How to Help a Family Member With Alcoholism
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a disease that affects more than 14 million people across the U.S. If someone you love is struggling with alcoholism and has lost control of their life, you may be wondering if recovery is possible and what steps you can take to help them admit they have a problem. You may be wondering how to help a family member with alcoholism and how to get them the treatment they need.
If alcohol use is impacting your family because you don’t know how to deal with an alcoholic, it may be time to seek professional help. In addition to the recommendations provided below, our admissions navigators are available 24/7 to speak with you about treatment options and help get you the information you need. Call our hotline at to start your journey toward recovery today.
Although sobriety from alcohol is a lifelong process, with the right treatment and support, your family member can begin to get their life back on track, learn how to prevent future relapses and manage triggers. To help them better understand this chronic disorder and their need for treatment, here are some ways you can approach the discussion and be proactive in getting help for alcoholic family members as well as taking care of your needs too.
Does My Family Member Drink too Much?
While only a doctor or a licensed addiction specialist can diagnose someone with an AUD, there are some signs that may mean your relative has a problem with alcohol. These signs include:
- Wanting or trying to cut back on or quit using alcohol, but not being able to.
- Using alcohol in high-risk settings, such as while driving.
- Having problems at work, home, or school because of alcohol use.
- Continuing to drink, despite knowing it worsens a medical or mental health problem.
How to Talk to an Alcoholic Family Member
It can be hard to know how to deal with an alcoholic family member and if you’re hoping to discuss their drinking or treatment options, it’s best to do so when they are sober. Trying to talk with them when they have been drinking may not have the outcome you’re hoping for—or they may become defensive, angry or even violent. Try to come from a position of love and concern rather than judgment or anger when talking about drinking. For example, say things like, “I notice you drink five or six beers every time we go out and I’m concerned that you may be addicted,” rather than, “You got drunk again last night, you must have problems.”
Still, it may take a few conversations before they are willing to discuss treatment or their alcohol abuse. Be patient and understanding. If they aren’t ready to seek treatment following additional discussions, you could try the CRAFT approach, which is a type of time-limited behavioral therapy designed to support family members and increase the odds of their loved ones seeking treatment. You can consult a qualified psychologist or other mental health professional to learn more about this approach.
Set firm boundaries and stick to them. While you can’t directly stop your family member from drinking, you can protect yourself from the negative consequences of their behavior. Setting these limits can also help them decide to stop drinking. Boundaries differ from person to person and should be based on protecting yourself from unwanted consequences of someone else’s behavior, not on punishing the person for drinking. For example, some families may choose to allow their family member to stay in jail following an arrest related to drinking or may refuse to speak to them on the phone or let them in the house when they are drunk.
Resources and Support for Families of Alcoholics
Seek help for yourself. Although only your family member can decide to stop drinking, alcoholism affects everyone in the family. Counseling or therapy can help you differentiate between behaviors you have control over and those you don’t, giving you a greater understanding of the disorder and ways to handle negative situations that may arise in the future due to their drinking. Support groups for loved ones of people with alcohol addiction can also be helpful, such as Al-Anon.
The more you focus on yourself, the better equipped you’ll be to help support your loved one, and for this reason, it is important that you access the available resources for families of alcoholics. This may include support groups such as Al-Anon
How to Find Alcohol Rehab for a Family Member
Once they’re ready to seek treatment—depending on the severity of their alcohol use disorder (AUD)—individuals can enter into an alcohol rehabilitation program via a variety of treatment settings. These include:
- Detox, which helps keep people safe and comfortable during alcohol withdrawal.
- Inpatient rehab, where people live onsite for the length of treatment and get 24/7 care and support.
- Outpatient rehab, where people travel to set appointments during the day and still live at home.
Through treatment, your loved one will be able to work toward recovering amongst their peers and share their experiences with others who have struggled with addiction as well. AUD may be somewhat different for everyone, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to manage the disease, but recovery is possible with the right treatment and ongoing recovery efforts. You can contact an alcohol helpline for family members and they will be able to help you identify which treatment options are available and most suitable for your loved one.
Checking Insurance Coverage for Alcohol Rehab
Because the cost of rehab can be expensive, you may also want to also start thinking about how to pay for treatment. The cost of a rehabilitation program for alcoholism can vary widely, depending on the type of program and your insurance coverage. Based on your insurance provider and specific policy, you may have more coverage than you think.
To check your coverage, you can call your insurance provider, or call the treatment center you are considering for your family member. Additionally, some alcohol rehab providers, like American Addiction Centers (AAC) make it possible for you to check your insurance coverage online.
For more information about your treatment options and getting help for the person in your family struggling with alcohol addiction, call our alcohol detox hotline. It’s free, confidential, and available 24/7.