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How to help an alcoholic family member


Having an alcoholic family member is difficult and, naturally, you want to help in any way you can. Learning how to help an alcoholic family member in a positive and effective manner is the first step you can take in offering your help and support.

The First Steps

  1. Learn what you can do to help. This is one of the most important things you can do. All too often, well-meaning friends and family think they know how to help an alcoholic family member and end up with opposite results that do more harm than good.
  2. Learn about alcoholism. Understand exactly what alcoholism is and how the addiction is different from a slight drinking problem. Someone with a minor drinking problem may occasionally drink too much but is willing and able to change his behavior. Alcoholism is an addiction and the person is unable to control his drinking without professional intervention.
  3. Build a support team. Don’t try to do it alone. The more your family member trusts and respects the members on the support team, the better chances are for success.
  4. Talk to your family member. Generally, alcoholics do not realize there is a problem until a family member points it out. Talk to your family member when he is sober and in a non-threatening, non-accusatory manner. Show him how is addiction is affecting all aspects of his life and that of his family. Be specific without being critical.
  5. Discuss quitting and rehab. It is likely that if your family member has been identified as an alcoholic, he has already had the chance to quit on his own many times and has been unsuccessful. Discuss the benefits or rehab and why it’s important.
  6. Allow your family member to experience the consequences. Many alcoholics are unwilling to accept help until they hit rock bottom. This is something you have to let them do without rescuing him from the consequences or providing financial support.
  7. Contact an intervention specialist or authority figure. If your family member refuses to go to rehab or get help, consider contacting an intervention specialist or someone with more authority.

Dos and Don’ts

  • Do stay positive and encouraging but firm.
  • Do avoid accusations, criticism, lectures and preaching.
  • Do allow your family member to hit rock bottom. Unfortunately, most alcoholics have to reach this point before accepting help.
  • Don’t give financial support of any kind. This includes buying groceries or making car payments.
  • Don’t feed the addiction by making accommodations such as locking up money or valuables, hiding the alcohol or adjusting your work schedule.
  • Don’t make idle threats or elicit promises. Actions speak louder than words and idle threats will accomplish nothing other than possibly getting an empty promise that your family member will not be able to keep.

If you would like more information on how to help an alcoholic family member, contact us at Help An Addict or follow us on Facebook and share your experiences with us.

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