Alcohol - problem drinking


It is much easier to drown a problem with drink than to do the hard work of sorting it out. Over the years, alcohol becomes the main focus of people's lives and they find they need more and more alcohol to get the same feeling of wellbeing. In order to maintain their habit they become dishonest, and this can lead to self-hatred.


Relationships with friends, family or employers fall apart through irresponsible actions. People may start to feel desperate or even suicidal. This is often the point at which people start to reach out for help. This is when recovery begins.

Sometimes it is hard for people with an alcohol problem to seek help, either because they feel ashamed and want to hide their drinking, or because they feel well and do not agree they have a problem.


Acknowledging their addiction and need for help can be very scary. However, many people with alcohol problems eventually go to see their GP or a counsellor, or they are referred to specialist services.

If you fear you might harm or kill yourself, it is vital you seek help immediately.


People with alcohol dependence need a lot of support to maintain their recovery. Some get their best support from others who have been through the same kind of experience. Other people find a supportive health professional, or their friends, family may offer good support. People with alcohol dependence can make choices that are more informed if they educate themselves about their condition and the types of treatment and support that are available. It is also useful to know about your rights.


People who have alcohol problems have found the following strategies important, and useful.


Learn about alcohol problems.
Realise that families and friends are often placed in difficult situations by people with drinking problems. It is appropriate for your family, and friends to give you clear information about problems as they see them, even though you may not appreciate being told. If they do this, it is not that they do not love you, understand you or care for you. Pointing out problems is more helpful than keeping quiet about them and hoping they will somehow go away. If your drinking is making someone else's life miserable, it is fair enough for them to do something about it.

Alcohol problems can tear families apart. Families may find their relative secretive, withdrawn, disruptive or even violent. They often feel powerless and embarrassed at their relative's drinking.

Their feelings for their relative can swing from compassion for their difficulties, to grief at the loss of the person they once knew, to hostility towards their relative for disrupting their lives. Other family members can develop their own mental health problems if they cannot change the impossible situation they are in.

Families often feel drained and stressed and need support to look after themselves as well as their relative with alcohol problems. Other family or relationships can be neglected when the needs and disruptive behaviour of the person with alcohol problems take over.


There are several ways families can get support. They can get in touch with other families who have had similar experiences. Some drug and alcohol services provide good support options for families.


Ideally, families who are involved in caring for someone with alcohol problems need to be able to communicate freely with professionals about their relative. This can sometimes be a problem as professionals may not always give them information about their relative, particularly if they don't want their family to receive the information. Families may also need some professional help to mend any damage that has occurred in relationships, because of their relative's drinking.


Important strategies for living with someone with an alcohol problem.
It can be difficult to know how to deal with your family or friend's drinking.

Some people have found these suggestions helpful.


Remember that neither you nor anyone else can make someone cut down or stop drinking, but you can encourage them and help them to make changes.
Talk to the person about your concerns but make sure it is at a time when they are sober and you are both calm.
Be clear about what behaviour you will not accept.
Be consistent, do not keep changing your mind about what you are saying, and do not say one thing and do another.
Listen and find out how your family or friend feels about their drinking.
Encourage the person to concentrate on the effects the drinking is having on their life rather than use a label such as alcoholic.
Do not make it easier for the person to drink by buying it for them or always agreeing to go to the pub with them. It is difficult to break these habits but he or she is likely to take you more seriously if your actions match what you are saying.
Remember to encourage and praise the person if they do manage to cut down or stop their drinking.

Take care of yourself

Worrying about a family or friend with a drinking problem can leave you drained of energy for yourself or anyone else. It is important you take care of yourself.

Keep in touch with friends. Discuss your worries with someone you can trust.
Seek support and advice from professionals such as your doctor, a counsellor or groups services.
Look after your own health. Make sure you are getting enough sleep and a healthy, balanced diet.
Learn some relaxation techniques.
Make sure you treat yourself by doing something you really enjoy every now and then.
Be clear about what you are prepared to accept or not accept from the person who is drinking and having a plan for what you will do if they overstep the boundaries. This is especially important if there is any risk of violence.