Strategies for Helping Addicts and Alcoholics to Get the Help they Need Article HOME

And, some of these strategies for helping addicts are more about you then they are about the addict themselves. Taking care of yourself, setting a good example of healthy living, and showing basic support is probably nine tenths of the battle. The rest is just details.

But, the details might lead to a breakthrough, so it is worth exploring them. Taking action gives us hope when we are fighting to save our friends or loved ones from this disease.

Here are a few strategies you might try for helping the addict or alcoholic in your life:

  • Help them hit bottom faster (do not rescue them)
  • Make an ultimatum
  • Stop reacting and detach
  • Put your own self care and sanity first

There is some overlap here. You might use more than one strategy at a time. Let's dig deeper and closely examine each one:

Helping them hit bottom faster

"Pain is inevitable, Suffering is optional." ~ Buddhist proverb

"When I blame someone else for something, I give up my power to them." ~ Al-Anon Saying

The clear and most direct route to help a struggling addict to hit their bottom faster is to stop enabling them. This is done by setting clear boundaries and sticking to them.

Some people might get the wrong idea here and think that they have to actually take action in order to make the alcoholic's life worse. This is not really necessary. What has to happen is that you have to remove support from their drinking or drug use. That is all. If they are truly an addict and you are one of the only people enabling them, then this will bring about change very quickly.

Now the problem comes in when the addict or alcoholic has other people who are also enabling them. If this is the case then I would make an argument that you should seek to educate these other people. If you all have a common interest of seeing the addict recover then you should band together and vow never to enable the addict again. Of course, this does not always work because many people do not really think they are enabling, but they believe they are helping instead. Educating them can be done quickly if you can convince them to attend Al-anon groups.

Then there is the question of "outing" the alcoholic or addict. Say they work in a job where they are caring for other people, or they are driving on a regular basis, and you know that they are frequently intoxicated or under the influence. What do you do then? Do you tell their superiors and get them in trouble, and probably fired? Do you do this for their safety? For the safety of others? For both? Or is doing so going to create too much resentment, and basically backfire on you?

Taking drastic action and "outing" someone like this should never be done lightly. In some cases, if someone is truly out of control AND they are endangering other's lives, then perhaps there are cases where you should make the bold move and involve their superiors or the authorities. But realize what price that comes at. Fierce resentment is really the only possible reaction, at least at first. Perhaps later the addict will realize that you acted in their best interest, but do not expect that type of reasoning when you first call them out and get them into big trouble.

Because the reaction and the level of resentment can be so great, I would not recommend "outing" someone until you have exhausted all options AND discussed the idea with at least 2 other people. If others disagree with the idea then you might seek further counsel. Bring it to an Al-anon meeting, even if you have never been to one. Tell the story, describe your plan, and see what the group thinks. There is much wisdom in a group discussion of that nature, and it could help to steer you towards the right decision.

You may think that you can predict where an addict's bottom is. In truth, sometimes it is much, much lower than we first suspect. Remember that many who struggle with addiction have to lose pretty much everything before they take action to fix their life. For example, you might think "Ah, now they have lost their job. Surely they will go to rehab now." In fact, they may be 10 years or more away from giving rehab a shot. You just never know.

In such cases your most powerful weapons are your own personal boundaries. Decide what you will and will not put up with in terms of their addiction, and then stick to it. Focus on without taking action to protect yourself first.

When you focus on yourself and your own growth, and gain strength, then you have the power to set strict boundaries that actually have a chance at modifying their behavior. Remember, without any consequences, they are not going to change a thing. Become strong enough to set healthy limits, and even walk away from the relationship if need be. That is when they are most likely to hit bottom, when you can fully withdraw all support and focus on your own growth.

The idea is not to punish the alcoholic into getting sober. The idea is to decide what you will not live with, and then build the strength in yourself to follow through with that.

If you are bearing the brunt of an addict's addiction then you probably have the most power to change it. Not that you have a magic wand, just that you have the power to stop enabling them. In many cases this is going to involve more than the threat of leaving


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