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Three Powerful Ways to Help Someone to Stop Misusing Alcohol

Professional man in shirt and trousers in dark room pondering alcohol misuse

You’re the friend or loved one of someone abusing alcohol and you want to help them stop. It’s commendable, important and powerful to do so – if you do it right. Acting impulsively without education or planning, on the other hand, is a textbook method for pushing that person away or worse.

Today, Help Me Stop’s addiction specialists are here to list three powerful and achievable actions you can take to support a person in their fight against alcohol abuse.

Step one: Educate and unlearn.

We all have stigmas and biases, even if we wouldn’t like to admit it. We learn and inherit these from our families and the society we are a part of. We are parents, brothers, sisters, partners, wives and husbands and not addiction specialists. How, then, do you know what is the right thing to do to support the person you care about who is clearly drinking too much?  

Chris Cordell*, Help Me Stop’s General Manager says “Sales of alcohol have soared since a nationwide lockdown was announced. Supermarkets and corner shops saw alcohol sales increase by 22 per cent in March and they continue to grow. Many people reacted to the closure of pubs and restaurants by stocking up to drink at home in isolation.”

Where alcohol abuse is concerned, incorrect and harmful preconceived notions are rife. Although a person abusing alcohol can cause real harm to others, understanding of the experience and struggle of addiction itself is something many adults in the UK would do well to develop.

For you and your goal of supporting a loved one in their fight against problematic alcohol use, the internet is a great place to start. Help Me Stop’s own blog section is updated several times a week with relevant articles directly from our team of drug and alcohol addiction treatment professionals.

By learning more about problematic alcohol use and addiction and unlearning stigmas and incorrect preconceived notions on the subject, you arm yourself with the right frame of mind required to be a powerful supporting element in the life of someone fighting alcohol misuse. As a starting point to this, it is important to understand that problematic alcohol use is not a moral failing. For some people simply stopping is just not that easy and it is important for you to understand this. Even what looks like the simple process of cutting down and staying cut down is not easy for some people – and therein lies the pernicious disease that is the substance use disorder.

Step two: Hear them out and learn their triggers.

There is no single picture of addiction, problematic use or dependency on alcohol. Understanding why someone is abusing drink is a vital second step in helping them to overcome their issue. Are they drinking to free themselves from the stress of work, or do they suffer from severe anxiety that leads them to isolation and drink as a coping mechanism? Does alcoholism run in their family, making them more liable to fall into problematic drinking and eventual addiction?

This is a conversation that must be had as early as you can. If this leads you to having your very first conversation with a loved one about their drinking issue, please read our article on conducting interventions before you act. Without the correct approach, your reaching out can feel like a confrontation that may illicit an aggressive or poor response from the person in question. Timing is everything, so do not start having these discussions when the person is drunk. Alcohol is a de inhibitor and increased drinking at home could lead to unpredictable behaviour including fuelling domestic abuse and other forms of abuse.

It’s also important at this stage to understand what leads them to drink. You don’t have to be an alcoholic to have triggers; they are things that exist in all of us in varying ways and to varying degrees. A person abusing alcohol, for example, may find the end of the working day to be a trigger when they are asked to go to a pub with colleagues. By knowing these triggers, you can position yourself better to support them in avoiding those situations that lead to drink.

Step three: Help them to change their story.

It’s very common for adults across the world to have harmful negative narratives about themselves. Whether it is a feeling of inadequacy, self-contempt or frustration over perceived failures, negative thoughts about who we are and where we are in life can hold us back and are profoundly harmful to our wellbeing.

If someone you know is abusing alcohol, chances are high they are struggling with the path of their life and how they view it. Instead of fighting a growing compulsion to drink, they may feel wretched and hopeless about their struggle to control themselves. Instead of viewing their present situation as a challenge to be overcome so a happier life can be had, they may firmly believe their alcohol abuse to be the very thing that keeps them from self-destructing.

You can make a decisive difference in a person’s recovery from problematic alcohol misuse by helping them to challenge these destructive self-beliefs. Identifying and dismantling negative narratives is a decisive part of recovery from problematic use and full-blown addiction, and it’s something that is covered as part of Help Me Stop’s online Digital Dayhab and in our face to  Dayhab programme in West London.

We’re here to support you. Reach out to us.

We hope you’ve found these tips from our team useful and informative. If you’re still unsure about a loved one’s alcohol use and would like to know more on how to help or signpost them to us, please give us a ring on 0208 191 9191 or use our contact form.

*Chris is a senior associate member of the Royal Society of Medicine, Certified International Recovery Specialist, and a member of the International Society of Addiction Medicine.

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