Living with a person who struggles with alcohol abuse can be difficult and exhausting. Remember to do the following when strife comes your way.
- Avoid codependency. One of the biggest problems about caring for a loved one with alcoholism is developing codependency. Codependency is when an individual enables an alcoholic loved one. In codependent relationships, partners sometimes remain in the relationship despite the harm their loved ones are causing, make excuses for their behavior and are unable to find satisfaction outside of making their loved one happy. Having an external source of self-worth is emotionally harmful and often leaves the caregiving individuals drained and unable to separate their own lives from their partners’ lives. Individuals like this usually provide constant emotional support and often financial support as well.
- Avoid enabling. The problem with enabling and codependence is that it takes the attention away from the alcoholic’s behavior and prevents the person from facing the consequences of his or her actions. To understand that there is a problem, individuals need to feel the pain that naturally follows their poor choices. Avoid enabling behavior such as lending money, making excuses for your loved one or padding consequences. Even something that seems as simple and innocent as cleaning your loved one up after a night of drinking can backfire. It is difficult to sit back and watch a loved one suffer, but it’s important to allow an addict to reach a point where the crisis cannot be denied any longer. Sometimes the best thing a loved one can do is nothing, except encouraging professional treatment.
- Never accept unacceptable behavior or abuse. Making excuses shows your loved one that the behavior is okay, which encourages escalation. If your loved one is a spouse or partner and you share children together, protect the children. Growing up in an alcoholic home is damaging for their emotional, mental and physical well-being. Beware of manipulation and lying, which are other common difficulties. Your loved one might freely make promises that he or she doesn’t intend to keep. Stay focused on your loved one’s actions, results and current situation. This isn’t a negative outlook. Never lose hope. Stay positive, but keep yourself rooted by having realistic expectations.
Resources to Help Care for a Person With Alcoholism
For more information on addiction recovery, look up the following resources.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
There are many government and private programs, resources and institutions for those who suffer from alcoholism, their family and friends. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a national helpline that is free and available 24/7. Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357). SAMHSA’s website also has an online treatment locator and the hotline provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups and other community-based organizations.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Al-Anon
Al-Anon is the largest support group for family members of alcoholics. Just as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has a 12-step program for alcoholics, Al-Anon has a 12-step program that members follow to learn how to cope with their loved one’s alcoholism. There are meetings both online and in person, in all 50 states and in many countries around the world.
Related Article: Worst Foods for IBS
Of course, while Alcoholics Anonymous is the most popular treatment program, some people struggle with AA’s spiritual focus. If this is an issue for your loved one, there are several other recovery groups to follow such as SMART Recovery, which is secular.
Online Resources for Information on Alcoholism
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has information on the causes, consequences and treatment for alcohol-related problems as well as access to publications covering topics like women and alcoholism, drinking during pregnancy, discovering if you are at-risk because of family history and harmful interactions between alcohol and medication. The American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry (AAAP) and the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) also have detailed research articles on alcoholism. Similarly, the American Psychological Association (APA) has many of the latest journals and reports regarding a wide array of psychological subjects, including addiction and alcoholism.
Caregiver Self-Care Strategies
Having a loved one who is an alcoholic creates many struggles and concerns. Even when he or she is doing well, the battle never truly ends, as recovery is an ongoing process. A spouse, friend or family member often carries the mental burden of constantly worrying about a relapse. It’s hard to accept that you don’t have control over your loved one’s alcoholism. No matter what you do or say, he or she has that ultimate responsibility.
The effort it takes to help a loved one stay sober takes its tolls emotionally and physically. Many caregivers put too much pressure on themselves and set unrealistic expectations. They hope to “cure” or “fix” the other party, forgetting that they aren’t a professional counselor or coach. They become too involved emotionally, which can lead to codependence, enabling and other issues. This is why self-care is so essential. Practice the following tips to keep yourself healthy:
- Remember to take some time for yourself and talk with others. It’s okay to have some time away from your loved one. If you are feeling overwhelmed, consider speaking to a counselor or therapist. There are also support programs for friends and family members of alcoholics. You, like many others, may have the incorrect idea that you are, in some form, responsible for your loved one’s condition. Your loved one may even say hurtful things to you, blaming you for his or her drinking problem. Letting go of this lie and misdirected blame is difficult, but a support group is a place to start to work through your feelings with people who can understand the situation. Participating in a support group or program is a constructive way to support your loved one while also giving yourself some much needed space to share thoughts and vent frustrations.
- Remember, it’s okay to distance yourself when you need space. If necessary, offer support from a distance and set clear boundaries. Do not tolerate any form of abuse. Alcoholism is sometimes called a family disease because it is known to have a damaging effect on relationships. Because alcoholism is painful for everyone involved, it’s often intense, stressful, sad and painful enough to tear families apart. Don’t allow yourself to get wrapped up in your loved one’s issues to the point that you lose yourself.
Recovery is a hard journey, but not impossible. Know that, when your loved one is serious about getting help and with your invaluable support, you can come through this stronger, together. Even if your loved one relapses or has another setback, always keep pushing for recovery. As long as your loved one has the will to keep trying, there is hope for new beginnings.
Related Article: The Health Benefits of Being Creative