Loving an alcoholic parent, spouse, relative, or friend isn’t always easy. While all relationships take work, loving someone with addiction comes with a unique set of additional challenges. And these challenges include things that are mental, physical, spiritual, social, and financial.
From the mental health risks on both sides to the physical health scares addicts often suffer and the toll it takes on your overall well-being to the financial strain of supporting unhealthy habits, there are many problems that simply can’t be ignored.
Loving an alcoholic can be tiring, frustrating, and scary. It can be hard to find the right balance between protecting your well-being and supporting and encouraging your loved one. Before we can effectively cope with others’ addictions, we have to better understand them.
Loving vs. Enabling an Alcoholic
One of the most important distinctions we’ll discuss here is that loving an alcoholic is not the same thing as enabling an alcoholic. The difference is that one (loving) involves encouraging growth and supporting their recovery efforts.
The other (enabling) involves supporting their continued alcohol use by making excuses, justifications, or living in denial rather than allowing them to face the consequences of their actions. Most of the time, enabling is done inadvertently.
Examples of Enabling Behaviors
We don’t mean to make it easier for our loved ones to stay trapped in the cycle of abuse. But the line between loving or supporting and enabling is thin. Here are some examples of enabling behaviors in relationships involving addiction:
- Denying that there’s a problem because it could be worse.
- Drinking with the alcoholic because this way you can monitor them.
- Rationalizing, justifying, or making excuses for their behavior.
- Keeping your concerns to yourself rather than calmly and compassionately expressing them.
- Saying or doing things that minimize the situation.
- Solving their problems for them and allowing them to avoid them.
Enabling can take many different forms. While these are some of the most common ways we enable our loved ones, there are other ways, too. Avoiding the problem of protecting them from it will not make it go away. Addiction is a chronic disease that requires attention, work, and often professional treatment to improve.
Understanding An Alcoholic’s Brain
One of the most important steps in effectively loving an alcoholic is understanding them. As we mentioned before, alcoholism is a disease. It affects us in ways that we are just fully beginning to understand. Many adults drink moderately without ever developing a problem.
But that is not the case for the roughly 18 million adult Americans that have an alcohol use disorder. Many times, our addictions are due to changes in our brain chemistries. These changes are harder to overcome than it may seem on the outside.
Loving an alcoholic means understanding why they developed an addiction in the first place. In addition to brain chemistry, some of the most common risk factors for developing alcoholism include:
- Underlying mental health disorders.
- Stressful work or homes lives.
- Environmental influences, including trauma and early exposure to addiction.
Generational Trauma and Alcoholics
The trauma of children of addicts and alcoholics can have long-term consequences. But it is not just the emotional aspect of early exposure and lasting trauma that can cause someone from an alcoholic family to also become an alcoholic.
The genetic risk factor is both emotional and physical. Our genes can cause us to react differently to the influence of drugs and alcohol. They also play a part in determining how long drugs and alcohol stay in our bodies.
An estimated 40 to 60 percent of an individual’s vulnerability to substance use disorders is attributable to genetics. Many people assume that addiction has something to do with a lack of effort or willpower. This generally isn’t the case.
Overcoming addiction is about understanding it, developing healthier habits and coping mechanisms, rewiring negative or damaging thought patterns, managing stress, and building reliable support systems.
Short-Term Tools for Addressing Alcohol Use
Most with an alcohol use disorder will require treatment to effectively overcome it. But until then, there are also some short-term tools that can help. Before you can begin to help your loved one, it’s important to get into the right mindset.
Loving an alcoholic can sometimes feel hopeless. But alcoholism is treatable. You and your loved one can come out on the other side of treatment with a healthier, happier, and stronger relationship. Alcoholics recover every day and go on to live fulfilling lives.
Your job right now is to remain hopeful, positive, compassionate, and avoid placing blame. We can help you with everything that comes next.
Repairing Relationships in Lasting Recovery
Addiction hurts not only the individual but those around them, too. That’s why you’re here. Family counseling, alcoholics anonymous, and support groups for alcoholics in relationships are excellent ways to work toward interpersonal recovery goals.
These goals include things like:
- Learning about how our actions affect others.
- Developing healthier connections.
- Building better communication skills.
Inpatient Treatment as a Foundation for Long-term Recovery
Depending on the severity of your loved one’s addiction, withdrawal symptoms, and other needs, they may require an inpatient stay. This type of program is unique in that it offers 24-hour access to recovery care, support, and guidance.
Inpatient programs typically start with medically-supervised detoxes in the comfort and safety of our luxury facility. After the detox stage, those in recovery enjoy full days of healthy meals, counseling, support group meetings, outings, and activities like yoga, massage, and meditation.
Believe us when we say that recovery is no vacation. But we do our best to make our clients feel comfortable and at home so that they can focus on building a better future rather than dwelling in the past.
Additional Alcoholism Treatment Options
After an inpatient program, most transition into an intensive outpatient or traditional outpatient program. This allows them to continue attending support group meetings and other treatment methods here a few times per week while adjusting to normal life back at home.
But some with milder addictions and withdrawal symptoms or full-time work or family obligations may prefer to start with outpatient treatments instead. We will work with you and your loved ones to determine which path will benefit them the most.
Everyone is different. We have different needs, different preferences, different schedules, and different triggers. We customize each of our care plans according to these differences. From detox to aftercare, we customize, monitor, and adjust to ensure that our clients’ needs are met.
Treating Alcoholism at The Discovery House
Loving an alcoholic can be challenging. But our programs and services can make it easier for both you and your loved one to recover. Getting help for an alcoholic loved one starts here, at The Discovery House.
Whether your loved one needs full-time, residential care, or part-time outpatient support, our comprehensive care plans treat the body, mind, and soul. And our family counseling ensures that you get the emotional support you need, too.
You both deserve the opportunity to build a healthier relationship and a better life. Call us today at 818-452-1676 to learn more about the next steps. Our confidential call line is always open, and we are always here to help.