Alcohol consumption is a socially accepted phenomenon that has been part of a large number of cultures since ancient times. However, many people consume alcohol for a very long time over time and end up becoming addicted to this substance: this is referred to as alcohol dependence or alcoholism.
This situation has serious repercussions on the subject, and can lead to serious health problems, even death. It is a dramatic thing that many families observe in one of their members, not knowing how to act. How to help an alcoholic? In this article, we’ll discuss a number of general guidelines that family and friends may find relevant and helpful in approaching the topic.
Recap of concepts: what is alcoholism?
Alcoholism is considered to be an addiction to alcohol, that is, the acquisition of both physical and psychological dependence on the consumption of spirits which is generated due to the acquisition of tolerance towards its consumption. The body needs larger amounts of the substance to notice the same effects, while its absence generates powerful symptoms of a withdrawal syndrome, such as dysphoria, restlessness, seizures, and other types of alterations. It is consumed in such a way that a large amount of time is invested in getting alcohol or other relevant activities where vital areas are neglected or deteriorated.
We are faced with a situation in which the subject loses control of his consumption, therefore much greater than what would be expected and achieved despite the knowledge of the possible aversive consequences both for him and for his environment. However, there is often a will to stop using and one or more attempts may have been made (unsuccessful). However, they often deny the existence of an addiction.
Uncontrolled and frequent alcohol consumption can have dramatic consequences, And can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, fatty liver disease or even kidney dysfunction. Damage to these organs can be irreversible and lead to the need for a transplant or even death from destruction of these tissues. The alcoholic is frequently intoxicated, the presence of deficiencies and loss of consciousness is frequent. In some cases, the child may end up in an alcoholic coma or even die of cardiopulmonary arrest.
Behavior is also modified and can range from aggression to extreme passivity, and it is not uncommon for risky behavior to be practiced in a state of intoxication. Socially, they can suffer abandonment of their environment or cause great suffering to those around them.
Helping an alcoholic: some basic tips
Families and the immediate environment usually do not know what to do to resolve the problem, Often blame the subject or pretend not to know or justify his behavior. But these behaviors do not help the patient but can actually complicate their condition. That is why below we will go over some guidelines to help an alcoholic, both to make him see his problem and to facilitate its solution.
1. The environment must recognize the problem
First, while it may seem logical, the first step to consider is not justify or ignore the subject’s excessive behavior and alcoholism consumption. The subject who suffers from this disorder or disease (which is not addictive, an important thing to keep in mind) is consuming alcohol which is dangerous and has many consequences in the short and long term. This fact, as well as what a disease or disorder is and not something the subject does and has full control over, must be understood and understood by their immediate environment.
It is important to keep this point in mind whether the subject is able to identify and recognize their problem or ignore it.
2. Bring up the subject in a sober moment
One aspect that also seems logical, but which can be difficult to consider when the subject arrives drunk and with irrational behavior, is dealing with the problem while he is sober. Treating the intoxicated subject will not have the same effect, The subject is not able to think, being able to easily forget what has been said or even an aggressive response on his part is possible.
3. Take a helping stance and don’t blame
It can be simple that the frustration and pain caused by our friend, partner, family member or loved one’s condition or their behavior or the perceived lack of intention to change causes us to blame ourselves for the situation. This fact does not help the subject, but can generate reactance and the existence of conflicts which in some cases can even cause the affected person to drink more to avoid discomfort.
It is not a question of showing that nothing is happening, but of approach the problem directly but adopt an empathetic attitude which makes it possible to approach the subject in a proactive and collaborative manner. It is also important to keep in mind that you should not be patronizing or start from a position of superiority, which will also engender reactance.
4. Watch how you communicate
In connection with the previous point, we must keep in mind that we are faced with a very complex situation. We must be able express our feelings about the situation our loved one is experiencing, Be useful that we include in the sentences.
Where appropriate, concerns should be expressed and it is often helpful to mention some of the behaviors that you find disturbing. Express yourself with empathy and try to seek dialogue, asking why certain behaviors do without being too demanding.
5. Maintain some degree of control
The alcoholic subject is someone who has profound difficulties in controlling his alcohol consumption, this loss of control being the most determining of this disorder. While it is not a question of exerting continuous control over every move you make, it is advisable to maintain some control over your situation. One way to do this is to manage the money, So that you can control how much the subject wears and what is spent, and even what depending on how. It is true that the person can get money from other sources or even be invited, but this management is very useful and limits possible purchases of alcohol.
6. Avoid exposure to stimuli that trigger the reaction to drink
We humans are used to doing certain things in certain places. If it is possible to drink anywhere, prevent the alcoholic from being exposed to situations or environments that facilitate drinking it’s very useful. For example, bars, nightclubs or parties are environments in which the consumption of alcoholic beverages is common.
Also, don’t drink in front of her. It would make you think about alcohol and at the same time send a mixed message: I want you to stop drinking but I drink.
7. Consider the possible role we play in drug addiction
Usually when we talk about alcoholism we usually think of the topic in question as the one with the problem. However, the environment itself sometimes favors or plays a role which facilitates the subject’s recourse to consumption. We have an example of this in the aforementioned guilt, in situations of abuse or abandonment or even in excessive paternalism.
8. Go to professionals
Alcoholism is a serious illness, a chronic disorder the existence of which can endanger the lives of those who suffer from it. This is why it is essential to go to a professional in order to treat the various elements that condition and maintain alcohol consumption. In extreme cases, it can be very useful to go to a drug rehabilitation center (in some cases it may be necessary even at the judicial level, although it should be made clear to him of the need to go).
In this sense, it is advisable to take an active interest in and participate in therapy, so as to learn to identify with the subject and symptom and to acquire guidelines for action in addition to providing support. Social to get out of a situation it lasts at least. It is also very useful for giving thought to the subject and motivating change.
9. Support your progress
Simply recognizing alcoholism is already a very difficult step for someone with this disorder. I the process of stopping consumption is long (Important: it should not be stopped abruptly except in the case of medical follow-up because of the possible emergence of potentially fatal withdrawal syndromes, such as delirium tremens) and complex, having to treat different aspects both behavioral and cognitive. Social and environmental support is a factor of good prognosis and a stimulus to progress in treatment.
10. Motivate them to participate in support groups
Alcoholics Anonymous is an association created to serve as a support group to solve alcoholism problems and generate recovery, while allowing that the subject meets other people who have experienced the same situation. During these meetings, the person was able to freely express these elements and aspects that they do not want or can tell us about their experience and compare their experience with that of others.
12. Pleasant activities incompatible with alcohol consumption
One way to help a loved one quit drinking or stay on treatment is to explore and engage in activities that are enjoyable and incompatible with drinking. It’s about learning to have fun without needing to get drunk.
13. Prevention of relapses
It is a fundamental aspect of all addictions. Treatment can be successful, but the existence of different stressors or situations can lead to a relapse into alcoholism. This is why, as is already done in therapy, it is necessary to take into account the need to work on its prevention with elements such as those of the two preceding points.
What about therapy?
The above refers to ways of helping the alcoholic in a family or friendly context, social support for alcohol withdrawal being one of the most important elements to maintain and generate the perception and motivation for change. But also in psychological therapy different methods are used help the alcoholic to stop using alcohol, in addition to controlling the need or the urge to drink. In fact, being able to undergo therapy is important, given the stakes.
Widely, therapy mainly focuses on awareness of the problem in cases where this does not exist, to reflect later on the advantages and disadvantages of drinking behavior, reinforce motivation to change and take action through various technical programs (which include the community strengthening approach, marital and couple therapy, signal exposure therapy with prevention response, contingency management, adaptation and social skills training, controlled alcohol consumption programs) and finally maintain these changes with prevention programs relapses.
During the treatment, they can use techniques of very different theoretical aspects, being the most common cognitive-behavioral, systemic and humanistic. It is also common for substances such as disulfiram to be used during treatment., Which generates unpleasant effects on the body by interacting with alcohol so that its consumption acquires an aversive black.