If your loved one has a drinking problem, it doesn’t only affect them. Alcohol abuse and addiction impact family members, friends, and other loved ones too. It can strain your relationship, cause you to worry and stress over their well-being, or lead you to deny their problem completely.
The good news is that you are not alone in your struggles. Scientists and medics across the globe are constantly working to provide effective advice and treatment for alcohol use disorders (AUDs). Around ⅓ of people who attend treatment for AUD have no symptoms a year later, and many others substantially reduce their drinking.
If you are worried about a loved one drinking too much, there is hope. Talking to your loved one about their problem and encouraging them to get help can be the first step on the road to recovery.
How Do I Know If a Loved One Has a Drinking Problem?
Drinking alcohol in moderation is a normal part of many cultures and not something to worry about. But excessive drinking or binge drinking can be extremely damaging to someone’s health, social, and work life. Consuming too much alcohol can increase your risk of brain damage, heart disease, and liver failure and leads to the death of around 79,000 people each year in the United States.
Sometimes it can be difficult to know if your loved one is drinking excessive amounts. However, recognizing a drinking problem is crucial and the first step in getting help. Here are some signs to watch out for:
- Regularly neglecting obligations, responsibilities, and commitments in their work, home, or social life
- Frequently binge drinking or drinking more than they say they want to
- Lying or trying to hide how much they are drinking
- Being unable to remember what they did under the influence of alcohol
- Continuing to drink even when they know it is harming their health
- Using alcohol as a coping mechanism or as a way to self-medicate for underlying mental health disorders
How Can I Talk to Someone About Their Drinking?
If you think your loved one is drinking too much, it is important to be open about your concerns. While you cannot force someone to stop drinking, you can let them know the steps they can take to address their problem. This might be speaking to a therapist, participating in support groups, or attending a treatment center.
Here are some tips to guide you through the conversation:
- Speak to your loved one when they are not drinking, and you are both calm and focused
- Voice your concerns in a compassionate way
- Encourage your loved one to be honest about the reasons for their drinking
- Don’t threaten to punish or bribe your loved one
- Don’t blame yourself for their behavior or make excuses for it
- Consider staging an intervention with the guidance of a professional therapist
How Can I Encourage a Loved One to Get Help?
Stopping drinking is not an easy process, and almost everyone needs some kind of support. If your loved one is physically dependent on alcohol, they may need medical assistance to withdraw safely. Even if they’re not, they likely need support to develop the skills to overcome addiction and make meaningful changes to their lifestyle.
You can encourage a loved one to get help by:
- Accompanying them to a meeting with a therapist or treatment center
- Being by their side when they call an advice helpline
- Helping them make a plan of what changes they need to make and how they can do it
Remember, even after attending treatment, your loved one will still need your support. Adjusting to a sober life and overcoming the challenges it presents can be a difficult process that requires energy and commitment. However, with the right support, sobriety is possible for anyone – and it’s absolutely worth the effort.