Life With an Alcoholic
Living with an alcoholic can be difficult and if you want to make the most of a bad situation, learning to take the right steps is vital. You will need to focus on protecting yourself before you can help the person struggling with alcohol. Depending on the severity of the person's drinking problem, it can have a lasting impact on everyone else in the home.
Children are the most at risk for experiencing stress and depression when they live with alcoholic parents or other family members. In addition to harming others, alcoholics also hurt themselves more than they likely realize, and their odds of getting better alone are slim. Although ultimately a person needs to decide for themselves when they are ready for help, there are some proactive steps you can take in getting your loved one on the path to sobriety.
Some people live with an alcoholic and don't even notice the problem. Learning to detect the signs of alcoholism is the first step toward a better future when your goal is to help an alcoholic friend or family member improve. Alcoholics can hide their problem during the early stages, but concealing the habit gets much harder as it progresses. Keep in mind that not every alcoholic is unemployed or lazy. Many people are able to hide their problem for so long because they can be classified as a high-functioning alcoholic.
You may notice that your friend or family member drinks every day, though this is not always the case. Sometimes, instead of drinking daily, a person will drink only some days, but the amount they drink will be well beyond the "norm." Although some alcoholics will crave alcohol at all hours and want to have a drink when they wake up in the morning, this is simply not always the case. Unexplained injuries, blacking out, financial irresponsibility and overlooking daily obligations are some warning signs that you won't want to ignore.
Your Safety Comes First
When you live with an alcoholic, wanting to help her is a normal response, and you can do your best to make life easier for everyone involved. You must keep in mind that your safety should be your No. 1 concern, and you can never allow an alcoholic to take advantage of you.
If the alcoholic with whom you live gets violent after drinking, you will need to find a safe place to live as soon as possible. Small acts of violence and aggression can get worse over time, and you can't afford to expose yourself to the risk. If small children live in the home and are in danger, do what it takes to get them to safety right away.
Be Supportive Without Enabling Bad Behavior
Some people are so upset by their alcoholic loved one that they lash out and make accusations. Although that reaction is understandable, it will not improve the situation. Let your loved one know that he can come to you when he needs to talk about the problem or anything that is causing him stress. You should also let your loved one know that you don't blame her for the problem because alcoholism is a disease.
Even though you will need to be supportive, you don't want to enable your loved one's habit. If she asks for money to pay her share of the rent or wants you to cover for her when she misses work, don't do it. It might feel heartless, but taking the pressure of daily obligations away from the alcoholic will only encourage his behavior.
Communicate Regarding Addiction
When you are living with an alcoholic, staying quiet and not voicing your concerns can be tempting if you don't like conflicts. Looking the other way will only make the problem worse, and your alcoholic loved one might not even know the pain she is causing in your life. You can find a time to speak with your loved one alone and let her know how her alcoholism makes you feel. If your loved one is calm and receptive to your words, you are moving in the right direction. But you should change the subject and get to a safe location if your loved one becomes aggressive or violent.
Seek Support for Family of Addicts
Watching a loved one battle addiction can be an overwhelming experience, taking over your life if you allow it. No matter how bad you want to save your loved one, you can't forget to care for yourself. Going to support groups for family members of alcoholics is a great way to deal with the stress and to find healthy ways to cope with the situation in which you have found yourself.
Encourage Addiction Treatment
Since your loved one is unlikely to improve without help, always encourage him to seek treatment. In some cases, your advice and encouragement will be enough to make a positive change, but that won't always be the case. If speaking with your loved one does not do the trick, get as many friends and family members as possible together to do an intervention. It is helpful to remind the person that admitting that they need help is not a sign of failure, but rather a sign of strength.
Living with an alcoholic is often a difficult, challenging experience that not everyone knows how to handle. Once you have identified that your loved one is an alcoholic, take steps to help your loved one overcome the problem as quickly as possible. You will also want to ensure that you and your family are safe. When speaking with your loved one on your own does not work, consider getting help with an intervention. The steps you take now could save your loved one's life, and you will know that you have done the right thing.