What Can I Do If A Family Member Drinks Too Much?

Are you worried about a family member’s drinking habits?  Do you see signs that may indicate that a family member is either abusing alcohol or that a dependence has already been established?  How can you help and what kind of boundaries can you establish to maintain your sense of healthfulness and positive regard?

First of all, remember that there are a number of resources within your community that can help.  One of those resources is the Employee Assistance Program that is provided through your employer.  This is offered as a free and confidential service and can be used if you have any questions about a loved one who is abusing alcohol.

Having someone close to you who drinks heavily can cause a number of problems within your family.  Typical problems include:

  • communication with the person may become difficult
  • family activities routinely involve alcohol
  • problems/accidents occur creating financial, legal, and/or health concerns
  • arguments and violence become the norm rather than the exception

We are all responsible for our own behavior so don’t accept the blame for someone else’s drinking.  It isn’t your job to justify why another person had too many drinks or why they didn’t have the foresight to stop before they became abusive.  It is not your job to diagnose or fix the person.  It is not even your job to see to it that they get help. The best solution may be to provide guidance and local resources for your loved one. KeySolutions EAP can provide those resources and referrals that your loved one can most benefit from.

So what is the first step towards helping a family member get help for their drinking?   Approaching your loved one about their drinking habits can be difficult and create much anxiety and stress for the person who wants to get the drinking to stop.  There are a number of do’s and don’ts to remember.  Some things that you might try are:

  • Do your best to remain calm and unemotional as you describe how the family member’s drinking hurts you and others in the family.
  • Talk about the problems that his or her drinking is causing in an honest and factual way providing specific examples.
  • Make clear what behaviors you will not accept.
  • Make clear what action you will take if the drinking continues to happen.
  • Don’t argue with the person when he/she is intoxicated.
  • Seek out professional help from those who can provide you with the advice you need to deal with your family member’s drinking.
  • Do NOT put yourself in danger… if you suspect that the family member will lash out or become violent consult with a professional about how to intervene.

When a loved one is drinking, the whole family becomes unhealthy.  Co-dependency is a term used to describe unhealthy thoughts and behaviors that family members have learned in response to the chemically dependent person.  These traits exist as a result of the family member trying to cope with, and survive, the “crazy world” of the abusive drinker.  Defense mechanisms such as minimization, rationalization, and denial all protect the family members from admitting reality and seeing the truth about their loved one.  These unhealthy defense mechanisms must stop because they inhibit family members from being able to live a normal and happy life.

Caretaking, enabling, people pleasing and an overall lack of trust are other unhealthy traits that exist amongst family members.  Until the abusive drinker gets into treatment and recovery begins, the whole family will suffer and live a life of deception and dishonesty. KeySolutions EAP can provide you with the guidance and support you need to get help!

There are a variety of resources that are available for family members of an abusive drinker.

Al-Anon is a self-supporting organization whose purpose is to help families and friends of abusive drinker’s cope and recover from the effects of alcohol. Their program is adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous and is based upon the Twelve Steps. Al-Anon members give hope and comfort to one another and teach individuals how to live comfortably in spite of the effects of alcoholism.

Individual counseling is available through local mental health agencies… your fears and concerns can best be managed by talking with a mental health therapist or a chemical dependency counselor. Most of all, remember to use your employee assistance program when you have concerns about a family member’s drinking.  We are knowledgeable experienced professionals who can provide comfort and advice when life seems too difficult to manage and answers seem few.  Give us a call . . . we can help!

KeySolutions EAP: 605-334-5850 or 888-450-7844

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, please give us a call.

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