Alcoholism is a serious disease that affects millions of people all over the world. It not only hurts the person who is suffering from it, but it also impacts their loved ones as well. There are many misconceptions about alcoholism, and often family members don’t know how to best help their loved one who is struggling with addiction.
How to help family members who suffer from alcoholism
However, as with most mental health issues, it takes a group effort in order to treat this illness effectively. That’s why it’s important to know the key things you can do to help a family member who suffers from alcoholism.
1. Adjust Your Home Life
There are three main factors that contribute to developing an addiction. The affected person’s mental characteristics, the broader socio-economic context in which they live, and their family relations. It’s important to note that even if you’re doing everything right – a person may still become an addict, simply because it wasn’t right for them. That doesn’t make you a bad person, parent, sibling, or spouse. But it does mean that some changes need to be made.
As the experts from Hired Power explain, recovery from addiction requires a firm and safe structure even when a person has already gone through rehab – let alone when they’re just getting started. That means that your home needs to become completely alcohol-free, for starters. In addition, you might want to avoid any and all large gatherings and don’t invite people over if they still want to drink around you or aren’t showing enough sympathy for the family member in question.
2. Responsibility VS Guilt And Blame
Addiction can cause many bad feelings within families, and it’s often difficult to know how to deal with them. You might feel angry at the person that’s become an addict, or you might feel guilty that you hadn’t seen the signs sooner. You might even be resentful towards other family members if you did see the signs, but they choose to ignore them. However, guilt and blame are the furthest away from being constructive feelings at this moment.
While it’s common and even normal to feel them, try to focus on the solutions you can provide, rather than the things that have already gone wrong. It’s important that everyone takes responsibility for their part in all of this – and yes, each family member has their own part to play. However, you should always refrain from blaming others and try to be as supportive as possible. And don’t forget – addiction is a disease, it’s not something that the person with it chose. So try and avoid words like “weak” or “stupid” when referring to your addicted loved one – they’re already dealing with enough without that.
3. Help Them Deal With Cravings
Like most mental health issues, addiction is complex and there’s a lot to learn. That’s why it’s important that you educate yourself on the topic as much as possible. This will help you understand what your loved one is going through, and it will also help you be more supportive in their recovery process. For starters, you want to know how to help them handle triggers.
In the early stages of recovery, almost everything is a trigger, so it’s next to impossible to avoid setting out cravings. However, once they do get cravings, you need to be a person they can talk to. It’s important to recognize that they are having cravings, accept that it’s happening, and think of at least five things that have set off the cravings, to begin with. By taking a comprehensible approach to the situation, you’ll help pull them out of the mindset and prevent any potential relapses.
4. Avoid Triggering Them
As already mentioned, there are lots of triggers for an addict that’s just starting out, and cravings are inevitable in the beginning. However, there are certain major triggers that you want to avoid at all costs. Obviously, the sight and smell of alcohol are a big one. That means that not only should you not have any alcohol at your home, but you need to avoid drinking as well. It’s best that you don’t even talk about drinking outside of the context of getting sober.
Stress is also a major trigger, especially early on. Addiction is often a coping mechanism, and getting sober is stressful enough on its own. That means that any jabs, fights, or overly negative criticism can be potentially harmful. Try and be as supportive as possible, and also make sure to keep the environment as stress-free as possible. There will be time during the therapy process where you can hash out everything that went down in a safe and constructive way. The first 6 months of therapy aren’t’ that time.
Helping a family member that suffers from alcoholism can be difficult, but with the right knowledge and approach, it can be a lot easier. By avoiding triggering them, helping them deal with cravings, and being supportive in their recovery process, you’ll be making life much easier for both of you. Remember, addiction is an illness and it takes a group effort to treat it – so be sure to involve the whole family in the process.