If you have a family member, friend, or loved one that is struggling with an alcohol use disorder, it can be challenging to create a concrete plan to help them. One of the first steps to fully understand your loved one with an alcoholic disorder is educating yourself on the following:
- Consider ways how to talk to someone about their drinking
- Make a solid plan for the conversation of confronting an alcoholic
- Educate self on various alcohol use disorders
Engaging in these steps will make for a smoother transition on not only how to live with an alcoholic, but more importantly, how to talk to someone about their drinking. Confronting an alcoholic isn’t an easy task, but providing the necessary support and getting them the proper help is worth the conversation. Whether the alcoholic is a family member, close friend, or partner, you can still play an essential role in their journey to sobriety.
This article will discuss various alcohol use disorders, how to talk to someone about their drinking, how to most effectively assist them, and also how to take care of your self-care and yourself during this entire process. It’s vital to remember that it can and most likely will take more than one conversation to persuade the alcoholic to receive treatment. However, by being diligent in showing your concern and support, you might be able to assist them in seeing that they have a problem and that it would be beneficial to receive addiction treatment.
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Drinking becomes more of a concern when the individual’s life is affected to the extent that they can no longer control their overall alcohol use. So, because of that, they continue to drink regardless of the extent of the negative impact it carries over their life. Once a person’s drinking progresses to this extent, the person likely has an alcohol use disorder.
An alcohol use disorder (AUD) is considered a chronic yet treatable condition that can develop in correlation with particular psychological adaptations and cognitive changes that make it increasingly difficult for an individual to stop drinking even if they want to. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), it’s suspected that someone has an AUD if they meet at least two of the following criteria that are outlined here:
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia, sweating, racing heart, seizures, shakiness when they attempt to stop drinking or reduce intake significantly
- Needing to drink more than they are used to feel the same effects of alcohol
- Continuing to engage in drinking despite the mental health disorder such as anxiety, depression, or a physical health issue that is either caused or worsened by drinking
- Getting themselves into dangerous situations during drinking or after drinking increases the chances of harming themselves or others (such as drinking before they drive)
- Stopping or cutting back on time spent on hobbies and other activities the individual once enjoyed doing so they can drink instead
- Continuing to engage in drinking despite the problems it causes with family and friends
- Being unable to meet responsibilities at home, work, or school because of the drinking
- Experiencing cravings, which also means feeling the need to drink to the extent that the person can’t think of anything else
- Spending a great deal of time drinking and/or recovering from drinking
- Expressing a desire to cut down or stop drinking but being unable to do so
- Drinking more often or even in higher amounts than originally intended
When an individual consumes more than one drink a day which is equivalent to a 12-ounce beer for women and two drinks per day for men, it might be considered unhealthy drinking. It’s important to remember that only a physician can diagnose an individual with an AUD. However, being aware of the AUD signs can help an individual prepare for a conversation on how to talk to someone about their drinking.
If you begin to notice particular physical changes in a loved one that could indicate they might have a drinking problem, it might appear as the following signs:
- Sleeping more than usual or appearing tired
- Alcohol on their breath
- Bloodshot eyes
- Unsteady gait
Once the physical signs of an alcoholic appear, behavioral signs might also appear, such as:
- Becoming frequently angry
- Moody, for no reason
The individual that you suspect might have a drinking issue might appear to be intoxicated, less interested in work activities, schoolwork, relationships, or might be unable to refuse an alcohol offer. Sometimes individuals struggling with alcohol misuse might begin telling lies or even being secretive about their alcohol use, whereabouts, or more. However, these factors alone aren’t indicative of an alcoholic problem, when it’s accompanied by other suggestive signs.
How to Create a Plan and Know What to Say
After you have established making an effort to understand what your loved one might be experiencing regarding their alcohol use disorder, it’s paramount to create a plan and write down helpful ideas on confronting an alcoholic. Overall, this part of the process is the most emotionally taxing. For this reason, it’s essential to prepare diligently.
Writing down the most important points you want to discuss with the individual can better help you formulate and remember your ideas for the conversation. The most central points that you want to focus on when writing out the conversation plan include the following:
How to Talk to Someone About Their Drinking?
During this step, it’s crucial to utilize “I” statements that can express your concerns, feelings, and ways that you are impacted by the individual’s alcohol use. For example, you could say the following, “I’m concerned about your alcohol use. I have noticed that I am becoming increasingly worried when you come home late at nighttime, and I don’t know where you have been.”
It is suggested that you genuinely express your feelings to your loved one by saying a phrase such as: “I am concerned that drinking so much every day is harming your health. I have noticed that you are sleeping all day on your weekends now.”
Instead of using those terms, focus more on the person and their behavior instead of the label. Individuals who are struggling with alcohol addiction can become defensive or upset when they are referred to by those labels.
Use more emphatic statements instead of blaming ones such as: “I know that you have been experiencing a difficult time at work and you have been feeling more stressed,” or “I know that you are feeling more pressure than usual.”
It is ideal to present options by stating something such as, “I was wondering if you would consider seeing a doctor talk about your alcohol use,” instead of plainly saying, “You need help.” Even if you feel that it’s obvious that your loved one should invest in seeking help, at the end of the day, it is always up to that person. You can always suggest that the individual seeks help, but you can’t force them into doing something.
Additionally, you should take some tactile actions before confronting an alcoholic and after confronting the alcoholic.
The first step is: Seek Support
Seeking support for yourself through therapy or resources can assist you in not feeling alone as you go through this obstacle. The resources might provide additional strategies suited to addressing the individual’s alcohol abuse issue and can also assist you in understanding what the most ideal approach is. There are various ways to go about this.
One idea is to discuss matters with a mental health or substance abuse specialist or therapist to advise you on how to talk to someone about their drinking. During this step, you might consider reading books, websites, articles, or accessing other free resources on AUDs also.
The second step is: Engage in Self-Care
It’s important to not forget about your self-care when being concerned about someone you love. Sometimes, however, it’s one of the first things that are pushed to the side. The unfortunate side of this is when you feel burnt out, you will be less capable of providing care and support.
So, remember to seek your own needed social support during this taxing time. You could start therapy with a mental health professional or counseling to discuss your feelings and process them. Another alternative is considering joining a support group for loved ones of individuals with alcohol use disorder, such as SMART Recovery for Friends and Family or Anon.
Ultimately, these resources can also help an individual learn and remember the overall importance of setting healthy boundaries with the individual with an AUD. Don’t forget that your needs are just as important as anyone else, and taking care of yourself does not make you selfish. Always remember, “Self-care isn’t selfish, it’s necessary.”
If you love someone with an AUD, you might unknowingly engage in rescuing, enabling, and caretaking behaviors. You might experience what is known as codependency, which is an unhealthy emotional reliance on your loved one. Talking to other individuals who have been in your position, for example, in a support group, can assist you in developing healthier strategies to protect your boundaries. By doing this, you’ll be less likely to lose touch with your personal needs.
The third step is: Make Sure to Have Treatment Options Ready
As a big part of the overall planning process, it’ll be essential to assemble a ready, quick, and accessible list of treatment options. If you can put yourself in the predicament of being able to say, “I have done some research, and I have found these treatment options,” then present them with a list of the readily accessible resources, your loved one might be more willing to consider addiction treatment. Research feasible treatment options online first.
This process will solidify the plan before speaking to your loved one. You want to make sure to make calls to treatment centers that appear to be fitting for your loved one. Afterward, you want to ask them if they have any questions about your findings.
Always remember that timing is super important when it comes to confronting an alcoholic. Normally, your loved one might waver between the feeling that they need help for their AUD and feeling like they can handle their alcohol use issues all on their own. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), individuals who need help for an AUD tend to slip through the cracks if treatment isn’t readily or immediately accessible to them.
The last step is: Participate in Your Loved One’s Treatment
Once your loved one decides to pursue and enter a treatment facility, you must be involved. Overall, the support of loved ones plays an important role in the recovery process. You might be asked to participate in family or couples counseling, or you might even be asked to start making changes to your behaviors, such as not keeping alcohol in the house or not drinking around your loved one.
Additionally, with the consent of your loved one, you might be asked to assist the treatment center with the overall aspects of the treatment plan, participate together in mutual support group meetings, and assist with setting goals. To avoid alcoholic relapse, family support will need to be incorporated.
Overall, you must seek help for yourself first and take the needed time to learn and understand alcoholism. Upon confronting an alcoholic, don’t try to control the person or “babysit their sobriety.” If you need a treatment center that is willing to stand in the gap for you, look no further.
We start our alcoholic treatment program with a drug detox to help the alcoholic overcome psychological and physical dependence on the drug. We’ll strive to ensure that the withdrawal process is as bearable as possible before moving on to treatment which includes partial care, outpatient treatment programs, and residential treatment to name a few. Let’s get started.
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Megan began her career working in substance use treatment at an inpatient setting where she found her calling for helping the young adult population. Megan has a Master of Science degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Monmouth University with a specialty in Addiction Studies. She is currently a Licensed Associate Counselor and is awaiting her credentialing to become a Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor. Megan has a history working in the mental health and addiction field utilizing CBT and MI approaches within her clinical practices.