How to Talk to a Loved One About Their Drinking

Alcohol use disorder doesn’t just impact the person who struggles with addiction; the entire family is affected. If your loved one can’t seem to control their drinking, you may feel powerless. After all, if they don’t want to stop drinking, you can’t make them. While it’s true you cannot force anyone to stop drinking, there are many ways you can support a loved one with alcoholism.

Understand Their Disease

The first step to helping your loved one is to understand why they can’t quit drinking. Their self-destructive pattern of behavior may seem insane to you, but when you have consumed alcohol over a long period of time, it forms a dependency that makes it impossible to feel normal without drinking. Your loved one may want to quit, but the extreme anxiety and physical symptoms they experience when they stop drinking prevent them from quitting. This can fill them with guilt, shame, and self-loathing, which only spurs them to drink more to escape their feelings. When someone has alcohol use disorder, they can’t simply stop drinking; they need a medically based alcohol treatment program to help them.

Open Up Communication

Your loved one may have no idea that you’re concerned, or may be so consumed by their addiction that they can’t recognize it. It’s important to open up the lines of communication so they can understand where you’re coming from. Talk to them about your concerns when they are sober and seem to be relatively receptive, and you are feeling calm. Make sure not to use accusatory language, and that they know how much you care about them. Be honest about your concerns. It’s best to have specific examples of how their behavior has impacted their health and the lives of their family and friends. It’s also best to stay away from labels such as “alcoholic,” and this can make them feel defensive.

Don’t Judge

People with alcohol use disorder often struggle with inner demons that do plenty of judging; the last thing they need is to face the same treatment from their friends and family. Alcoholism is a legitimate disease, and shaming them only pushes them further toward dysfunctional coping mechanisms. Judgment is not a good motivator for anyone to change, so whatever you do, approach your conversation without attempting to shame them.

Don’t Give Them an Ultimatum

You might think that if they really loved you, they would quit drinking for you. In reality, there is a biological reason why this person can’t stop drinking, and even if they want to, drinking heavily over a long period of time alters their brain chemistry to make it impossible for them to feel okay without alcohol. Giving them an ultimatum such as, “if you don’t stop drinking, I will cut you out of my life,” only puts them in a position of feeling more ashamed and isolated. Instead, offer advice and options for support.

Speak With a Specialist

One way to make sure you are as informed as possible for this conversation is to speak with an addiction specialist beforehand. Here at Go Sober, we can offer a free consultation that allows you to learn more about our alcohol treatment program and how it may be able to help your loved one go sober forever. This way, you have information that can help your loved one take steps to quit drinking if and when they’re ready.

Take Care of Yourself

It’s important that you not assume responsibility for your loved one’s drinking. While you can support them through this journey, at the end of the day, they must be the ones to choose to go sober. Many people experience what’s called codependence, in which they become overly invested in the drinker’s behavior and begin to sacrifice themselves for the sake of others. This doesn’t help you or your loved one. Make sure to get support from other people in your life. You may also benefit from joining a support group or seeking professional help from a therapist.

At our alcohol treatment center in Denver, we know firsthand how difficult it can be to have a loved one consumed by addiction. If you would like to speak with one of our addiction specialists, we would be happy to offer you a free consultation. Contact us to get started.

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