress is also crucial. This might include friends, family members, or a therapist.
Helping someone with AUD is not easy. It requires time, patience, and understanding. However, always remember that you can’t force someone to get sober. The decision has to be up to them.
If you’re struggling to help someone with AUD, reach out to a professional for help. They can provide you with the resources and support you need to deal with this difficult situation.