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Alcohol help - 6 ways to help an alcoholic

Published 14/05/2009

Are the drinking habits of someone close to you giving you sleepless nights or stressful days? If so, you're far from alone in your fears. In a recent survey conducted by pollsters YouGov as part of the Government's 'Know Your Limits' campaign, two in five of those surveyed said they were concerned about how much alcohol their friends and family put away.

The survey data shows that women are more likely to worry than men about others drinking too much (46 per cent versus 36 per cent), and younger people worry more than their elders, with 45 per cent of 18-34 year olds expressing concerns, compared to only 36 per cent of those over 55.

But whether you're young or old, male or female, there may come a time when your fears for a loved one's health and wellbeing force you to take action and urge them in the direction of alcohol help.

This can be an extremely difficult situation to be in. After all, an alcoholic cannot be forced to seek help until they themselves are ready to do so. But that doesn't mean you should wait for a crisis - an accident, medical emergency or violent incident - to make your move.

What's most important it that you time the discussion carefully, says Sue Allchurch, research director at Linwood Manor Group. "In order for your concerns to have the most impact, this conversation should take place at a time when the problem drinker is sober, you are both in a calm frame of mind and in a situation where you can speak privately," she says. "Above all, you should be sympathetic and non-confrontational in tackling the issue."

If the conditions are right, she recommends the following approach:

1. Be specific. Explain your concerns to the problem drinker and provide evidence. Solid examples of the way that his or her drinking has caused problems for both of you in the recent past will make it difficult for them to dismiss your concerns lightly.

2. State the consequences. Tell the family member that, until he or she seeks alcohol help, there will be consequences to the behaviour. These might range from refusing to attend social activities in their company to ending the relationship. Explain that your intention is not to punish them, but to protect yourself from the harmful effects of the drinking - but never make any threats that you are not prepared to carry out.

3. Call for back-up if necessary. If the family member refuses to get help, or even acknowledge there's a problem, ask a friend to talk with him or her. The intervention of more than one person, more than one time, is often necessary to persuade an alcoholic person to seek alcohol help.

4. Be ready to help. Gather information in advance about local treatment options. If the person is willing to seek help, call immediately for an appointment with a treatment program counselor. Offer to go with the family member on the first visit to a treatment program and/or AA meeting.

5. Stop all "rescue missions". It's often the case that friends and family 'cover up' for the alcoholic, making excuses on their behalf in order to get them out of the scrapes in which they find themselves. If rescue missions are stopped (for example, calling their boss to say that they're sick when they're really hungover), the alcoholic will fully experience the harmful effects of their drinking and therefore be more motivated to tackle the problem.

6. Get support for yourself. Even if your loved one refuses to seek alcohol help, you will need help yourself. Support groups offered in most communities include Al-Anon, which holds regular meetings for spouses and other significant adults in an alcoholic's life, and Alateen, for children of alcoholics.

Contact Linwood Group for confidential and professional alcoholic help for you or or someone close to you.

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