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How to Help an Alcoholic Family Member Without Enabling Them

Recovery Centers of America

Authored by Recovery Centers of America

Drug Addiction Help Done the Right Way

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder, can have devastating effects not only on the life of the user, but on the family members and loved ones close to them. The disease can take the love and concern we have and twist these virtues into actually helping perpetuate the disease. Figuring out how to help an alcoholic family member can be difficult, but it is important to do so to avoid enabling your loved one further.

Enabling refers to intentionally–or unintentionally–protecting an addict from coming to bear the full consequences of their actions.  It can be dangerous for the alcoholic family member and their family. It prevents the person from realizing the full severity of their condition. Therefore, it delays the time when professional drug addiction help can be introduced.

How to Help an Alcoholic: Five Signs You Are Enabling

Unhealthy financial support

Alcoholics can often be manipulative, and will do anything to find enough money to continue their drinking habit. They may ask for money to help with a car payment, or to make rent, or even for groceries; but the truth is they will spend most of what you give them on booze. The best rule to adopt is simply to stop giving any money to your family member with alcohol use disorder. This can be difficult, and may have negative consequences, but is crucial to avoid padding the consequences of their actions.

Putting someone else’s needs before your own

This can be as simple as negating your own emotional well-being in order to care for a family member. Putting an alcoholic’s needs above your own is another way of enabling them. You must come to terms with the alcoholic being responsible for their own actions and choices. The addict must learn that they cannot continue to count on those around them to help maintain their harmful lifestyle.

Lying to cover up for the person’s action

 Family members can be coming from a place of love in wanting to help appear that everything is normal. Helping to project a normal image to the world is however a form of enabling, though it may seem innocuous. Just keeping up appearances only gives the addict a convenient ruse to hide behind.

Blaming other people or situations for the person’s addiction

It can be reflexive to place blame on the environment or people around your family member. There are many factors that play into an individual’s substance use disorder. So, it is important to avoid writing it off as the responsibility of someone or something else.  Ultimately, our patient is the person who will have to go through the journey of treatment and recovery.

Acting out of fear

Addiction can create some very frightening circumstances. Take for example the emotions you would feel choosing to leave a loved one in jail for a week or two instead of posting bail for them. While it may seem like you are helping by bailing them out, your actions only serve as a buffer and reenforces the addict’s behavior as not having such terrible consequences after all. It may feel cold, but being logical and avoiding fear-based decisions is crucial for moving your family member towards getting clinical help for their addiction.

How to Help an Alcoholic: Three Ways Family Members Can Help

  1. Do research and educate yourself
    Understanding the patterns and dynamics of an addiction can help you be better prepared when the time comes to deal with the consequences. The more you know, the more you can anticipate. We absolutely encourage family members to attend counseling, or local Al-Anon meetings to help with the weight of dealing with a loved one who struggles with alcohol abuse.
  2. Host an intervention
    This may seem like a dramatic step, but when a professional is involved and the process is executed in an organized and succinct way, intervention can be successful in giving a jolt of recognition to an addict in denial. Get family and friends who care about the person, and maybe bring along a clinician with experience in how to help an alcoholic.
  3. Refer them to professional drug addiction help
    The end of an intervention is the perfect time to take the next step and present a loved one struggling with alcohol use disorder with a survey or possible treatment options. This will involve finding an addiction center in your area that will provide a range of possible services to get your family member the treatment required to accomplish a sober and stable life in recovery.

Recovery Centers of America offers 24/7 admissions, transportation, and intervention services.

Authored by

Recovery Centers of America

Recovery Centers of America



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