When someone you know and care about struggles with alcoholism, you struggle too. You may feel helpless or unsure of what to do, but as one of your loved one’s closest advocates and confidants, you have the power to truly make a difference. With the right information and support, you can help someone with substance abuse begin a lifetime of recovery.
Where Do I Start?
Addiction is a real disease, and it requires real, professional care. Researching treatment options is a great way to start helping your loved one. It’s also a great way for you to learn more about exactly what alcoholism is, as well as what it isn’t. Alcoholism is a family disease, and you can help a loved one with alcoholism by acknowledging the impact his or her drinking has on how you think and act. Alcoholism isn’t a choice. Recognize that your loved one isn’t to blame (no one is!), but he or she may be unable or unwilling to take the first steps toward sobriety.
Alcoholism doesn’t just go away on its own. US News shares, “The only way to address the progression of this disease is to provide your loved one with the necessary resources for a long-term recovery, including: detoxification to rid the body of lingering substances; inpatient treatment to give the mind, body, and spirit a break from the addiction lifestyle; therapeutic resources to address the root causes of the addiction; a sober environment in which to flourish and develop connections founded in similarities; and aftercare options for lasting recovery.”1
Treatment can reverse a lot of the changes addiction creates. It addresses physical, mental, and emotional health, which it’s why it provides the best chances of recovery. If your loved one doesn’t recognize this, it may be time to intervene.
Should I Intervene?
If your loved one struggles with alcoholism, yes, you should intervene. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you need a formal intervention. “Intervening” simply means stepping in, speaking up, and asking a loved one to pursue options for recovery. So, when should you intervene? As soon as you realize things just aren’t right! US News explains, “If you have a gut feeling that staging an intervention is the necessary next step, it’s probably time.” Addiction is a progressive disease, so the longer you wait, the harder things become. You don’t have to — and shouldn’t — wait for some mythical “rock bottom.”
When it comes to intervening, you’ll want a professional’s help. US News explains, “An interventionist provides knowledgeable experience on effective communication with active drug and alcohol users, which can provide the family with an ‘edge,’ if you will, that will increase the likelihood of the addict attending treatment.”
An interventionist will help you determine the best form of intervention for your unique situation. This intervention doesn’t have to be a structured, emotional event like you see on TV. Yes, it may take the form of a (calm, caring, and safe) group meeting with a professional present. But it can also be a series of guided one-on-one conversations with your loved one.
No matter the form it takes, an intervention asks a loved one to acknowledge the reality of the situation. It asks a person with alcoholism to look at his or her drinking and really see the impact it has on everyone’s life. It offers options for further help and support. And it helps you recognize when you’re enabling — or when you try to solve problems or otherwise do and say (or not say) things that let addiction continue. Black Bear Lodge works with compassionate, experienced interventionists. We can connect you to this all-important resource for helping your loved one who may need help with an alcohol addiction.
What Comes Next?
Once your loved one is getting the professional help he or she needs, or once you have done your best to get him or her that help, it’s time to look at alcoholism as a family disease. It harms the person drinking, but it also harms you and all of the addicted person’s loved ones.
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence explains, “The disease of alcoholism and addiction is a family disease and affects everyone close to the person. Not only does the alcohol or drug user need help, so do you, even if you don’t realize it at the time. You and other family members need and deserve appropriate education, help, and support in finding healthy ways to overcome the negative effects of the disease.” 2
This means everyone needs to be involved in the treatment and recovery journey. Comprehensive treatment programs like Black Bear Lodge recognize the importance of family in the recovery journey. Find treatment that offers family therapy and family events. And find therapy and support just for you too! Protect your own mental health and wellbeing. Learn how to avoid enabling and set healthy boundaries and consequences. Getting help for yourself ultimately means you can better help the individual with alcoholism in your life.
By Alanna Hilbink, Contributing Writer
1 Jordan, De Anna. “When to Stage an Intervention.” U.S. News. 28 Nov. 2016. Accessed 8 Apr. 2018.
2 “Alcohol and Drug Abuse Affects Everyone in the Family.” National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. 26 Jul. 2015. Accessed 6 Apr. 2018.