How do families get help when a loved one has alcoholism?

Nzinga Harrison, MD
May 25, 2020

Alcohol addiction impacts millions of people, as well as the people closest to them. It affects all types of families, no matter their background, race, or circumstances. Witnessing a loved one struggle with alcohol addiction can be stressful. It can be confusing or difficult to know how to help them with their struggle, especially if you are unsure when or how to start. Here are some steps you can take to get alcohol addiction help for your family.

1. Understand that your loved one’s addiction is not your fault

Alcohol addiction is often referred to as a “family disease” because it strongly affects the spouse, siblings, children, and parents of the person with the addiction. Family members are grappling with mixed emotions–loving the person with addiction but hating the effect that the addiction has on the person.

Living in a home where alcohol addiction is present can feel very tense, stressful, and chaotic. While you may feel like you are to blame for your family member’s alcohol addiction, remember, it is not your fault. Addiction is a disease and you alone are not responsible for causing it or making it stop.

2. Remember that you need and deserve healing for yourself

Whether or not your loved one is in treatment for their addiction, don’t wait to start the healing process for yourself and others in the family. There are special groups, designed specifically for families living with alcohol addiction, that connect you with other families in the same situation and facing similar struggles. Together, you learn how to best support your loved one throughout their recovery and how to cope with your emotions related to the addiction.

  1. Al-Anon and Alateen support groups

  2. SMART Recovery Family & Friends

  3. We The Village

3. Take steps in the right direction for supporting your loved one

As much as you want your family member’s addiction to stop, ultimately, it’s up to the person with alcohol addiction to seek treatment. But your actions can help break down the walls that addiction builds. Here are some approaches to take with your family member that can put them on a better path:

  • Try to love them unconditionally, and point your hurt and anger at the illness rather than at the person

  • Have an open and honest conversation with them about how they use alcohol

  • Share with them how their drinking has impacted the rest of the family

  • Encourage and support positive behavior changes

  • Hold them accountable for their actions

  • Never excuse aggressive or violent behavior

  • Explore treatment options that provide family support

  • Remind your loved one that recovery is a lifelong journey that you are here to support

4. Find a treatment program and heal together

There are many types of treatment programs and supportive resources available, depending on your loved one’s specific needs. Once your family member is in treatment for their alcohol addiction, some treatment programs offer family therapy, which can help you rebuild trust, communication, and stability. Some programs even provide community-based resources for families to help with any needs related to housing, employment, childcare, healthcare, and legal services.

If you’re seeking help with your loved one’s addiction, call us today to speak with an Addiction Treatment Specialist.

We are here to help you better understand your loved one and support them. Check out our eBook, “How to Help a Loved One Struggling with Substance Use Disorder,” for information on addiction and how to best help someone experiencing it while still caring for your own mental health.

If you need help with your substance use disorder, we are here to help you build your confidence and momentum towards the future you want. We provide treatment services for adults with alcohol, opioid, and other substance use disorders. We are currently located in Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, and Washington.

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Nzinga Harrison, MD

Dr. Harrison serves as the Chief Medical Officer for Eleanor Health with more than 15 years experience practicing medicine. She is a double-board certified physician with specialties in general adult psychiatry and addiction medicine. Dr. Harrison has spent her career as a physician treating individuals from marginalized communities with substance use and other psychiatric disorders. As a physician executive, she has served as Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer roles committed to creating and improving systems-based delivery of psychiatric and substance abuse care. She is a vocal advocate for stigma reduction, and is passionate about the necessity for whole-person care as individuals and communities seek to recover from and prevent substance use disorders.

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