One of the things that people with alcoholism will hear all the time is that they need to reach out for help, that there is support available to them, and that they should open up about their addiction with somebody that they love.
But what if you’re the person that an alcoholic reaches out to? Are you equipped to help them?
Imagine a scenario where somebody you care about is struggling with alcoholism, and they finally build up the courage and strength to admit that they have a problem, and to share this information with you. They could have reached out to anybody, but they chose you. That’s a pretty big responsibility, even if you didn’t ask for it, and you’ll want to do everything you can to help them.
But what if you have no idea what to do when somebody approaches you with this type of problem?
If you haven’t dealt with alcoholism yourself, you probably aren’t very familiar with any of the 12 strep programs or meetings that may exist, you don’t know about different online communities for alcoholics, and you might not know what to do to help them at all.
So, if that’s where you’re at, we’re here to help guide you towards helping the person you care about.
When an alcoholic approaches you to tell you that they want and need help, and to open up about what they’ve been struggling with, that means that – for whatever reason – they decided that you’re the best person to share this with, and their best opportunity at finding help.
Being equipped to know what to do to help them, and the things you should not do when you want to help them, will help increase your loved one’s chances of success.
It might not always be a very close loved one who reached out to you for help, either. If someone you live with, or a family member, or a dear friend reaches out, you’re probably willing to walk to the ends of the earth to help them. But what if a co-worker or someone you aren’t as close to decides to reach out to you for help? You should still do whatever you can reasonably do to help them, or at least to help get them on the right direction. You don’t have to dedicate your life to helping an acquaintance stop drinking, but even just being able to send them in the right direction would be the little bit of help that they need.
How Can I Help An Alcoholic? What Can I Do?
The amount of involvement that you’re willing or able to take on will probably depend on how close you are to this person, but even if somebody you don’t know very well reaches out to you, just remember that
Stop Doing These Things
Here are some things that the loved ones of alcoholics will often do, which aren’t helpful and can cause all sorts of rifts, programs, and stress. If you find yourself catching yourself doing these kinds of things, it is a good idea to take some time and reconsider why you’re doing it, and whether or not it’s really helping or just making things worse.
Blaming Yourself or Taking it Personally
If you blame yourself for their alcoholism, you’ll probably take it personally each time they drink or relapse, and you might start to feel offended and resentful, and you might start taking that frustration out on your loved one, and that could push them to drink more.
Part of being there for your loved one means recognizing that it’s a very personal struggle they’re dealing with, and it’s not about you.
Making Excuses for Them
Making excuses for someone’s alcoholism, or helping them hide and cover it up, is a very dangerous thing to do. It’s a form of enabling. Recognizing that there’s a problem, and working towards helping them get better and live a healthy lifestyle can’t happen if you’re helping them hide their drinking problem.
Living In The Past, Holding Onto Past Mistakes
If someone is trying to get better, and you’re always harping on mistakes from the past that they’re trying to move on from, or that they’ve already made amends for, this can make somebody feel hopeless – like they’ll never be able to escape their past, and it could make them wonder why they should even bother.
Start Doing These Things
To help an alcoholic, here are some things that you can do.
- Recognize the problem: Recognizing the specific signs that they have a drinking problem is important because there’s a strong chance they might not be willing to admit it yet. Having some “evidence” to present to them can help, but don’t make them feel like they’re on trial or like this is some kind of intervention. Just talk to them.
- Help them see for themselves: Many alcoholics know that they may have a problem, but not everybody is ready to admit it. Helping them see that alcohol is having a negative impact on their life is necessary for helping them take the next step.
- Let them know you’re on their side: Recovery is a long process, let your loved ones know they aren’t going to have to go through this on their own. Let them know that ultimately it’s their decision, but you support them and you want to help them.
- Put together a plan: Putting together a plan and doing some research is important. Whether you find a good book about quitting drinking to go over with them, some helpful videos, or if they need to check into rehab – let them know what to expect, because the fear of the unknown can make this process a lot harder.
Recognizing The Reality of How To Help an Alcoholic
Even if an alcoholic in your life wants help, and knows they need to do better for themselves, that’s not always a sign that you’re home free. Recovery is a process, it can be very channeling both for them and for you.
We’ve created this site to help alcoholics stop drinking, but another major focus is to help their loved ones learn to navigate the process as well.
We’re here to help you figure out how to help an alcoholic, from start to finish. It’s worth making the effort because you can save somebody’s life.