How to Deal with an Alcoholic Relative

by Contributor

Alcoholism is an illness that not only impacts the person with the disease, but also the loved ones who struggle to find ways to be supportive and helpful. In many cases, relatives are not sure what to do in order to help a loved one come to grips with alcoholism, or what to do once the alcoholic determines that he or she needs help. Here are some ideas on how to deal with an alcoholic relative.

Refuse to accept responsibility for the choices made by the alcoholic relative. All too often, loved ones are told they are the reason for the drinking. Regardless of circumstances, unless you put the bottle in the hands of your loved one and forced him or her to drink, you are not the instigator of the alcoholism.

Recognize that alcoholism is a disease and not a character flaw. It is not a bad habit that the loved one can quit with the ease of no longer biting nails. Alcoholism is a condition that will require treatment and reinforcement for the rest of the individual's life.

Accept the fact that an alcoholic cannot be forced to deal with his or her illness. Only when the alcoholic is able to admit there is a problem can a loved one begin to provide nurturing and support that will aid in recovery. In the interim, loved ones can help see to the alcoholic's basic needs, such as a safe place to sleep and decent food to eat.

Choose not to be an enabler. Do not become a means of allowing the alcoholic easy access to any type of alcoholic beverage. Avoid making excuses for the loved one's behavior. Be firm but loving in the way you discuss the drinking problem with the alcoholic.

Give yourself a break. When dealing with the alcoholic relative begins to become too much, move away from the situation for a short time. Take a walk, spend time with friends or participate in some other activity that will allow a temporary respite from the problem. In the long run, this will allow you to remain balanced emotionally, and in a better position to help the relative once he or she decides they want help.

Get some support for yourself. Many communities have support groups for persons who live with an alcoholic relative. You do not have to wait until your relative decides to seek help in order to participate. These groups can be a source of strength and can help you learn ways to be supportive without enabling, and also how to deal with the emotional abuse that alcoholics sometimes heap on loved ones.

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  • Always be realistic. If the abuse escalates to physical violence, remove yourself from the situation immediately. Should the alcoholic present a real and present danger to his or her physical being, call the authorities immediately. Do not attempt to intervene without backup from professionals.


  • There is no cure for alcoholism. At best, the alcoholic will be able to recover sufficiently to function without drinking. However, the predilection will always be present. Avoid referring to your relative as being cured.

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