How to Talk to Your Family Member About Their Alcoholism
- Mandy Sandhu
- 2 Jun 2020
Talking to a family member or loved one about their alcoholism can be an intimidating thing. It can be a sensitive topic that a lot of people tread carefully around or avoid altogether. It’s understandable if you’re nervous or afraid of hurting your loved ones feelings, but it’s important to have that initial discussion about alcoholism with them as the first step in their recovery.
In this blog, we’ll discuss what alcoholism signs you can look for and tips for staging an intervention.
Signs a Family Member Is an Alcoholic
A 2013 study revealed that Canadians drink alcohol 50 percent more than the rest of the world. Younger Canadians, aged 15 to 29 years old, were found to be notoriously the most unhealthy alcohol drinkers.
However, having one too many drinks at a party does not automatically equate alcoholism. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines alcoholism as a drinking problem that has become severe and medically diagnosed as alcohol use disorder (AUD). In this sense, it has become a chronic relapsing brain disease that involves compulsive and uncontrollable alcohol intake and a negative emotional state when one is not drinking.
Specific behavioural patterns indicate when alcohol consumption becomes an addiction. Here are some clues to watch out for that suggest if someone in the family might be an alcoholic:
- Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol for an extended period
- An extremely high tolerance of alcohol that pushes the person to drink more to get that “buzz”
- Insatiable and constant craving for alcohol
- Uncontrollable consumption of alcohol and always drinking more than initially intended
- Inability to stop one’s self from drinking despite others’ protests
- Deliberately lying or keeping drinking habits a secret
- Failure to perform responsibilities at work, school, or home
- Strains in relationships surrounding issues with alcohol dependency
- Episodes of complete blackouts and short-term memory loss
- Skipping social activities with family and friends to spend more time drinking or recovering from a hangover
- A tendency to end up in dangerous situations or to harm other people while drinking
- Severe withdrawal symptoms when not drinking, such as anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, and irritability
In addition to these red flags, there are also physical symptoms that signal serious alcohol dependence, including bloodshot eyes, a seemingly perpetual state of drowsiness or lethargy, slurring speech, gastrointestinal disorders, and constantly looking flushed or red-faced.
What Is an Alcoholic Intervention?
Frequently, people who have an addiction are in denial that they have a problem. This is where an intervention comes in.
An intervention is a well thought out event or process that may involve the participation of close family and friends of the person suffering from different problems, such as substance abuse, gambling, eating disorder, and alcoholism. During the intervention, the person finds themselves in a room filled with people who they care about and who care about them.
Prior to holding an intervention, it may be helpful for family members and close friends to write down their thoughts and feelings in a letter. This can help keep your thoughts straight and say everything that is on your mind. In addition to your own thoughts and feelings on the matter, you will want to express the following:
- How everyone gathered shares the same concerns about your loved one’s current state
- The adverse health risks that come with the continuous overconsumption of alcohol
- How people are getting hurt as a result of your family member’s alcohol addiction
- Clear treatment options that they can take
- The consequences your family member will have to face if they refuse help or treatment
The ultimate goal of an intervention is to encourage your loved one to accept treatment right there and then. This is where it gets tricky because the subject of the intervention should not misconstrue this as a threat or form of guilt-tripping. That is why you and other attendees of interventions should be careful with the language that you use. You may wish to rehearse before holding the actual intervention itself.
Tips for Staging an Intervention
First of all, alcoholic interventions or any intervention for that matter should never be done impulsively or haphazardly. It is a tedious process that takes a lot of time, planning, and consulting among family members and a professional. Here are practical tips to consider.
Limit the Guest List
Do not invite people who may compromise the success of an alcoholic intervention. These include relatives who your loved one hates or vice-versa, people who have unstable mental health or who are also battling with alcoholism. The danger with this is that you want to create a controlled environment and if anyone goes off script, it can pose the risk of an undesirable outcome. Additionally, it is advisable not to include anyone in the family who is against the intervention as it can only create conflict and confusion.
Maintain a Sense of Loving Calmness When You Speak
Interventions are emotionally charged events. Your family member should not feel as though they are being exposed, shamed, betrayed, or that everyone is ganging up on them. Do not use the intervention as a way to lecture, attack, or confront them about previous fights. Be sure to brief other attendees about it, as well. Make sure that your loved one understands that you are acting out of love and that they will be supported every step of the way.
Do Not Do It Without Professional Guidance
Interventions should only be done with the assistance of a licensed alcohol counsellor, addiction therapist, or a professional interventionist. This mitigates the risk of having an alcoholic intervention ending badly. This is particularly important if your loved one has tried to take their life before or has talked about it, has a history of mental illness, or a tendency to become violent.
Reach out to Family Addiction Support Groups or Addiction Treatment Centres Near You
Inquire if they offer alcoholic intervention services and other types of addiction counselling. In some cases, the intervention can take place at a treatment centre or therapist’s office. Make sure your loved one is in safe hands by doing your due diligence with background checks and reading up on the safety and efficacy of addiction treatment centres before signing up with them.
Educate Yourself Before an Intervention
Whether you are thinking of staging an alcoholic intervention or personally reaching out to your family member, it is crucial to start the process by learning everything you need to know about alcohol addiction. Arm yourself with facts about the possible risks, triggers, prognosis, and treatments. The more well informed you are, the more effective you will be in supporting your loved one, and the less likely you will be caught off guard when an intervention doesn’t go as planned.
There are several resources online that offer insightful materials that will help you objectively understand someone who is grappling with alcoholism. They also provide access to credible scientific research that will give you valuable information as to the best treatment options to take. Alternatively, you can look into awareness and education programs offered at addiction treatment centres like Freedom From Addiction.
What If They Don’t Want Help?
An alcoholic intervention serves as a wake-up call to give the person a clear perspective of how they are hurting themselves and the people around them with their excessive drinking. Unfortunately, even if you do everything right, your family member can still refuse to cooperate, declining help or professional treatment. Chances are, they deny that their drinking problem is a big deal, or they do not believe you have the guts to act on them.
When this happens, you have to stay true to the consequences you outlined during the intervention. Stop any form of enabling, such as financial support. Working with a professional not only increases the likelihood of the intervention succeeding but they can also provide you with options for your next steps.
Professional Intervention Help
If you’re looking for professional help to speak to your family member about their alcohol addiction, Freedom from Addiction provides intervention services that can help. Contact us today to find out more information.
If you have pressing concerns on how to do an intervention or anything about addiction, we encourage you to use the Ask A Therapist feature on our website now!
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