It starts with a beer, a glass of wine or a cocktail. Then there’s another…and another…and another. You watch your family member or friend slowly change with each tip of the bottle.
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It’s a routine you’ve witnessed many times – and it never gets any less painful to watch. So what can you do? Addiction Psychiatrist Akhil Anand, MDoffers these tips to help you persevere.
1. Don’t blame yourself
take care of someone with Alcohol addiction can lead to worries and sleepless nights. You might spend a lot of time thinking about your actions when it comes to their addiction, says Dr. Anand.
If that describes you, take a step back. “You are not responsible for what anyone else does,” reassures Dr. Anand. “It is their decision to consume alcohol. Don’t carry that weight.
2. Protect yourself
“Angry drunk” is not just a phrase. This is often a reality that becomes more and more worrying with each downed glass. Studies show that the risk of situation turning violent is five times higher when alcohol enters the mixture.
If you’re planning to hire someone who has been drinking and has shown flashes of violence, don’t do it alone. Bring someone you can trust with you, advises Dr. Anand.
And if you feel threatened, call the police. “Don’t put yourself in danger,” insists Dr. Anand.
3. Talk to someone
Being close to someone addicted to alcohol can bring an immense amount of stress to your life. Lots of emotions – frustration, sadness, bitterness and more – can be swirling around in your mind.
Talking to an addiction counselor can help you better understand the situation and work through your feelings. Programs like Al Anon, Alateen and Anonymous families provide opportunities for emotional support.
“Remember to take care of yourself,” says Dr. Anand. “It’s not easy when your life intersects with that of someone struggling with addiction. It’s important to find an outlet where you can talk about it.
4. Learn to say “no”
When a person is too drunk or hungover to carry out their basic responsibilities in life, they often rely on those around them to get the job done. And too often, their friends and family take over.
But this attempt to be helpful can send the wrong message: “If you deal with their problems over and over again, they never see or feel the consequences of their drinking,” says Dr. Anand.
So take a step back and let them deal with the aftermath of their addictive behavior.
5. Don’t cover up bad behavior
Did a night of binge drinking leave cans or bottles littering your living room floor? Or vomit splashes in the bathroom? Don’t rush to clean it. Let the person who made this mess see it.
“It’s not your job to hide the results of their drinking so they don’t feel any kind of embarrassment,” says Dr. Anand.
6. Avoid negotiations
It’s natural to want someone you care about to stop drinking so much. Chances are your desire isn’t a secret either – which is why you should be wary if this person tries to “trade” an addictive behavior change for something.
“You can’t negotiate sobriety with anyone,” says Dr. Anand. “They have to take action – and it shouldn’t be up to you, making it worth it for them.”
7. Be honest
Don’t make excuses for someone’s addiction and don’t minimize it. “Be open and honest,” encourages Dr. Anand. “Communicate in a calm and constructive but not emotional way.”
8. Limit expectations
Celebrate if a friend or loved one with addiction takes a step toward rehabilitation…but don’t be surprised by a stumble. Relapse rates are common among those seeking addiction treatment.
An addiction is a brain disorder, after all, and not something that can be easily resolved. It can take 10 or more treatment attempts before someone makes progress in overcoming an addiction.
“It’s best to know,” says Dr. Anand, “because it’s very hard to see it happening.”
9. Stay positive
Dealing with someone addicted to alcohol is not easy. It can test your patience and break your feelings. But try to separate the person from the addiction. Do your best to understand that they are dealing with an illness.
“Let them know you care about them,” says Dr. Anand. “Offer unconditional love and give them positive affirmations. Be there for them as much as you can, but also be sure to take care of yourself.