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Dealing with an Alcoholic from a NonAlcoholic Perspective

Dealing with an alcoholic is one of the hardest things you may ever have to do because there is virtually nothing you can do to change the behavior…at least, not directly. Alcoholism is a disease with two particularly nasty stages: alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence.

Alcohol abuse is when the drinker consumes too much alcohol when he or she chooses to imbibe. While it’s possible to abuse alcohol and not be an alcoholic – many are unsure of their limits until tested – it is a behavior frequently exhibited by those suffering from the disease.

Alcohol dependence is an advanced stage of alcoholism, when the subject feels the need for alcohol in most, if not all, situations. Dependence equates with need, and whether the body really needs it or not, the alcoholic is convinced of its necessity.

An alcoholic, who has achieved alcohol dependence, is usually unaware of his or her condition. And while there is nothing you can do directly to change the behavior, there are proactive steps that could force long-term change.

Tips for Dealing

Get it out in the open. If the alcoholic does not know loved ones view him as having a problem he will be enabled to go on thinking there is nothing wrong with his behaviors. He has convinced himself because his self-image is reflected in the opinions of those closest to him…which leads to:

Communicate the effects. It’s not enough to simply tell the alcoholic he has a problem. Show him with love and compassion by voicing the consequences his actions are taking on the lives of those important to him.

Intervene. A passive dismissal of his behaviors is often not enough in communicating to an alcoholic the importance of his seeking help. That’s why it may be time for you to let the alcoholic know that you do not approve, and that you will not tolerate the fallout of his behaviors anymore. A full-on intervention, if the behaviors persist unchecked, may be in order. Interventions are an effective way for the entire family to support one another as well as the alcoholic, while also letting him know in a no-nonsense way that a change is needed.

Seek help. If an alcoholic cares about you and what you think of him, he will want to do anything he can to repair your relationship, no matter what that relationship is. He is as much a victim as you are to his disease, and just like you can find support with Al-Anon groups, so too can he. But it’s a lot easier if he knows you want to take an active part in his road to recovery. Attend meetings with him. Be an open door for him whenever he needs to talk about it.

Ultimately, the decision to change lies with the alcoholic. But you are his reason to do so. Make sure that you take care of yourself during this period. Do not allow your own self-worth to be determined by the weakness of a loved one. You are there because you care. Approach each tip with that attitude, and most of the time, you’ll reap results with which everyone can live.

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