Helping an Alcoholic

An alcoholic may suffer severe physical health and psychological consequences. Alcoholism can also create negative impacts on your personal relationships, emotional well-being and career life. Many functional alcoholics manage to hide this problem for years without suffering any severe consequences. They can maintain their families and careers without any major damages. This makes it hard for them to admit they have a problem and sometimes their loved ones support them in drinking. Gradually, this form of alcoholism can lead to serious emotional and psychological damage to both the alcoholic and their loved ones.

Alcoholism can take a devastating toll on your physical health, your emotional well-being, your personal relationships, and your professional life. However, many alcoholics manage to function effectively, holding down jobs and maintaining households. They may hide their alcohol abuse for years without suffering any major losses. But under the surface, this form of alcoholism can cause severe psychological and emotional damage to the alcoholic and his or her loved ones.

What makes dealing with high-functioning alcoholics so challenging? Functional alcoholics are often in deep denial about their problem. After all, they have managed to maintain the appearance of success in spite of their addiction. But most high-functioning alcoholics have friends or loved ones who help them cover up the consequences of their drinking. These individuals may unconsciously encourage, or enable, the alcoholic’s behavior by allowing the alcoholic to avoid the negative consequences of destructive drinking.

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Alcoholics are master manipulators and as a loved one, if you are not careful, you might be promoting their actions. The most appropriate measure to be taken when it comes to alcoholism is counterintuitive. Sometimes just let the alcoholic face the consequences of their actions so that they can learn from them. Padded consequences deny the alcoholic the ability to learn from their mistakes thus repeating the same mistake over and over again.

You cannot save the alcoholic.

This is the predominant characteristic I see that drives most family and friends of an alcoholic. The disease of active alcoholism isn’t rational. You can’t reason with it. You can’t change it.

As painful as it is, you must recognize that an alcoholic will use the love you have against you. Problem drinkers are master manipulators, often seizing on the benevolence of others for their own gain.

When it comes to dealing with alcoholism, the appropriate actions to take are often counterintuitive. For example, when a loved one phones you from jail, asking for bail money, your love for him/her encourages you to provide the funds. Perhaps you’ve seen TV shows on jail, and the idea of a loved one exposed to that environment horrifies you.

Truth is, by bailing the alcoholic out of these problem scenarios, you pad the consequences of their drinking. “Padded consequences” prevents alcoholics from experiencing the genuine effects of problem drinking.

It isn’t easy to admit an inability to help a troubled loved one. It’s even harder to confess to yourself that in the face of alcoholism’s debilitating presence, your best efforts to battle it are inadequate.

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The first step towards successful countering with alcoholism is honesty. Accept that it is a problem and help the alcoholic deal with it. Ignoring the problem will only worsen the consequences. Ask other loved ones to help in the intervention plan. Ensure that all participants avoid personal judgments because this will discourage the individual. Let them talk about how and where the alcoholic’s intoxication affected them. Before talking to the person, make sure they are sober and not preoccupied with work or other things. Choose a conducive environment, away from noise and interruptions, to start the conversation.

Be Honest

If the person does have an alcohol problem, the best thing you can do is be open and honest with them about it. Alcoholism can lead to a lot of shame and embarrassment. It can be easier to deny or ignore the problem than to deal with it. The alcoholic prefers the feeling obtained from drinking to the negative consequences that follow it. Hoping the person will get better on their own won’t change anything.

Enlist Others

There is power in numbers. See if you can get other family members and friends involved in the intervention plan. Ask people whom you know the person trusts, such as a best friend, brother or sister, or a parent. Encourage all participants to avoid personal judgments, and to focus on situations where they were affected by the person’s intoxication.

Pick a Time and Place to Talk

Choose the right time to have this important conversation. It should be a time when you know you have the person’s full attention. Make sure they’re not upset or preoccupied with other issues. Most importantly, the person should be sober at the time. Have the conversation in a place where you know you’ll have quiet and privacy. You’ll want to avoid any interruptions or embarrassment.

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