Support for Loved Ones Struggling With Alcoholism
One of the biggest ways to support a loved one struggling with Alcoholism is to understand Alcohol Use Disorder (shortened for AUD). Alcoholism is a medical condition; it is not a choice. Once an understanding of how AUD works is established, you can support yourself and your loved one through this journey. Alcoholism and AUD are essentially the same things. The only difference is that the term alcoholism is used by the general public, whereas alcohol use disorder is the term used by medical professionals as an official diagnosis.
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences. It encompasses the conditions that some people refer to as alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, alcohol addiction, and the colloquial term, alcoholism. Considered a brain disorder, AUD can be mild, moderate, or severe. Lasting changes in the brain caused by alcohol misuse perpetuate AUD and make individuals vulnerable to relapse. (nih.gov)
Extended alcohol use and alcohol dependency physically and chemically change the brain. This means that individuals that live with AUD may struggle to stop using alcohol, even when they sincerely want to stop. Remembering this information and gaining an arsenal of knowledge about alcohol, alcohol dependence disorders, their side effects, and how it changes the brain can help you better understand exactly how to support your loved one during their treatment and subsequent recovery.
Tips for Helping Family During Alcoholism Treatment
Seeking treatment and beginning the recovery journey can be a mental and physical struggle for your loved one. This is a big step for anyone with an addiction to take, and it is vital for their success that they have a good support system in place. As part of your loved one’s support system, there are things you can do to help them be successful. It is important to note that you, a loved one, are not responsible for your loved one’s recovery. This means that the success of sobriety is ultimately determined by the alcohol-addicted loved one, but properly supporting them can help in the recovery process.
The first thing that is a great way to support your loved one is to allow your emotions to show that you support them. You may not understand what they are going through, but you can empathize with their situation. Imagine yourself in their situation, and act accordingly. You are being kind, compassionate, empathetic, and loving. Have patience with their journey, and remember that recovery isn’t linear. There may be slip-ups. In those moments, encouragement and understanding can go a long way.
It can also be helpful to send your loved ones gifts while they are in treatment. Journals, mementos, their favorite snacks, time-consumers like puzzles and coloring books, and crafting supplies can help your loved one feel your support. These items are also great for distraction. Ask your loved one’s facility what they allow, as some are very strict on what their clients may have while in their facility. This isn’t to limit your loved ones; it’s to provide a safe and healing environment for them.
Overcoming Alcohol Dependence is Possible With LOVE
Visiting your loved one both in a facility and at their home is also a great way to show your support. If they are not in a facility but are receiving outpatient treatment, go to their therapy sessions (if they want you to). Ask your loved ones if they would like you to drive or ride with them to appointments. You don’t have to attend the appointment, but having a supportive person during the drive there and home may be great for them. Make time to invest in your relationship with your loved one. Spend time together learning new hobbies, enjoying current or previous hobbies, just talking or hanging out.
Offer to help your loved one with tasks they need to be done, such as cleaning, cooking, helping with children, or other things around their home. Vow to not drink around your loved one, and keep alcohol away from situations you are together in. It is also your responsibility to recognize when your loved one may need space. Be consistent in your support, and make sure your loved one is comfortable with what you do to support them. Sometimes the best way to be supportive is to ask your loved ones what they need from you. Then follow through. One of the biggest ways you can help your loved one on their journey is to seek help yourself, too.
Going to Al-Anon & Codependency 12-Step Meetings
Being part of a support team for someone struggling with alcohol use disorder can be emotionally taxing. Add to that any trauma and conflict that happened before they started their recovery journey, and you can quickly get burnt out. Therefore, seeking help for yourself is one of the most important things you can do to support your loved one.
If there is a history of trauma or conflict, seek therapy for yourself. Sometimes this can be beneficial even if there is no history of trauma or conflict. Therapy can help you work through your own emotions during this time and provide you with tools that can be beneficial for supporting yourself during your loved ones’ recovery journey. The best way to help your loved one is to ensure that you are taking care of yourself.
Attending twelve-step meetings such as Al-Anon for families of those struggling with alcoholism can benefit your health. This allows you to meet others going through a similar situation and get your support system in place. Having a loved one with alcohol use disorder can be emotionally and physically taxing on you, too. You need support as well. It may be beneficial to set healthy boundaries for yourself and your loved one.
Make sure that you are also keeping your schedule. Keep a regular schedule, eat a healthy diet, exercise, get enough sleep, and stay away from alcohol yourself. Not only will this help you stay healthy, but it can also set a good example for your loved one. However, it is also wise to note that while these things can help your loved one on their recovery journey, some things should be avoided.
What to Avoid When Your Loved One is in Recovery
You should not do certain things when you are dealing with a loved one with long-lasting alcohol dependence. These things can be detrimental to your relationship as well as your sobriety. Again, their sobriety is in their hands; however, you can impact their success.
Things you should avoid when dealing with a chronic alcoholic:
- Do not be judgemental
- Do not drink or use substances around your loved one
- Do not take on their responsibilities
- Do not provide financial assistance
- Do not assume you know what is best for them
- Do not enable them
- Do not be confrontational
- Do not interrogate them
- Do not nag them or treat them like a child
- Do not dwell on the past
- Do not hold yourself responsible for them
There is a fine line between being supportive versus being enabling. Be open and honest with your loved one, and set boundaries for you both. Setting those expectations on both ends can lead to a healthy, happy relationship and success on the recovery journey your loved one is taking.
Finding the Correct Treatment Facility
At EVOKE Massachusetts, we offer comprehensive, integrated care in the form of intensive inpatient alcoholism therapy and alcohol addiction ambulatory detox to set a solid and lasting foundation for lifelong sobriety without alcohol. Our facilities are staffed by experienced and compassionate professionals, including licensed therapists and psychiatrists, addiction specialists, and highly qualified support staff. Evoke Wellness MA team members are extremely understanding and treat each client with an unmatched level of respect. Without expert care, Alcohol Use Disorder is simply too difficult to overcome alone.
The addiction treatment approach that is now available for an alcoholic relies on safe and effective medications during and after medical detoxification, along with evidence-based forms of therapy proven to help end alcoholism. Alcohol Use Disorder is a treatable condition that can be managed and overcome with the right guidance and support throughout the recovery process. Let Evoke Wellness MA be your guidance and support. Contact us today to start your recovery journey.