HOW TO HELP A FRIEND WITH A DRINKING
For nearly everyone there is some part of life with which it is difficult to cope. It could be loneliness, relationships, jealousy, pressure, to name a few. During these times, some people withdraw into themselves, come divert themselves with other people, some turn to their work, and some use alcohol and other drugs.
DO YOU KNOW A PROBLEM DRINKER:
When drinking alcohol becomes a way of dealing with the tough parts of life, and when the tough parts get tougher, the use of alcohol may become a problem in itself. It may not be the amount of alcohol someone consumes that create a problem so much as the reasons behind a person's drinking and the effect of that drinking on their relationships with others, future plans, job, or studies. Another distinction you'll need to make involves corrective actions. Some people will need to stop drinking completely. Others will only need to make a more conscious effort to control their drinking or related behavior. What follows alludes to both solutions. Many people have a friend or a relative who uses alcohol to cope, or whose drinking is adversely affecting their life. If you are one of those people, perhaps you have left concerned, but have wondered what to do once you've approached the subject. It is not the purpose of this article to transform the reader into a counselor. Some problem drinkers need counseling, but some can deal with their problems with the help of family or friends. For many problem drinkers, discussions about their drinking with family and friends may lead them to seek professional help. Sometime before or after raising the issue with the other person it would be helpful for you to find out about alcohol abuse and alcoholism. You can find literature about alcoholism in libraries, or at you health service. You should tell the person you are trying to help that you are actively learning about alcohol problems.
RAISING THE ISSUE
If you are worried about someone's drinking, don't be too polite to bring it up. Many recovered alcoholics attribute their initial awareness of their drinking problem to the intervention of a friend or relative. If you care, then you should show your concern. You should try to express your concern. You should try to express your concern in such a way that a defensive reaction is avoided. One approach is to ask the person if they feel there a problem, or if there is concern at all with the consequences of their drinking. Rather than telling them that their is a drinking problem. Encourage openness in talking with you by asking questions. It is important for you to keep an open mind as well. At this point, you may need to be satisfied with having raised the issue and follow it up later. Many benefits can come from periodic open discussions around the problem. These discussions may be met by any of several reactions defensiveness, denial, or agreement.
DEALING WITH DEFENSIVENESS
Let it be know that you are concerned because you care, indicate that you like them, but that you don't like all or some aspects of their behavior where alcohol is involved. If you drink don't be afraid to own up to your own drinking behavior. Relate your attempts to control and limit your own intake. It may also help to talk the person's problems over with other relatives or mutual friends. If they also perceive a problem, ask them what insights they have into its cause, and whether they think the problem will work itself out. Some people develop problems with alcohol over short-term stresses, which, when resolved, disappear. If others are concerned, try to get them to show it in a manner consistent with yours.
DEALING WITH DENIAL
If your discussions have no effect on your friend or relative's drinking behavior, you may need to examine the effect on you. Let them know how they are affecting you. It might be necessary for you to set some limits or make some firm resolutions. For example, you may tell them that you are not going to give attention to them when they been drinking, or when their drinking behavior is disturbing. You may say that they can't come to your apartment to drink, if they behave in a distressing fashion.
DEALING WITH AGREEMENT
If , at some point, your friend or relative agrees that drinking is creating personal problems for them, you may want to ask:
1. Why do you think you are having a problem with alcohol?
2. What do you think you can do about it?
3. What are you going to do about it?
4. What kinds of support do you need from me in order to discontinue or curtail your drinking?
REFERRING FOR OUTSIDE HELP
What help is available in the form of counseling or alcohol discussion groups. Most campuses, and the communities in which they are located, have such resources available. If some recognition of the existences of a drinking problem occurs, whether or not anything is done about it, you should: even small attempts to limit drinking. try not to drink in front of them; support their attempts to limit drinking, and to control behavior related to drinking. At some point, you responsibility ends. You should not allow yourself to feel guilty if you get to that point.
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