family addiction

The Family Disease: 10 Tips for Family Members of Alcoholics to Get the Support They Need

Approximately one in five American adults has spent some time living with an alcoholic family member.

Whether you’re a young child, a teen, or an adult, living with an alcoholic can have a serious impact on your own health and well-being. 

Are you currently living with or close to an alcoholic? While it’s important to make sure they get the help they need, it’s also important to make sure you’re helping yourself. 

There are lots of things family members of alcoholics can do to find help and support. Read on to learn about some of the most effective strategies you can start implementing today.

How Alcoholism Affects Families

Some people don’t realize the negative effects alcoholism can have on family members. It can contribute to a number of serious issues, though, including the following:

  • Children may experience feelings of guilt, embarrassment, anxiety, or depression
  • Children may be more prone to failure in school and may have a difficult time forming or maintaining friendships
  • Children may be more likely to abuse alcohol or other drugs themselves
  • Marriage satisfaction may be lower
  • Marital stressors like finances may become more pronounced
  • Separation and divorce are more likely

Domestic abuse is also commonly brought on by alcohol abuse. 

Strategies for Family Members of Alcoholics

Clearly, alcoholism can take a serious toll on the alcoholic’s family members. It doesn’t have to, though.

Here are some strategies you can use as a family member of an alcoholic to stay strong and take better care of yourself. 

1. Do Your Own Research

It can be hard to feel compassion for a loved one who’s struggling with alcoholism, especially if you’ve been dealing with negative effects brought on by their alcoholism.

The more you know about addiction and how it changes the brain, though, the easier it will be for you to feel compassion and avoid blaming yourself for your loved one’s addiction.

2. Manage Your Expectations

It’s important to set appropriate expectations for your loved one as they begin the process of overcoming alcoholism.

It will not be easy, and they may relapse at some point in their recovery. Be realistic about what the process will be like and understand that some days will be more challenging than others. 

3. Do Things You Enjoy

You may feel tempted to dedicate all your time and energy to supporting your loved one and helping them with things they need.

Remember to take time for yourself to do things you enjoy, though.

It’s not selfish to spend time engaging in your favorite hobbies or taking a break to watch a favorite TV show. You need to take time to recharge, too.

4. Exercise Regularly

Make sure you’re taking time to exercise regularly, too. Exercise is a great tool for improving mood and reducing stress levels.

You can exercise on your own, get your children involved, or even encourage your loved one to join you. Many addicts have found that exercising provides them with a good distraction and helps to minimize their cravings.

5. Get Enough Sleep

You need to be sleeping enough during this stressful period as well. If you’re not sleeping well, you’re going to have a harder time getting things done during the day.

It may also be harder for you to empathize with your loved one and provide them with the support they need if you’re overtired. 

6. Recognize and Stop Enabling Behaviors

Often, family members of addicts engage in enabling behaviors, usually without even realizing it.

If you are doing things that encourage your loved one to continue abusing alcohol (making excuses for them at work, bankrolling their habit, etc.), you’re making it harder for them to quit.

Learn to recognize these behaviors and take steps to change them.

7. Be Open and Honest

One of the first steps you can take to change enabling behaviors is to have an open and honest discussion with your loved one about their alcoholism.

Talk to them about how it affects you and your family and why you want them to get help. It may take several discussions before something clicks with your loved one, but you have to start somewhere.

8. Join a Support Group

Another way to learn to recognize enabling behaviors is to join a support group for families of addicts.

These groups also provide you with an opportunity to get to know people who are going through experiences similar to yours. When you attend them on a regular basis, you can learn from these people and find better ways to communicate with your loved one and provide them with the help and support they need.

9. Attend Family Therapy

It can be very helpful to attend family therapy sessions with your loved one and the rest of your family.

During these sessions, you all will have a safe space to talk about how their alcoholism has affected you. Your loved one will also have a chance to talk about what they need and what caused them to start abusing alcohol in the first place.

10. Participate in Private Therapy

Finally, it’s also helpful to participate in private therapy.

Group therapy and support groups are great, but spending time alone with a therapist can help you really get to the root of and correct enabling behaviors.

It can also help you learn to cope with other stressors and manage them in a healthy way so that you can show up for your family in the best way possible.

Get Help Today

Alcoholism has a serious effect on everyone in the alcoholic’s life. Their family members, in particular, often have to bear the brunt of their decisions. 

If you have a family member who’s struggling to overcome an addiction to alcohol, it’s important to prioritize your own well-being.

Remember, if you take care of yourself and seek support, you’ll be better able to support them in their recovery.

Do you need helping to find a family support group? Do you want to learn more about addiction recovery and the best way to support a loved one who’s dealing with alcoholism?

If you live in or around the Reseda, California area, contact us at Discovery House today to learn more about our programs for addicts and their loved ones.

About the Reviewer: Chris Barnes

Chris BarnesChristopher Barnes has worked in health care for over thirty years. He is a graduate of Alabama State University where he earned a double Bachelor of Science Degree in Social Work and Psychology in 1982. Christopher Barnes is currently the Director of Clinical services at The Discovery House where he has been employed for the past five years. Because of his extensive experience in health care & substance abuse he has an excellent rapport with constituents, clients, and other professional organizations in the counseling/social service community.