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What can I do for myself?

By: Roger J. Gregoire, CAC

Educate
Educating yourself is an important first step in dealing with the problem of addictive drinking in the home. Read books. Go to your local library or bookstore. You will find wide range of perspectives on coping with addictive behavior and its effects on friends and families.

Use the information on this site. Search for other credible web sites for information, the Al-Anon site is very helpful. Rent/purchase DVDs about substance abuse.

Education is key in helping to understanding and coping with the chaos and confusion, and learning to deal with it. The more you understand the better you can respond using effective action. And not take the alcoholic behavior personally.

Ask for help.
Asking for help may be difficult to do at first but you'll be glad you did. After being isolated and dealing with an alcohol-dependent loved on your own for so long, this could feel like you are taking a risk. Do your best to overcome your anxiety, shame, and fear and seek out either professional help or peer support. As you begin to reach out for support you will see you are not alone.

Peer Support
Consider attending Al-Anon meetings in your area. Al-Anon is an organization that helps people affected by alcohol addiction to cope. Mutual help meetings can give you an opportunity to talk with others who are experiencing life with an alcohol dependent person. You will see how other members are dealing with feelings of anger, shame, and embarrassment. Anonymity is an important part of these meetings, allowing members to speak honestly and freely. In the process, again, you will begin to feel less isolated and begin a return to sanity. You may also use message boards like the one here. Read the posts, and when you are ready, express your feelings within the safety of anonymity. But always be careful on how much specific personal information you divulge online. Get a feel for asking honest questions in a safe environment.

Therapy/ Counseling
Helpful as mutual support groups are, there may come a time when you will need the help of a substance abuse professional. Find someone you can trust – interview the professional first to what his/her philosophy is and if it agrees with yours. Don't be afraid to keep looking until you find the right one. Use the treatment locator available on the AlcoholAnswers site. Talking with a counselor helps you to sort out and resolve the issues you are confronting and to support you as you deal with the chaos around the addicted behavior

Set Limits/Make Changes
There will be a point where you will need to initiate action. Even though you have been getting out and networking the chaos and insanity in the home must be confronted and dealt with.

You may need to set firm enforceable limits on the behavior of the alcohol-dependent person. Can you trust him or her to safely drive children around? If not, then a limit needs to be set. Can s/he care for children in the home without risk? Is your own safety at risk? As you take those questions seriously, you may have to set difficult limits and make personal changes as well. It may seem difficult to set these new limits at first, and possibly you may be made to feel they are cruel or punitive. Resist the urge to see your actions in a negative light. See the limits you set as for the good of the family and always with the requirement the alcohol-dependent loved one gets help. Include it in response to every insane challenge made by him or her. "You must get help with your drinking." Or "You are not safe with the children because you drink. Get the help you need." It is important you learn stay calm as you begin to set clear limits around real safety, for yourself and your children. There will be some of form of resistance, expect it. This is where your education and preparation are helpful.

Education also helps you to make needed changes in how you deal with the alcohol dependent person. Learning to identify nonproductive approaches and enabling behaviors and replacing them with more effective skills. Yelling, nagging, or trying to reason with an addicted person under the influence or sober may be replaced with a detached, calm focused approach. Backed by an awareness of the symptoms and having a course of action in place.

Most of all, as you undertake these efforts, remember when facing the alcoholic behavior...

DO NOT TAKE IT PERSONALLY.
TAKE ACTION.

When to leave.
Sadly, it becomes clear that sharing a home with an active self-destructive person cannot go on. The situation could break down into an on-going cycle of violence and abuse followed by profuse apologies and promises to never drink again – only to see those promises broken time and time again. The property, damage, the wrecked cars, and DUIs. The embarrassing performances in public and family functions. The verbal abuse, physical assaults. These losses become too great. The quality of life in the home is toxic. The alcohol abuser's behavior may lead to them being removed from the home by the authorities. But often it gets to the point where if the alcohol cannot be removed, then all that are affected by the behavior must vacate for the general safety.

When there is a clear and present danger posed by the alcohol dependent person do not hesitate to call authorities. Violence in any form must not be tolerated

Leaving the environment is an option and must be seriously considered. All along you have been educating yourself, and building a network of support. But you are unable to persuade your loved one to get help, and you feel you have made a good faith effort.

Your education, networking and limit setting are meant to support you as you seek to remove yourself from the direct distorted effect of the alcoholic logic.

Having a safe place to go in the event the alcohol abuser reaches a destructive level should be included in your planning. Family, friends should be brought into the loop if they are receptive and aware of the problem. Research shelters in your area. Again, calling 911 may be necessary to remove him/her from the home.

This dissolving of once viable, promising relationships due to the addicted presence is most painful and tragic thing to witness.

And yet, there is always the miracle of recovery. It is always available. Keep yourself whole and healthy, and keep hope in your heart for a miracle.

This page was last modified on : 10/28/2013

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