Alcohol, while often socially acceptable and legal for those over the age of 21, can turn into a problem for some. In fact, alcohol abuse affects millions of Americans each year. And according to the World Health Organization, approximately 3 million people worldwide die each year due to alcohol use.
Alcohol Use Disorder changes the brain and impairs thinking. It can also damage relationships. So what do you do when your loved one’s life is being affected by excessive alcohol consumption, and concerns arise? There are options. And there is help.
Signs that alcohol may be an issue for your loved one:
• Drinking larger quantities of alcohol and drinking more frequently.
• Loss of interest in what they used to care about most, including hobbies, work and health.
• Change in daily patterns including eating and sleeping.
• Isolation and separation from close friends and family.
Once you identify that your loved one may be in trouble, there are steps you can take.
Identify how the behavior affects you and others.
Think about specific examples of when you have witnessed alcohol use getting out of hand and how that affected you.
Talk with other family, friends.
Speak with other family members and friends about your concerns. Ask if they’ve witnessed the same concerns.
Seek professional advice.
Contact a substance abuse professional, mental health professional, physician, member of the clergy or another helping professional to discuss your concerns.
Have an open and honest conversation.
When you’re ready to talk with your family member or friend about your concerns, be prepared. Set aside some time that works for both of you and when your loved one is not drinking. Make sure you let the person know that you care and that is why you are bringing this to their attention. Make the conversation a two-way street and be careful not to lecture or badger.
If they aren’t ready to address your concerns, ask if you can speak again in the future about the topic. Let them know you are open to listen and help.
Encouraging your loved one to get help.
There are many ways to successfully quit drinking — from a wide range of support groups including AA and online communities to out-patient or inpatient treatment centers. In some cases medical supervision may be needed to withdraw safely.
You can encourage your loved one to get help by sitting with them while they call a help line for advice or offering to accompany them to appointments with their health care provider, group meetings or counseling sessions.
You can also make a concrete plan together, detailing what changes they will make and how. You can help your loved ones by recognizing when they need help and intervening appropriately. Your role doesn’t end when your loved ones agree to seek help. Recovery is an ongoing process, requiring time and patience. But with your ongoing support, they can get there.