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Watching someone abuse substances or alcohol is never easy, and you’ll likely want to do everything you can to help them stop.

Helping someone overcome their alcohol misuse is commendable, but it’s also incredibly difficult and needs to be approached correctly. Without educating yourself and creating a careful plan, you could easily push your friend or relative away – ultimately leaving them more susceptible to deeper addiction or dependency.

If you’re desperate to help someone misusing alcohol or have a few suspicions that someone has unhealthy drinking habits, here are three steps to starting and supporting their road to recovery:

  • Ditch the stigma, and educate yourself
  • Listen, and understand their triggers
  • Help them change the narrative

Ditching the stigma

Even if you don’t want to admit it, it’s likely you have some bias or stigma toward addiction. It’s these biases – however subconscious they may be – that can stop people from reaching out and asking for help. It can also lead people to attempt to provide support in all the wrong ways. So how do you know what the right thing to do is?

The step is to unlearn what you already ‘know’ about addiction.

Educating yourself

There are endless misconceptions about alcohol abuse. These preconceived notions can be harmful to the person you’re trying to help and support. A better understanding of how different people experience addiction and struggle with it can go a long way in providing a better support system for those suffering.

The internet has plenty of resources and information about Alcohol Rehab that you can get your teeth into. Many of these blogs, courses, and papers will be written by those who have experienced addiction themselves, or specialists who are qualified to help others recover.

By unlearning stigmas and myths related to problematic drinking and educating yourself on the truths of the addiction disease, you will be equipped with the right tools and frame of mind to be the support your loved one needs. The first misconception is that alcohol abuse is a moral failing and that stopping is a choice. While you might find cutting down alcohol use or cutting it out entirely is an easy transition, this won’t necessarily be the same for others.

Learning their triggers

Addiction, triggers, and recovery don’t have a ‘one size fits all’ picture. When trying to support and help someone struggling with alcohol abuse, it’s important to listen and understand their personal experiences and triggers. They might not be able to identify their own triggers at first, but by listening to their worries, stresses, and current situation, you might be able to help them gain a little clarity.

So why might someone be drinking?

It could be down to the stress of their job, issues in their relationship, or even crippling anxiety that leads them to use alcohol as a coping mechanism. Whatever they feel is the cause should be acknowledged and listened to, rather than being shut down or told otherwise. Shunning someone’s feelings of shame or judgement can easily lead them to hide their emotions or put their walls up.

If you want to help someone with problematic alcohol abuse, it’s worth trying to have the conversation about triggers as early as possible. But approaching the subject needs to be done gently and cautiously – otherwise, it can elicit a defensive or aggressive response.

The conversation should be had while the person is as sober as possible, rather than when they are in the midst of an episode. Their response could be unpredictable, so being prepared for different scenarios is a good idea.

It’s also vital to understand that everyone has triggers, and triggers can be different for all of us. However, by understanding your loved one’s specific triggers, you can put yourself in a position to support and prevent them from entering triggering situations or to at least guide them through it in more productive ways.  

Changing the narrative

Both children and adults can have their own negative narratives about themselves. Whether it’s frustration about where we are in life, feelings of inadequacy, or perceived failures, there is a lot that can hold us back and harm our wellbeing.

Those abusing alcohol are often struggling to accept their current situation or the path their life seems to be taking. Sufferers can believe that their alcohol abuse is actually stopping them from self-destructing if they feel hopeless or stressed about their lives. They might not yet realise that their addiction is something that should be, and can be, overcome.

Helping your loved one challenge their destructive thoughts and negative self-beliefs can go a long way in the battle to recovery.