Are you calling in sick due to a hangover or still green from St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations?!
“I drink to keep body and soul apart.” – Oscar Wilde
By SUSIE NEWMAN
While St. Patrick’s Day is a day of lively festivities celebrating the rich history and culture of Celtic heritage, for some it can also be a time of overindulgence and reckless behaviour.
Witnessing someone you care about struggling with the disease of alcoholism can be painful, frustrating and deeply concerning. You may be feeling powerless to help.
If you are wanting to help a loved one who is addicted, it is important to first recognize addiction is a chronic primary brain disease and as such, requires specific and appropriate treatment.
WATCHING FOR SIGNS OF ALCOHOLISM
Like other chronic illnesses, alcoholism is progressive and if left untreated can be fatal. Below is a list of warning signs to watch out for if you suspect your loved one is struggling.
- Being dishonest about frequency of drinking;
- Inability to limit or stop drinking despite an expressed desire to do so;
- Becoming angry and/or defensive when questioned about alcohol use;
- Changes to normal habits, or sudden mood swings.
WHAT STEPS YOU CAN TAKE TO HELP SOMEONE WHO YOU SUSPECT IS STRUGGLING WITH ALCOHOLISM
- Be Compassionate Rather than Blaming:
It is understandable to be upset by behaviors and attitudes, but shame and blame don’t work and often lead to resentment and only perpetuate the cycle of addiction.
Approaching the person with a compassionate solution-focused approach is the best way forward.
- Be proactive rather than ignoring or minimizing the problem:
Your loved one may be in denial and or minimizing the severity of their drinking. Alcoholism is a progressive disease and will get worse if left untreated.
- Support them in recovery rather than addiction:
It is painful to watch a loved one spiral into alcoholism.
You may feel the desire to protect them from the negative consequences by offering money, covering for them at work, lying for them or picking up the slack in some other way.
While this may offer your loved one temporary relief, it will ultimately enable the progression.
- Educate yourself about alcoholism:
Alcoholism is often described as a “cunning, baffling and powerful” disease.
The more you understand, the more helpful you can be to your loved one and the better you can help yourself.
Programs such as Alanon are specifically designed to help loved ones affected by alcoholism.
- Be direct and maintain your boundaries:
Confronting your loved one about their drinking can be tricky.
Denial is one of the defining features of alcoholism, so be prepared for your concerns to be initially dismissed or met with hostility and defensiveness.
Regardless of the reaction, state your own boundaries clearly and firmly and set clear consequences for boundary violations.
It may be helpful to write a compassionate letter to your loved one describing your own perceptions of how their drinking affects you.
If you are unsure about how to address your loved one, calling a licensed and accredited treatment center to seek guidance is a good place to start.
[Susie Newman is an addiction counsellor at the Orchard Recovery Center on Bowen Island. Susie was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland and emigrated to Canada in 2004. With over 22 years of recovery from alcoholism she remains passionate about her work and enjoys helping Orchard clients realize a life beyond their wildest dreams is possible.]