Alcoholism isn’t just a disease that affects the individual who drinks. It’s a family disease, affecting the drinker as well as the people around him or her – spouse, children, parents and employers. Social drinking isn’t the issue. But when someone chooses to drink despite the negative effects that drinking has on one’s life and loved ones, that is the definition of alcoholism.
Living with an alcoholic can be very chaotic, often unsafe and stressful. The alcoholic often attempts to hide the problem, denies there is a problem or makes light of the problem. None of these strategies change the problem or make the situation any less difficult.
If you’re living with an alcoholic, you already know this. How many times have you made an excuse for your loved one? How many times have you accepted the promise that they won’t drink again, only to be disappointed? How many times have you borne the guilt for their actions?
It’s often said, and it’s true, that the first step to change is recognizing there is a problem. The alcoholic won’t change until they can admit to themselves they have a problem. If that is where you find yourself, take heart. While it takes courage to talk with someone about their drinking problem, it’s important to try, and to keep trying, until they are ready to seek help.
In recognition of April as Alcohol Awareness Month, the professionals at Bluegrass.org offer the following tips for getting the conversations started.
Be honest about how you feel. Remember the person you love and what they mean to you. Remembering those feelings – and reminding your loved one of those feelings – is a great place to start. Examples of ways to start the conversation:
- I care about you.
- I’m worried about your health. Drinking too much increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, liver problems and even cancer.
- Drinking is affecting our relationship.
Suggest ways the individual might taper back or quit. Try:
- Maybe you don’t realize how much you’re drinking. Let’s try to keep track of it by writing it down every time you have a drink. Then, maybe we can work on cutting back a little at a time.
- What would you say about taking a night off from drinking once or twice a week?
- When we go out, instead of heading to the bar or other places that make you want to drink, let’s go someplace different.
- Maybe we could look for a support group where there are people who have tackled the same problems.
- How about talking to the doctor about your alcohol use? He might have some suggestions on how we could reduce your intake.
Offer your help and the help of others
- Whenever you feel like you want a drink, call me or talk to me. Instead of getting a drink, let’s talk through it.
- Let’s make some plans that don’t include alcohol. Like going to a movie, or for a walk or working on the house.
- If you know someone who has successfully dealt with an alcohol problem in the past, ask if it would be OK to have them call your loved one to provide help and guidance.
If your loved one is ready to quit alcohol, or just open to the possibility, Bluegrass.org is ready to help. Bluegrass exists to help people from every walk of achieve recovery from substance use and addiction. The 24-Hour Help Line 1.800.928.8000 offers support for people and families struggling with addiction. Bluegrass staff are available to answer questions and help your loved one begin recovery.
Bluegrass believes all people are capable of positive change and there is no wrong path to recovery. The organization is here to provide services and support to help individuals and families live their best lives. Treatment is based on the needs of the individual and proven to be effective and helpful in setting individuals on the path to recovery. For more information, call the 24-Hour Help Line at 1.800.928.8000 or learn How to Get Started with treatment.