Steps for helping an alcoholic

The below is advice from Al-anon on how to help an alcoholic:

  1. Learn all the facts and put them to work in your own life. Don’t start with the alcoholic
  2. Attend AA meetings, Al-Anon meetings and if possible go to a mental health clinic, alcoholism information centre or to a competent counsellor or minister who has had experience in this field
  3. Remember you are emotionally involved. Changing your attitude and approach to the problem can speed up recovery.
  4. Encourage all beneficial activities of the alcoholic and cooperate in making them possible
  5. Learn that love cannot exist without compassion, discipline and justice, and to accept love or give it without these qualities is to destroy it eventually.

It is easier to find a list of don’ts in dealing with alcoholics for it is easier to understand why you fail than to know why you succeed. The following list is not inclusive but it makes a good beginning.

  1. Don’t lecture, moralise, scold, blame, threaten, argue when drunk or sober, pour out liquor, lose your temper or cover up the consequences of drinking. You may feel better but the situation will be worse.
  2. Don’t lose your temper and thereby destroy yourself and any possibility of help
  3. Don’t allow your anxiety to compel you to do what the alcoholic must do for him or her self
  4. Don’t accept promises, for this is just a method of postponing pain. In the same way don’t keep switching agreements. If an agreement is made stick to it.
  5. Don’t allow the alcoholic to lie to you and accept it for the truth for in so doing you encourage this process. The truth is often painful, but get at it.
  6. Don’t let the alcoholic outsmart you for this teaches him to avoid responsibility and lose respect for you at the same time
  7. Don’t let the alcoholic exploit you or take advantage of you for in so doing you become an accomplice in the evasion of responsibility.
  8. Lastly don’t try to follow this as a rule book. It is simply a guide to be used with intelligence and evaluation. If at all possible attend Al-Anon meetings and seek good professional help. You need this therapy as well as the alcoholic.
  9. Above all, don’t put off facing the reality that alcoholism is a progressive illness that gets increasingly worse as drinking continues. Start now to learn, to understand and to plan for recovery. To do nothing is the worst choice you can make.

(Information from Al-anon Family Groups, 1987, A guide for the family of the alcoholic, Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, New York p14-15)

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