How to help an alcoholic in your family?

help alcoholic in family

How to help an alcoholic in your family? People refer to alcoholism as a family disease, one that reaches out and touches the whole family.

So what are these damaging effects exactly, and how do you lend support to a family member who is suffering from alcoholism?

Alcoholism- A Family Disease?

OK, let’s start looking at the factors.  Let’s start with the children. Quiz: one parent is an alcoholic and the other isn’t.  Who does the child have an easier time reading and dealing with?  That’s right, ironically, the alcoholic.  Yes.  Children use their intuition to gauge the drinking parent’s moods and swings.  You guessed right: the alcoholic parent provides a huge target compared to the non-alcoholic.  The studies I found said that the non-drinker will pose a bit of a problem because the child can’t just say, “Dad acts weird when he comes back from his poker game,” etc.

The relevance to this is not that mommy should start drinking, but that the problem is that the child might be relating to the alcoholism better and almost seeing it as something positive.  But, also, if the child is feeling a distance from either parent, that’s a problem.

How Can You Help?

Evaluate Your Own Behavior.

This all about going in and being as much of a hero as you can be.  Not a superhero with a cape, but what you can do.  To be as big a part of the solution as you possible can be, you have to make sure that your efforts are truly helpful.  No one’s doubting your intentions—you’re well-meaning to be sure.  But the idea is to be effective and successful.

There’s a fine line between being supportive of your spouse or other family member, trying to keep that person feeling appreciated, and helping that person stay dependent.  So, if you’ve called in sick for the alcoholic—we’ll call him Duane—to cover for him, or have defended something Duane did when he was drunk, you may unfortunately not be helping any.  At some point, you’ll have to put your foot down, tough though it may be.  Duane will probably give you all sorts of crap whenever you withhold help, and that’s hard.  I’ve been the Duane, trust me.  And looking back, I know how unfair I was to the person and how much I was holding myself back.

How Can You Get Duane to Stop?

You’ve been exercising tough love.  You’re cutting Duane off from your enabling behavior.  But you have to go one step further: you have to actually get him to stop.  You’re probably enthusiastic and you may be armed with 5 steps or 6 tips.  You’ve discussed things with Duane and you may feel he’s right on the runway of getting ready to actually make the change he needs to make.

Don’t let that enthusiasm flag.  But do take a calm, strategic approach.  Remember that Duane started drinking for reasons.  Those angsts are still there in addition to the drinking problem.  Emotionally, Duane is fragile.  The drinking has become a family disease but it did start with him and radiate outward.  That’s something for you to always have in mind.

The biggest thing to do is partner yourself with Duane.  You have to let him know that while his quitting is key, you’re willing to approach things as a helper, not an adversary.  He’s hurt you and the family, and you’re trying to keep the family together, yes.  You have every right to be mad at him.  But it can’t be a “Do X or you’re out” approach or a game in which you and your kids are to be the winner and Duane is to be the loser.

You really have to frame things as a project with which you are longing to give your aid.  This will at least prevent Duane from feeling anger or resentment.


An intervention is a sort of meeting at which the addict is made to face their problem and the damage it is causing at the prompting of their family, friends and other loved ones. The goal of an intervention is to get Duane to admit he has a problem, and to get him to accept help, typically in the form of counseling or a treatment program. The environment is key to a successful intervention.

It must be remembered that there is no guarantee of success with an intervention; but an intervention is distinct from making declarations or statements when Duane is drunk.  It’s organized and complete, rather than a string of random comments at various times.

Intervention- The Key Steps.

We’ve discussed the pros and cons of staging an intervention in order to help your loved one, but if you’ve decided upon it as a course of action, what do you do? Below are the essential steps to an effective intervention.

1: Contact a Professional.

Research the addiction treatment and rehabilitation options in your area. Seek out the professional who best suits your family’s situation, and try to find someone whose personality Duane will respond to.

2: Gather the Contributors

. You’ll need to draw up a list of who will be involved in the intervention; it can consist of anyone from family through to friends and possibly even coworkers.  It can be good for a lot of the “stakeholders” to be involved—this holistic and varied set of perspectives can be just what Duane needs, yet you don’t want to make him feel too ganged up on.

3: Meet Prior to the Intervention.

The intervention participants should meet with the rehab professional to discuss what is to be achieved and how it should be carried out.  The professional can help assure that you’re all on the right page.  S/he might help keep some of the people from being too judgmental or just too blunt.

4: Intervention.

This is the big moment, when Duane is confronted by his loved ones, who will honestly and empathetically try to make him see the damage that alcohol is causing to their lives.

This is not an easy process, nor is there any approach or technique that guarantees success. Seeking ways to help your loved one is itself the first step. Once you know this, you can begin to conceive how you will show your family member the light as well, to allow you to plan for a new future together.

Photo Credit Boots McEnzie on Flickr