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He/She won't agree to alcohol problem treatment - help!

Published 15/10/2009

For those living with a loved one who has a drink problem, it can feel like you are talking to a brick wall when it comes to encouraging them to get help. According to Alcoholics Anonymous, there has been a long-term increase in drinking since the 1950s, and we now drink more than double the amount consumed then. In addition, among 20-something women, 60% of the alcohol consumed is in bouts of heavy drinking (more than six units a day) and for men, half the drinking is done in bouts (more than eight units). The chances of living with an alcoholic are increasing, but what can be done to get help?

Whether you have been living with someone who has an alcohol problem for years, or you are watching your loved one begin down the path of unhealthy drinking patterns, there is support for them and you. Although you can't force an adult to receive treatment for their drinking problems (unless there has been a court-order following an arrest), there are tried and tested methods to coax them into getting help. Sue Allchurch, director of Linwood Group, explains further: "The first and foremost step in encouraging an alcoholic to get treatment is to stop all pretence. After drink related situations occur, the first tendency of many people is to try and protect the person who has drunk too much from the results of their drinking. Although it might feel like you are letting your loved one down, stopping this behaviour, so they experience the consequences of their drinking, is the first step on their road to their recovery.

" Timing also plays an essential part in coaxing a person who won't agree to treatment into getting the help they so desperately need. The best time to approach them is shortly after their last bout of drinking has occurred. Obviously it is best to wait until they are sober and fairly calm and it is vital to begin any conversations in private with them, rather than in a public setting. At this point it is essential that you be specific with them. Use examples of the ways that their drinking is impacting on you and the rest of their family and friends and include the latest incident as a prime example. Following on from this, you will need to implement a strategy of what seems like ‘tough love', which involves letting them know the course of action you will take if they refuse to get help".

Here are some steps that the Linwood Group recommends for those beginning the path of ‘tough love' to encourage an alcoholic to get help:

- Be clear - you need to make it obvious to your loved one what you will do if they refuse to seek help for their addiction. This is not to punish them, but to protect them from future harm. This could range from refusing to join them in any social activity where drink is involved to moving out if they refuse to get help.

- Know your options - gather information in advance about the type of help available in your community so you can call immediately to book an appointment for them with a treatment counsellor or a GP if they agree to get help. Offer to go with them if to the first meeting to ensure they see they are being supported in this first important step.

- If they refuse - If they refuse to get help, then it is time for you to get support. You will need to ask one of their most respected friends or family members to talk to them and reiterate the steps you have instigated above.

- Strength in numbers - if the thought of confronting your loved one on your own isn't appropriate, then seek professional advice on how to proceed. It might be appropriate that a healthcare professional or other family members are present when you confront the individual. However, group confrontation is only recommended once you have sought the advice of an appropriate healthcare professional as this type of intervention can be seen by the individual as you all ‘ganging up on them' and might have the opposite effect.

- Support group vital - not only is a support group vital for a recovering alcoholic, but also for those impacted by living with an alcoholic. A support group will help you understand that you are not responsible for your loved one's behaviour and give you the tools you need to put in place the appropriate steps to take care of yourself, regardless of whether your loved one ultimately chooses to stay sober or not.

So if you need to begin the process of helping someone who won't agree to treatment, but don't know where to begin, why not seek some confidential, professional advice from the Linwood Group on Free phone 0800 066 4173 (or if you are calling from a mobile phone or from overseas, call +44 1226 698 054.)


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