If your family member or close friend is caught in the clutches of alcohol addiction, you may not know how to help. How do you interact with them? What kinds of treatment options are out there? And how active a role can—or should—you play in the process? While each individual case of alcohol addiction may have its own unique circumstances, there are certain rules of thumb you can count on to help you provide the right kind and degree of support. Let’s examine four sensible rules for how to help an alcoholic.
1. Don’t Play the “Blame and Shame” Game
Who takes the blame for a loved one’s alcohol abuse? The answer should be “no one.” But that isn’t always the case when a loved one struggles with a drinking problem. Blaming someone for being addicted to alcohol makes about as much sense as blaming someone for having a congenital kidney problem; it’s a disease with all sorts of complex biochemical causes and reactions. At the same time, you mustn’t fall prey to any attempts by your loved one to blame you for their addictive behaviors.
Shame is just as destructive as blame. You might think that making someone feel ashamed of their actions would prompt them to clean up their act. But, in fact, shaming your loved one over their alcohol abuse may only push them to even more extreme behavior. Research has demonstrated that drinkers who feel shame over their drinking will drink more—and relapse more frequently—than drinkers who aren’t forced to feel that extra emotional burden. Scolding, humiliating, or punishing your loved one is like throwing fuel on the raging fire of substance abuse.
2. Understand Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol acts on the brain in specific, intricate ways. The characteristic euphoria that makes drinking so pleasurable is the result of opioid receptors in the brain being stimulated by the alcohol. As drinking becomes a regular habit, however, the brain adjusts its biochemical balance to compensate, compelling the alcoholic to drink more and more to achieve the same effect. This “feedback loop” creates a formidable obstacle for anyone trying to stop binging, drink moderately, or give up alcohol altogether. The more you know about what you’re up against, the more easily you can seek the right solutions and understand your loved one’s needs.
Fortunately, there are many resources available to help people learn more about the nature of alcoholism and its effects. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism is just one of many online treasure troves.
3. Educate Yourself on Treatment Options
The modern alcoholism treatment landscape includes a wider range of options than ever before. The old 12-step model of “total abstinence or nothing” is no longer the one and only path. Now, your loved one may be able to overcome alcoholism without shutting alcohol out of their life entirely. Ria Health makes this adjustment as easy and effective as possible. Our telemedicine program involves medical supervision and the use of medications to break the cycle of addiction. And, using our smartphone app, we do it all in a comfortable, shame-free environment—the participant’s own home. If desired, Ria members can also invite their loved ones to be a part of their “inner circle.” That way, can stay informed and involved in their recovery and care.
4. Don’t Try to Force Change
No matter how much you educate yourself on alcoholism and its treatment, and no matter how supportive you are in presenting your loved one with options, remember that it’s ultimately up to the drinker to change their drinking habits. Don’t push progress or force them to get help; you might accidentally make them feel ashamed, stressed, or otherwise compelled to drink even more. Contact us today to learn more about what you can do—and what we can do—for that special person in your life.