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How to Help Someone Who is Struggling with Alcoholism

If someone in your life lives with alcoholism, you likely want to help them get the treatment and support they need to recover from the condition. Many people who struggle with alcoholism refuse or deny treatment, especially early in the stages of their drinking, so it is up to family members and friends to help them get the treatment they need. Deciding what to do can be challenging, but it is essential to try. 

Understanding and recognizing alcoholism can help you know what to do to help an alcoholic in your life. While it can be difficult to help someone who is struggling with alcoholism, there are several effective steps you can take. Contact the Mandala Healing Center staff today for more information or support. 

What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is defined as physical and psychological dependence on alcohol. Someone who drinks alcohol heavily for a prolonged period may develop a dependency on it. When they attempt to stop, their body will be unable to adapt to the absence of alcohol, and the person may experience uncomfortable, sometimes dangerous, withdrawal symptoms as well as alcohol cravings.

In addition to a physical dependence on alcohol, alcoholism is defined by a lack of control around alcohol use. People with alcoholism may continue to drink even while facing negative consequences to their health, safety, relationships, or finances. 

There are four stages of alcoholism. They are:

  1. The Pre-Alcoholic Stage: Usually, someone in the pre-alcoholic stage will begin drinking socially. After some time, they may start to drink to relieve stress, which is called “self-medicating.” 
  2. Early-Stage Alcoholism: A person in this stage may need to drink more than before to get the same “buzzed” feeling. They may spend a lot of time thinking or talking about drinking and have binge drinking episodes. They may black out from drinking too much, drink alone, or feel unable to choose not to drink.
  3. Middle-Stage Alcoholism: At this stage, a person meets the criteria for an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) diagnosis.  People begin to have physical symptoms related to their drinking, including:
    1. Gaining or losing weight
    2. Feeling tired or rundown often
    3. Changes in their skin
    4. Tremors
    5. Red or swollen face
    6. Sweating
    7. Bloating

At this stage, people have developed a high tolerance for alcohol and may need to drink a lot to get the desired effects. Because of the amount of alcohol they require to feel its effects, people with middle-stage alcoholism often pass out when drinking. 

  1. End-Stage Alcoholism: People with end-stage alcoholism need medical intervention and treatment as quickly as possible. People with end-stage alcoholism must constantly drink because their body has become dependent on alcohol. Without alcohol, people may experience shakiness, sweating, nausea, insomnia, and anxiety. Some people experience hallucinations or have seizures during alcohol withdrawal. 

Without treatment, people with alcoholism risk developing severe health complications such as brain damage, heart failure, liver disease, certain cancers, and pancreatitis.

Taking the Right Steps: How to Help an Alcoholic

You want to help an alcoholic loved one–but what steps should you take to get them to begin treatment? Here are some things you can do to help an alcoholic get the support they need to recover from their addiction.

  1. Learn about addiction: Learn as much as possible about addiction, treatment, and life in recovery.  Read books or articles about addiction, explore local treatment facilities and programs, or join support groups for families of alcoholics.
  2. Act quickly: Alcoholism tends to get worse without treatment. You must act soon to help an alcoholic loved one. Be sure you have the support and assistance you need first.
  3. Plan an intervention: Take steps to plan and facilitate an intervention. A trained interventionist can help you plan an effective intervention.
  4. Find support: Seek support from an addiction counselor or support group. You will need to learn how to set boundaries and care for yourself while you help an alcoholic loved one.

Once you determine your loved one needs alcoholism treatment, you may begin to look for treatment facilities that offer the care they need. 

How to Help an Alcoholic Loved One Who Doesn’t Want Help

The negative, sometimes life-threatening effects of alcoholism may seem obvious to others. So why do some people with alcoholism refuse to get the treatment they need?

Many barriers prevent someone from seeking treatment. People who recognize the severity of their alcoholism may want treatment but fear losing their job, taking time away from their families, or facing judgment from others. In this case, you can help an alcoholic loved one by connecting them with resources, including:

  • Their doctor or medical providers
  • Local treatment facilities
  • Addiction counselors
  • 12-step meetings

In some cases, denial may prevent people from recognizing how serious their alcoholism has become. Denial can sometimes be so deeply rooted that it takes a significant event, such as a divorce, loss of a job, or an accident, to help them see their problems clearly. 

If your alcoholic loved one is living in denial about their alcoholism, an intervention may help them recognize they need help. To stage an effective intervention, you must plan and practice it beforehand.  Here are some steps to help you plan an intervention.

  1. Hire a trained interventionist to support you before, during, and after the intervention.
  2. Decide who will be present and when each person will speak.
  3. Write down what you will say and practice reading it aloud beforehand.
  4. Choose a place that allows for space and privacy.
  5. Hold the intervention during a time when your loved one is least likely to be intoxicated.
  6. Hold the intervention.
  7. Help your loved one get into treatment or keep your boundaries if they refuse treatment.
  8. Support the others involved. 

During an intervention, you must avoid anger, shame, or blame. Instead, focus on love, support, and confidence in their ability to recover from alcoholism.

Get Help Now

Alcoholism is a serious disease that can affect all areas of daily living and gravely impact an individual’s physical and emotional well-being. There are many circumstances that contribute to the progression of alcoholism, despite personal consequences and unmanageability.

All stages of this disease are treatable. A comprehensive treatment plan is necessary to make a full recovery from alcoholism. The Mandala Healing Center’s dedicated staff supports our patients every step of the way.

Although the decision to seek treatment can be overwhelming or intimidating for patients or family members, it’s among the most important life decisions anyone can make.

For more information about helping an alcoholic or to learn about our alcohol rehab center in West Palm Beach, contact the Mandala Healing Center specialists today.