How To Recognize And Help A Struggling Alcoholic

You may have noticed a loved one drinking frequently, but been unsure of what to do. Keep reading to learn the signs of alcohol addiction and how to help a struggling alcoholic.

Understanding alcohol use disorder and recovery

It can feel difficult and invasive to point out a relative or friend’s alcohol consumption as a problem that needs to be addressed, especially if the person is already having other issues. That’s why it’s important to research and understand the symptoms of alcohol use disorder, as well as what your loved one’s journey to sobriety may look like.

Alcohol use disorder can involve drinking too much alcohol on occasion, or being dependent on alcohol to get through the day. While the effects of intoxication are more obvious, Signs that your loved one may suffer from alcohol use disorder include:

  • Physical intoxication symptoms, including:
    • Slurred speech, slower reflexes, and impaired coordination
    • Difficulty concentrating, memory gaps, or blackouts
    • Risky behavior or poor decision making
    • Strong alcohol cravings that your loved one is unable to control or stop
  • Denial and defensive behavior surrounding drinking, including:
    • Lying about drinking
    • Hiding drinking from others
    • Having problems with friends and family due to their drinking
  • Continuing to drink despite alcohol causing problems, such as:
    • Legal issues related to alcohol consumption
    • Neglecting responsibilities
    • Using alcohol to cope

Being realistic about recovery

In order to best support your loved one, it is incredibly important to accept that alcohol use disorder is a chronic condition that your loved one will actively have to battle for a long time, if not for life. Many people assume rehab is a cure, and that upon completion their friend or family member will be fully healthy.

The truth is that recovery may not be as fast as you want or expect, and your loved one may even relapse. Alcohol changes your brain chemistry, which can result in your loved one making choices that would not have occurred to them otherwise.

While getting sober and healthy seems like an obviously preferable choice, it’s important to remember the journey to sobriety can be a painful one. Not only will your loved one face mental and emotional struggles that originally led to drinking, they will also be dealing with the detox process, which can range from highly uncomfortable to physically dangerous, depending on how much and how long your loved one has been drinking. A doctor may need to supervise the detox process and prescribe medication to keep your loved one safe, especially if they suffer from other health conditions.

Approaching your loved one

When initially approaching a loved one regarding their alcohol use, compassionate honesty is important. Let them know you’re worried that they are drinking too much and let them know they have your support. You should be prepared for pushback, or even anger – denial is a well-documented result of an alcoholic’s impaired insight into their own condition. Try not to take it personally, and allow them time and space to reply to your concerns.

If your loved one has rejected your and others’ efforts to offer support in addressing their drinking, you may want to consider an intervention.

What is an intervention?

An intervention is a carefully planned, coordinated effort of a group to confront a loved one regarding their drinking, presenting and enforcing consequences, and presenting a path toward recovery.

Interventions are often guided by professional counselors specializing in addiction. They can help you and the rest of your loved one’s support network with strategies on how to help a struggling alcoholic without enabling them to continue drinking recklessly.

The advantages of medically-managed alcohol detox and recovery

As mentioned earlier, alcohol detox can take a toll on both the mind and body. For most people, the worst symptoms peak 24-72 hours after their last drink. However, more mild symptoms can persist for much longer.

Typical symptoms of alcohol detox include:

  • Anxiety, irritability, depression, and mood swings
  • Fatigue, shakiness, and appetite loss
  • Sweating, faster heart rate, pale skin
  • Nightmares, difficulty sleeping, mental fog
  • Nausea, vomiting, and headache

People who have been consuming large amounts of alcohol for long periods of time are at risk of Delirium Tremens (DTs) – a severe alcohol withdrawal condition that can lead to death if left untreated. If your loved one has chosen to attempt detox without medical guidance, you should seek emergency medical treatment if they show any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever or high blood pressure
  • Extreme agitation or confusion
  • Seizures or hallucinations – including feeling, hearing, or seeing things that aren’t there

Knowing the detox process will be medically managed – meaning that doctors can help reduce and relieve some of the worst detox symptoms – may help a struggling alcoholic decide to accept help. An addiction specialist will be able to screen your loved one’s overall health and develop a plan for detox that ensures your loved one is safe and that withdrawal symptoms are being managed to the extent possible.

Aftercare – a key component of recovery that lasts

Once detox is complete, your loved one may need further counseling and support to maintain sobriety. This typically looks like an inpatient stay at a clinic or an outpatient program that lasts for a specific period of time. This counseling may be a combination of individual and group therapy designed to help your loved one learn how to cope without leaning on alcohol.

Drawbacks to in-person detox and rehab

While many benefit from the clinic experience, some people have difficulty applying skills learned in a peaceful clinical setting to experiences that feel comparatively chaotic in real life.

It may also be extremely difficult to convince a loved one to upend their lives to seek treatment for a month, especially when worried about how to explain their absence to others.

If this is a major reason why you’ve had difficulty getting your loved one to accept help, you may want to consider in-home detox and recovery healthcare services.


Elite Home Detox Can Help You Help A Struggling Alcoholic

If you believe your loved one may be suffering with alcohol use disorder, Elite Home Detox can help. Our Intervention Specialists will be with you and the rest of your loved one’s support network to teach you all effective and compassionate ways to help a struggling alcoholic accept treatment.

Should the intervention be successful, our medical team can meet with your loved one in the comfort and privacy of their home to design a detox and recovery plan that feels right and effectively helps them achieve sobriety. Dedicated care coordinators will help keep your loved one’s health plan organized and guide them every step of the way. We also offer addiction-informed primary healthcare services, offering treatment from experience with how alcohol may be impacting your loved one’s health.

We know that you may have questions about a program that doesn’t offer the traditional one-size-fits all approach found in clinics. We’re ready to answer your questions and help your loved one on their road to recovery. Reach out today!


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