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If You Love an Alcoholic

Concerned husband embracing his sad wife in their kitchen, with her head resting on his shoulder
How can you help the person you love who is struggling with alcoholism?

Do you know an alcoholic? Studies show that nearly everyone in the United States has a friend or family member who struggles with alcohol addiction. About 10 percent of Americans are alcoholics and each of those 20 million people directly affects the lives of at least six others. So how can you help the person you love who is struggling with alcoholism?

  • Be informed. Perhaps it is the medical problems that excessive drinking causes or the social difficulties most alcoholics experience that will lead your loved one to give up drinking. The more information you have available about the dangers of excessive alcohol use, the more prepared you will be to help a loved one give up the bad habit.
  • Get support. Dealing with the difficulties of an alcoholic family member can be overwhelming and devastating, so don’t try to go it alone. Look for support networks or substance abuse counseling in your area; use this informational list  to locate a place where you can get help. Getting and keeping yourself strong will help you to be stop enabling and start supporting your alcoholic loved one.

Then based on what you’re learning in your support group or counseling:

  • Talk with your alcoholic loved one. Tell him your feelings, concerns and fears. The more candid you can be about your own struggles, the more likely he is to respond by sharing his fear of giving up drinking. Beware though — most alcoholics employ denial techniques that build walls between them and their loved ones. Don’t let the walls scare you away; keep breaking them down, brick by brick, with caring words instead of angry accusations.
  • Help your alcoholic loved one find a self-help organization. Fighting the disease of alcoholism is something few, if any, can do on their own. Meeting with others who are struggling with the same problems will help your loved one feel supported and accepted as he begins his recovery.
  • Provide support. More than half of all recovering alcoholics succeed if they have a support network of family and friends. And most of those who beat the alcohol addiction for at least a year can remain sober for the rest of their lives. But without a support network, nearly all alcoholics end up drinking again.
  • Do an intervention. If nothing else works, it may be time to intervene. Gather friends and family members who would positively impact your loved one.

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