Having a loved one who’s trying to recover from alcohol addiction can be a very challenging and intensely emotional experience. They need all the help they can get, especially from those closest to them, and you know that. Nevertheless, you might find yourself unsure of what to do and how to be there for them. 

The act of admitting you have an addiction and making the decision to seek professional help takes a lot of courage and you want to show them how much this means to you and how much you want them to succeed in getting better. 

Make Sure You Understand What They’re Going Through 

Alcohol use disorder doesn’t just mean drinking too much or too often, it involves a compulsion to consume alcohol that the person is unable to control. The chemistry of the brain changes and alcohol becomes imperative in producing dopamine and reducing the physical and psychological distress associated with withdrawal. 

Those in their social circle may notice some signs of chronic alcohol use:

  • mood swings
  • continual digestive issues
  • shakiness 
  • they’re starting to have problems with their memory and ability to concentrate
  • their entire social life seems to revolve around drinking
  • they become irritable when put in a situation in which they can’t drink any alcohol
  • a smell that lingers on their breath and clothes
  • they can “hold their liquor” meaning they have built up a tolerance to alcohol
  • despite not getting drunk, you can see significant changes in their personality once they’ve had a few drinks

Some people who are struggling with alcohol addiction still manage to perform well at work, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not suffering. They didn’t just wake up one day and decided they want to become an alcoholic. In many cases, they have tried to reduce their alcohol intake repeatedly but were unable to handle either the impulse to drink or the symptoms resulting from withdrawal. 

 Most have a family history of alcoholism which put them at a higher risk. A recent study found that genetic factors account for 40 to 60 percent of the variance in developing an addiction to alcohol. It has to do with how their reward pathways react to the substance, how easy it is for their frontal cortex to regulate their impulses and how strong the signals coming from their amygdala are. 

Another factor to consider is how early they were exposed to drinking alcohol and how reliant they have become on it for coping with stressors or the symptoms of underlying mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

You Need to Establish Trust

This can be difficult to do if they have repeatedly broken your trust by making false promises or commitments. However, nagging, criticizing and lecturing won’t make the addiction go away. 

If it comes to yelling and name-calling, you’re likely to have to remove yourself from the situation and assess whether you, yourself, are able to cope with the resentment that may have built up over the years. 

You may wish to help, but if the relationship dynamic starts to fall into patterns of controlling behaviour, they will have an even stronger craving to drink in order to relieve stress.

On the other hand, trust isn’t about enabling a destructive habit. You needn’t shelter them from the consequences of their addiction and you should intervene when their actions become detrimental to those around them.

The ideal is to form the kind of relationship where they can talk to you about their difficulties throughout the recovery process and your bond and support helps them stay on track and not give up.

Get Professional Help

Depending on the severity of their addiction, they may need to take medications such as benzodiazepines to go through the detox phase and later disulfiram, naltrexone or acamprosate to keep them from relapsing.

The best approach is to take them to a rehab centre like that of Canterbury Healthcare because they can start having withdrawal symptoms as soon as 8 hours after the last drink with additional ones continuing to appear beyond 24 hours. After 2 to 4 days, more severe effects can start to emerge. 

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include increased heart rate, high blood pressure, anxiety, irritability, agitation and in more severe cases seizures and delirium tremens.

After the detox they can stay and receive inpatient treatment usually for 1 to 3 months or visit the centre regularly as an outpatient. They’ll receive psychotherapy so they can build skills that will prevent them from relapsing. 

You can join family therapy sessions or a support group so you can talk about the trust issues we mentioned earlier and repair your relationship. 

You’ll have a safe space in which you can communicate your feelings and the toll their behaviour has had on you. Don’t be offended if you don’t want to talk about some things, push you away or tell you how your behaviour has pushed them towards developing an addiction. This journey is not an easy one and change won’t happen in a matter of days. 

Recovering from alcohol use disorder is a difficult process both for the person who’s trying to quit drinking and their family. He or she will first need to get stronger in order to deal with the past, right now they have to take it one step at a time until they learn healthier coping mechanisms that allow them to deal with stressors and negative emotions.

What you can do for them:

  • find the right resources in terms of professional help
  • attend the family therapy sessions
  • go with them to support groups when they ask you to
  • help them navigate the system in terms of medical insurance, medical leave and paperwork
  • offer to drive them to and from the rehab centre and therapy sessions
  • remove any alcohol from the home and refrain from drinking in front of them even when going out
  • make sure they eat healthy meals and try to adopt a healthy lifestyle for the entire family until their cravings subside or they build up the skills to resist them
Author's Bio: 

Cynthia Madison