How to Deal with an Alcoholic

Discover how to deal with an alcoholic and find healing. Uncover strategies, support, and hope for a brighter future.

Leora BH Staff
April 4, 2024

Understanding Alcoholism

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a chronic condition characterized by an individual's compulsive and unhealthy relationship with alcohol. It is important to understand the nature of alcoholism in order to effectively deal with the challenges it presents.

What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is a condition in which an individual becomes physically and psychologically dependent on alcohol. It is a progressive disorder that can have severe consequences on a person's health, relationships, and overall well-being. Individuals with alcoholism often experience a loss of control over their drinking, continued alcohol use despite negative consequences, and a strong craving for alcohol.

Alcoholism is not simply a matter of excessive drinking or occasional alcohol-related problems. It is a complex disorder that affects the brain and can have a significant impact on various aspects of a person's life.

Impact of Alcoholism on Individuals and Families

Alcoholism can have far-reaching effects on both individuals and their families. The consequences of alcoholism extend beyond the physical and psychological health of the person struggling with alcohol addiction. Here are some ways in which alcoholism can impact individuals and their families:

Impact of Alcoholism

Alcoholism can have devastating effects on individuals and their families. Some of the impacts include:

  • Financial struggles and neglect: Alcoholism can erode the financial and emotional support within families over time, potentially resulting in neglect, physical and mental abuse towards children, and hindering the child's social development.
  • Intimacy issues and trust: Alcohol use disorder can lead to intimacy issues in relationships, causing breakups, estranged marriages, or lost friendships. Intimacy is defined as closeness or familiarity in a relationship, and alcohol addiction can damage these aspects and cause a loss of trust.
  • Codependency and abuse: Alcohol use disorder can contribute to codependency and abuse in relationships. Codependency occurs when a person becomes reliant on someone with alcohol addiction, and they enable the addiction to continue. Alcohol has also been associated with violent crimes and domestic violence worldwide [2].

Alcoholism not only affects the individual struggling with addiction but also has a significant impact on their relationships, social interactions, and overall quality of life. It is important to seek support and guidance when dealing with alcoholism to promote healing and recovery for both the individual and their loved ones.

Understanding alcoholism is the first step in effectively dealing with an alcoholic. By educating oneself about the nature of alcoholism and its consequences, individuals and families can better navigate the challenges and seek appropriate help and support.

Communicating with an Alcoholic

When dealing with someone who is struggling with alcoholism, effective communication plays a crucial role in fostering understanding, support, and the potential for healing. Here are some strategies to keep in mind when communicating with an alcoholic:

Showing Support and Understanding

Demonstrating support and understanding is essential when interacting with individuals facing addiction. Kindness and empathy can go a long way in helping them feel heard and supported. Avoid criticism, insults, and judgment, as these can hinder their path to recovery. Instead, offer reassurance, empathy, and encouragement. Let them know that you are there for them and that you believe in their ability to overcome their challenges.

Using Empathetic and Non-Stigmatizing Language

The language we use when addressing individuals with addiction is crucial. Stigmatizing terms, such as "addict" or "substance abuser," can further isolate and shame them. Instead, opt for person-first language, which emphasizes that they are individuals first, not defined solely by their addiction. By choosing words thoughtfully, we can reduce stigma and foster a more supportive environment.

Educating Yourself about Addiction

To communicate effectively with a loved one who is struggling with alcoholism, it's important to educate yourself about addiction. Understanding that addiction is a treatable medical disease involving complex interactions among various factors is crucial in offering support. By familiarizing yourself with the nature of addiction, available treatment options, and the challenges individuals face, you can approach conversations with knowledge and empathy.

Remember, effective communication involves active listening, clear boundaries, and consistent support. By listening more than talking, you allow individuals with addiction to feel heard and valued. Avoid interrupting, criticizing, or making their addiction the sole focus of every conversation. Treat them as individuals with their own likes, dislikes, opinions, and desires.

Communication with an alcoholic should also involve setting clear boundaries and being consistent with your words and actions. Communicate your boundaries clearly, avoid enabling or supporting addictive behavior, and maintain consistency in your messages. This helps create a safe and supportive environment while encouraging them to seek treatment and make positive changes in their lives.

By employing these strategies, you can establish open lines of communication and provide the necessary support to help your loved one navigate the challenges of alcoholism. Remember, seeking professional help and involving support groups can also be invaluable resources in this journey towards healing and recovery.

Strategies for Dealing with an Alcoholic

Dealing with a loved one who is struggling with alcoholism can be challenging, but there are strategies that can help both the individual and their family find healing and support. Here are three effective strategies to consider:

Active Listening and Open Communication

When communicating with an alcoholic, active listening and open communication play a crucial role in establishing trust and understanding. It's important to be kind, compassionate, and avoid criticism, insults, or judgment. Give them the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings without interruption, and avoid making their addiction the sole focus of every conversation. Treat them as individuals with their own likes, dislikes, opinions, and desires [3].

By actively listening and being present, you can provide a safe space for them to express themselves. This can contribute to building a stronger connection and fostering a more open and honest dialogue.

Setting Boundaries and Consistency

Setting clear boundaries and maintaining consistency is essential when dealing with an alcoholic. Consistent words and actions will help communicate expectations and avoid enabling or supporting addictive behavior. It's important to communicate these boundaries clearly and ensure that they are respected.

Establishing boundaries may involve defining limits on behaviors, such as not tolerating verbal or physical abuse, not providing financial support for alcohol-related expenses, or not covering up for their actions. By maintaining consistency, you can reinforce the importance of these boundaries and promote healthier dynamics within the relationship.

Encouraging Treatment and Seeking Professional Help

Encouraging an alcoholic to seek treatment is a vital step towards their recovery. It's crucial to approach this topic with empathy and support, emphasizing the potential benefits of professional help. Encourage them to speak with a primary care doctor or licensed therapist who can evaluate their condition, discuss treatment options, and provide referrals to rehab facilities.

Medically-managed detox is often the initial step in the treatment process for individuals with an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). During detox, individuals receive medications, support, and supervision to ensure a safe and comfortable transition to a medically-stable state [4]. However, detox alone is usually not enough for sustained recovery, and a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses underlying issues contributing to the addiction is necessary.

There are various levels of care in addiction treatment, including outpatient, intensive outpatient/partial hospitalization, residential/inpatient, and intensive inpatient care. These levels of care can be part of a comprehensive treatment plan for alcohol misuse and AUD. If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol misuse or an AUD, seeking professional help from qualified treatment providers can make a significant difference in their recovery journey.

Additionally, helplines such as SAMHSA's National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), offer free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information services for those facing mental and/or substance use disorders. Specialists can provide referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. The service is free of charge and can assist individuals in finding appropriate resources based on their needs and circumstances.

By utilizing these strategies, you can navigate the challenges of dealing with an alcoholic and support them on their path to healing and recovery. Remember, it's important to prioritize your own well-being and seek support for yourself as well.

Effects of Alcoholism on Relationships

Alcoholism can have profound effects on relationships, causing various challenges and difficulties for both the individual suffering from alcoholism and their loved ones. In this section, we will explore some of the common effects of alcoholism on relationships, including financial struggles and neglect, intimacy issues and trust, and codependency and abuse.

Financial Struggles and Neglect

Families and friends of individuals struggling with alcoholism may face financial troubles due to the costs associated with supporting the addiction. The expenses related to alcohol, loss of productivity, and increased illness can put a strain on financial resources, leading to additional financial burdens. This can result in the need for extra hours at work or even a second job to manage bills. As a consequence, individuals may have less time and energy to devote to their relationships, leading to feelings of neglect and emotional distance.

Intimacy Issues and Trust

Alcoholism can significantly impact intimacy within relationships. Intimacy, defined as closeness or familiarity, may suffer as a result of alcohol addiction [2]. The excessive use of alcohol can cause emotional and physical distance between partners, leading to breakups, estranged marriages, or lost friendships. Intimacy requires trust, and alcohol addiction can erode trust between individuals, making it difficult to maintain healthy and fulfilling relationships.

Furthermore, alcohol addiction can contribute to deception and mistrust. People with alcoholism may lie to their partners or family members about their whereabouts, activities, or the people they spend time with. Constant dishonesty can lead to sadness, resentment, and a breakdown of trust within the relationship.

Codependency and Abuse

Codependency is another significant issue that can arise in relationships affected by alcoholism. Codependency occurs when a person becomes overly reliant on someone with an alcohol addiction, often enabling their addiction to continue. This pattern can perpetuate a dysfunctional dynamic within the relationship, with one person assuming the role of the caregiver or enabler, while the other person remains dependent on alcohol.

Alcohol addiction has also been associated with domestic violence and violent crimes worldwide. The impaired judgment and behavioral changes caused by excessive alcohol consumption can lead to abusive behavior, which can be physical, emotional, or psychological in nature. This abusive behavior can further strain relationships and create an unsafe and unhealthy environment for all parties involved.

Understanding the effects of alcoholism on relationships is crucial for both individuals struggling with alcohol addiction and their loved ones. Seeking professional help, therapy, and support groups can provide guidance and resources to address these challenges and work towards healing and recovery.

Resources for Help and Support

Dealing with an alcoholic can be challenging, but it's important to remember that you don't have to face it alone. There are various resources available to provide help and support for both individuals struggling with alcoholism and their friends and family. Two key resources that can offer assistance are support groups for family and friends and helplines and treatment referral services.

Support Groups for Family and Friends

Support groups play a crucial role in helping family and friends cope with the effects of alcoholism. These groups provide a safe and non-judgmental space for individuals to share their experiences, gain support, and learn from others who are going through similar situations. One notable support group is Al-Anon Family Groups, which is specifically designed for friends and family members of individuals with alcohol use disorders. Al-Anon aims to provide aid through therapy sessions, resources, and community support, helping individuals understand that they are not responsible for the alcoholic's behavior.

Helplines and Treatment Referral Services

Helplines and treatment referral services can be invaluable resources for individuals seeking help and guidance. One such helpline is the National Helpline by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The SAMHSA National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), offers a free, confidential, and 24/7 treatment referral and information service for individuals facing mental and/or substance use disorders. Trained information specialists are available to answer calls, provide referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations, and connect individuals with local assistance and support.

It's important to note that SAMHSA's National Helpline does not provide counseling, but it serves as a valuable resource to connect individuals with appropriate local services. The helpline can transfer callers to state services or other suitable intake centers based on their specific needs and location. The service is available in both English and Spanish, ensuring accessibility for a broader range of individuals facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

If cost is a concern, SAMHSA's National Helpline can provide referrals to state offices responsible for state-funded treatment programs. Additionally, they can connect individuals to facilities that offer services on a sliding fee scale or accept Medicare or Medicaid. Those with health insurance are encouraged to contact their insurer for a list of participating healthcare providers and facilities [5].

These resources can provide valuable support and guidance to individuals dealing with an alcoholic in their life. Remember, seeking help and support is a sign of strength and can make a significant difference in your journey towards healing and recovery.

Health Consequences of Alcoholism

Alcoholism can have severe health consequences for individuals struggling with this disorder. Both physical health effects and mental health issues often accompany alcoholism. Understanding these consequences is crucial in addressing the impact of alcoholism on individuals.

Physical Health Effects

Chronic alcohol misuse can lead to various physical health effects. One significant consequence is the development of Wernicke's encephalopathy, a condition characterized by severe mental confusion, muscular incoordination, and paralysis of nerves that move the eye. This condition occurs due to a thiamine deficiency, which affects approximately 80% of individuals with alcoholism.

Continued heavy drinking can also lead to liver disease, including liver cirrhosis. Those with any form of alcohol-induced liver disease are at a higher risk of developing liver cancer. Additionally, excessive alcohol use can cause pancreatitis, a painful condition that can be acute or chronic, with severe cases being life-threatening.

Alcohol misuse can have detrimental effects on the kidneys. Long-term alcohol use can damage the kidneys, making them less efficient and potentially leading to kidney failure. Alcohol use can also cause rhabdomyolysis, which is the breakdown of muscle tissue into the bloodstream. If left untreated, rhabdomyolysis can lead to kidney damage. Furthermore, cirrhosis of the liver caused by alcohol abuse can also contribute to kidney failure.

Inflammation throughout the gastrointestinal tract is another consequence of alcohol misuse. This inflammation increases the risk of various gastrointestinal issues. Excessive drinking has also been linked to an increased risk of several types of cancer.

Mental Health Issues and Co-Occurring Conditions

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) often occurs alongside other mental health disorders. These can include depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, trauma- and stress-related disorders, other substance use disorders, and sleep disorders.

Anxiety disorders are common in the US, and 20-40% of people treated for anxiety disorders also have AUD.

Mood disorders, such as major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder, are also frequently linked with AUD. Up to 40% of people with major depressive disorder have had AUD at some point in their life.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is another condition that often co-occurs with AUD. Roughly 15-30% of people with AUD also have PTSD, with higher rates among military personnel and veterans.

Additionally, AUD increases the likelihood of developing another substance use disorder by 3 to 5 times. Over 40% of men and 47% of women with AUD have had another substance use disorder at some point in their life.

Understanding the physical and mental health consequences of alcoholism is crucial for addressing the overall well-being of those affected. Seeking professional help and support can be essential in addressing these health issues and finding a path to healing.


Contact Us

Leora Behavioral Health offers a comprehensive addiction treatment program to help you get your life back on track. Our trained professionals will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan that meets your unique needs. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, reach out to Leora Behavioral Health today.

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