Alcoholism is an unfortunately common disease. Chances are that one of your friends or family members is struggling with alcoholism right now; so what can you do to help an alcoholic friend? While it’s easy to feel helpless when someone you love is struggling with a disease as devastating as alcoholism, there are ways that you can support them in their recovery.
While it may be hard to confront a friend about their drinking habits, ignoring the issue can be even worse. If you’re genuinely worried that someone you love is an alcoholic, then you should speak up and begin the intervention process.
Interventions don’t have to be a dramatic affair, they can be a simple conversation. If you’re worried that your friend or family member may react badly to being confronted, then it may be smart to contact a professional with experience guiding interventions. NIDA, also known as the National Institute of Drug Abuse, suggests that you first ask your friend to speak to a doctor about their drinking. If they aren’t willing to perform this step, then it may be time to contact an addiction specialist who can help convince your friend to seek treatment.
While you don’t want to enable your alcoholic friend or family member, there are ways for you to encourage someone before they begin addiction treatment. Once someone agrees to go to treatment, they can get nervous, apprehensive, even scared of what’s to come. During this time period, it’s important that they have support from you. Here are some ways that you can help someone prepare for addiction treatment:
The time leading up to treatment can be a roller coaster of emotions for an addict. Offering your support through positive reinforcement can help quiet the anxiety associated with getting clean.
One of the benefits of recovering from substance abuse in an in-house treatment program is that you’re surrounded by people in a similar situation to yourself. That being said, a treatment center can feel like a lonely place at times. Your friends, your family, your everyday life can feel far away from you during treatment. While recovery is, in many ways, one-person’s journey, you can still play a role in their recovery.
Many treatment centers offer programs like family therapy and events for friends as well. This will not only make your friend feel supported, but it can also shed light onto the nature of addiction, making it a beneficial process for you as well. In fact, there are meetings designed specifically for friends of addicts. These meetings can help you set important boundaries, provide insight into the impacts of addiction, and teach you how to stop enabling the addicts in your life. Addiction impacts everyone, not just the addict. You may find that you enjoy therapy much more than you ever expected.
When your alcoholic friend returns from treatment, it’s important to keep in mind that this is a pivotal moment in their recovery. In some ways, it can be very relieving to return to normal life, but it can also come with a feeling of uncertainty. Home is a familiar place, but it comes with a variety of triggers and reminders of their substance abuse. You can encourage your friend to avoid those triggers, to continue supporting their recovery goals by attending outpatient meetings, and by continuing to be open and honest about their recovery overall. If your friend does relapse, which is not uncommon amongst newly sober addicts, encourage them to seek additional treatment.
Life after treatment takes adjustments. It takes time. And it takes effort. Don’t try to rush your friend back into their normal routine. You want to make sure that they stay connected to their recovery goals, and that they stay on track with their relapse prevention plan. You can even bond with them over their recovery by driving them to therapy meetings and other events. Make sure you support them through not only the fun times, but the tough times as well.