How to Help an Alcoholic

Recovering from alcoholism is a daunting task. It requires education, treatment and steadfast support from loved ones. If you know someone with alcohol addiction, you can support his or her recovery in a number of ways.
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Alcohol addiction has devastating health consequences. The disease causes severe damage to multiple vital organs, including the brain, heart and liver. Over time, excessive drinking can result in co-occurring disorders, such as anxiety or depression.

Many people experiencing alcoholism are reluctant to seek help, possibly because of the stigma associated with addiction. Others want to seek assistance but don’t know where to start or how to find help.

You can assist loved ones dealing with alcoholism in a variety of ways. One of the most important ways to help is by steering them toward rehab, where they can receive evidence-based treatment catered to their specific needs.

Completing treatment can expedite addiction recovery. Providing support and encouragement to loved ones with alcoholism before, during and after treatment can help them overcome their disease and live a healthy life without alcohol.

Support Before Rehab

You may suspect that friends or loved ones are abusing alcohol. They may get carried away with their drinking during social gatherings or use alcohol when they wake up in the morning.

If you believe someone has a drinking problem, look for these signs of alcoholism:

  • Appearing anxious or irritable
  • Engaging in drunk driving
  • Stealing money to buy alcohol
  • Drinking heavily over an extended period of time
  • Showing signs of weight loss or weight gain

Many individuals with alcohol addiction need assistance, but numerous people with the disease do not believe they have a problem. Delaying treatment can exacerbate addiction. You can help convince someone to seek treatment for alcoholism in a variety of ways.

Start a Discussion

Talk to your loved one about the dangers of drinking and the effects of alcoholism on families and friends. People may re-examine their behavior if it is affecting their spouse or children. However, do not engage in this conversation while your loved one is drunk. Intoxication can lead to volatile behavior, and drunk people may not react well to serious discussions about their drinking.

Stage an Intervention

If someone shows signs of alcoholism and is reluctant to seek assistance, an intervention may be necessary. Interventions allow loved ones, counselors or intervention specialists to discuss the severity of an individual’s substance abuse. They aim to inspire people with addiction to consider professional help. When staging an intervention, you should enlist help from a doctor or therapist who is experienced with the process.

Suggest Alcoholics Anonymous

Many people with alcoholism seek support from Alcoholics Anonymous, a 12-step program where people with drinking problems can meet and connect with others in similar situations. But it is not common for people to overcome addiction solely by attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Using the 12-step program alongside treatment, however, can increase a person’s odds of achieving long-term recovery from alcohol addiction.

Endorse Rehab

Undergoing treatment is the surest way to overcome alcohol addiction. Under the supervision of trained medical professionals, people in rehab can receive evidence-based treatment that addresses their specific problems and unique needs. Through rehab, people can also learn the tools needed to avoid triggers that lead to alcohol relapse during recovery. You can find more information about rehab centers near you and the treatment process by calling a hotline for alcoholism.

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Support During Rehab

Overcoming alcohol addiction isn’t easy. Treatment takes dedication and perseverance. Over the years, countless individuals have left rehab too early. But the support of loved ones during this trying time can motivate them to complete treatment.

Families can support individuals in residential treatment. Many rehab centers allow for visitation throughout the week and during weekends. When possible, family members should engage in family counseling, which allows them to participate in their loved one’s treatment process.

Family involvement is more common in outpatient treatment, which allows clients to receive treatment while living at home. During this time, it is important for family members to provide emotional support and refrain from drinking around their loved one with addiction.

Treatment takes dedication and perseverance. Over the years, countless individuals have left rehab too early.

When you live with someone experiencing alcoholism, avoid enablement. Enabling occurs when someone implicitly or explicitly encourages a person battling addiction to use alcohol. Enablers often give substance abusers money to support their habits.

Providing the right kind of support during rehab can be difficult. In the early stages of addiction, families often experience stress and adopt unhealthy coping skills. In some cases, loved ones may resent a family member with substance abuse problems.

But support during treatment has numerous benefits to individuals with alcoholism. Receiving encouragement and compassion during treatment can boost a person’s morale. Knowing that loved ones care about their well-being can motivate people to improve their health and stay in rehab.

Support After Rehab

Treatment does not cure alcohol addiction. People with alcoholism may deal with triggers and cravings for the rest of their lives. It is important for people in alcohol recovery to understand that addiction is a disease and that relapse is a real possibility.

As a friend, you can provide support and assistance after rehab treatment. For example, be mindful of the person’s situation when spending time together. Don’t choose a bar or another drinking establishment when looking for a place to hang out. For people in recovery, these locations can trigger intense cravings.

Instead, consider sober activities. Fun activities that do not involve drinking include bowling, rock climbing, running, playing board games or watching a movie that doesn’t promote alcohol use. Engaging in these activities can help reduce stress and triggers.

Leaving alcohol rehab marks the start of a new life. People in recovery may engage in new activities and meet new friends. They may also participate in aftercare services, such as 12-step meetings, to achieve the benefits of quitting alcohol. It is important to support loved ones in recovery during this time and constantly encourage their resistance to alcohol.

Matt Gonzales
Content Writer,
Matt Gonzales is a writer and researcher for He graduated with a degree in journalism from East Carolina University and began his professional writing career in 2011. Matt covers the latest drug trends and shares inspirational stories of people who have overcome addiction. Certified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in health literacy, Matt leverages his experience in addiction research to provide hope to those struggling with substance use disorders.
Medical Reviewer
Ashraf Ali
Psychiatrist, Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health

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