Fighting addiction is a long and arduous process. Not only does it take courage to admit to being an addict, but taking the first step toward recovery is just as difficult. First of all, the addict himself needs to have both the need and will to go through it. Then, the loved ones need to do the same. Having each other’s support is highly important during a recovery.
Unfortunately, alcoholism is nothing new to the world, and each year we have statistics showing which country has the heaviest drinkers. More than 3 million annual deaths are related to alcohol consummation. This translates to 5.9% of all deaths, according to WHO (World Health Organisation). Moreover, people don’t just die from drinking too much alcohol, e.g. as a result of liver failure, but also from accidents cause by their impaired mental capacities, e.g. large number of car accidents, fires, or falls. Evidently, these statistics paint a very dark picture.
Nevertheless, even though alcoholics face many serious issues, they can still get out of the gutter. With a little bit of help from support groups, and friends and family, they could become healthy again. So, long as they are willing, a second chance could be around the corner. And if you are close to a recovering alcoholic, whether it’s a friendship or a love relationship, you need to understand how to deal with the situation. Here are some of the major things to know.
1. Some problems can linger on even after the drinking stops.
As mentioned in the introduction, fighting any addiction is a process. Even though they have decided to give up alcohol, new problems could arise during the recovery process. These may or may not be related to wanting to drink again. For example, social communication could be a problem for the recovering alcoholic, and things like being unable to concentrate or be attentive. Additionally, sleep problems could occur, such as insomnia or sleep apnea, which in turn may lead to more serious issues.
All of these are possible and totally normal. It is important to know that nothing can be, nor should be, done by force. You should have patience and help them gradually crawl back into a normal routine. Moreover, you can always seek help from a professional such as a therapist.
2. Relapse can happen in moments of weakness.
This is one of the things you need to be on the alert for. The worst thing that could happen is for the recovering alcoholic to go back to his old habits. However, there are a few signs to pay attention to in order to prevent a relapse. A sudden change in behavior, such as aggressiveness or seclusion, could be first signs of giving up.
Also, if your partner starts hanging out with the wrong crowd, once again, you should take extreme action and put a stop to it. But try and approach them in a calm manner. Any judgment or rash movement could scare them and push them away even further. You could also suggest going to an AA meeting or spending more time with their sponsor. If you are really scared or have major doubts, you can always make them take a drug test, to be sure they haven’t relapsed.
3. They will sometimes use their condition as leverage.
They will be fragile and prone to moments of sadness or depression, from time to time. They will likely use their condition to manipulate you. The important thing here is not to fall for their tricks.
They might say they are unable to do something because they are having a hard time. Or perhaps, blackmail you into giving them something because of the hardship their recovery carries. Either way, do not accept this and be strong. You will probably feel sorry for them, but you should actually push back and defy them.
4. Love and support aren’t enough—you need to seek out professional help.
When times get rough, and when you cannot handle the situation by yourself, reach out to someone. Maybe talking to a friend or consulting with a therapist could help you relieve the excess stress. Perhaps, going to AA meetings regularly could get you through the rough patch. And you could attend those meetings together.
This would give you a different perspective on how your loved one really feels, and what are the issues at hand. In the end, you could have a couple’s therapy, if the problem is in your romantic relationship. All in all, do anything you can to help both of you.
5. Pulling them away from a bad environment may seem like you are suffocating them.
As said, you need to go above and beyond while supporting your partner. They could become weak and succumb to a temptation, such as hang around people with bad influence or bars—actually, any place that could trigger them. You shouldn’t be too hard on them in your quest of helping.
Maybe you should keep them away from these conditions in the beginning, but as they progress, you could start involving them in social events like going out to clubs or having a drink in front of them. Be careful to do this step by step; it will be hard for them, for sure, but it is a necessity that cannot be avoided.
6. They are not the only ones who need support and understanding.
The same way your loved one needs help during this period, you will need it, too. Helping someone overcome an addiction is a demanding task, both physically and mentally. The first thing you will need to do is educate yourself on alcoholism and its consequences, as well as how to help an addict. What is more, you need to stay active all the way through the process.
Nevertheless, if you start feeling exhausted or lonely, misunderstood—ask for help. There are various support groups for friends and families of recovering alcoholics. Being in touch with people who are in the same position as you could be of great benefit. Not only will you get encouragement, but you will also be able to express yourself and your concerns along the way.
Although things can get quite difficult, it’s important to remember why you love that person and understand that he or she is going through the most difficult time of their lives. However, you should also set boundaries and find some support for yourself as well. Be strong, and take things one tiny step at a time.