Alcohol abuse is a pervasive issue that affects millions of individuals and their families worldwide. It’s a problem that often starts subtly but can quickly spiral out of control, leading to physical, mental, and social consequences.
If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol abuse, it’s crucial to seek help and implement strategies for recovery. In this article, we’ll explore some valuable tips for handling difficulties with alcohol abuse.
- Recognize the problem. The first and most crucial step in dealing with alcohol abuse is acknowledging that there’s a problem. Many individuals try to deny or minimize their drinking habits, which can hinder any progress towards recovery. Self-awareness is the foundation upon which all other strategies are built.
- Identify triggers. Understanding what triggers the desire to drink is crucial for overcoming alcohol abuse. Triggers can be emotional, environmental, or social. Once identified, you can develop strategies to avoid or cope with these triggers in healthier ways.
- Avoid high-risk situations. It’s essential to steer clear of situations that may tempt you or your loved one to drink excessively. This includes avoiding bars, parties, or events where alcohol is the primary focus. If you must attend such gatherings, have a plan in place to resist temptation and leave if necessary.
- 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.
- Set realistic goals. Establish clear and achievable goals for your recovery journey. This might include reducing alcohol consumption gradually, maintaining abstinence, or attending therapy sessions regularly. Setting and accomplishing these goals can boost your confidence and motivation.
- Create a structured routine. Structure and routine can help provide stability during the recovery process. Plan your days with meaningful activities, set regular sleep patterns, and prioritize self-care. A structured routine reduces idle time, which can be a trigger for alcohol consumption.
- Celebrate small victories. Celebrate the achievements along the way, no matter how small they may seem. Marking milestones in your recovery can boost your morale and remind you of the progress you’ve made.
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.
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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 can create 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 can be 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 can take 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 may 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.
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