Helping an alcoholic who doesn’t want help can be a physically and emotionally draining task, often hindering your own well-being for their sake. In this article, we discuss tips on how to help an alcoholic who doesn’t want help, signs they may be refusing help, treatment options, and how to maintain healthy boundaries.
What is an Alcoholic?
The term ‘alcoholic’ refers to someone who has developed a physical and psychological dependence on alcohol. Alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a potentially life-threatening health condition that is characterized by the inability to control or stop drinking.
Individuals struggling with alcoholism often have strong cravings for alcohol, an increased tolerance for its effects, and withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop drinking. Their alcohol addiction can lead to a variety of issues, including difficulties in their relationships, problems at work or school, and physical health concerns.
Alcoholism can manifest in various ways, and the severity of the disorder can range from mild to severe. It can affect people from all walks of life, regardless of age, gender, or background. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 29.5 million people suffered from AUD in 2021. Of those millions of people, only 4.6% (1.4 million) of them received any treatment for their disorder. While various reasons may cause this, some individuals may refuse help.
Signs an Alcoholic is Refusing Help
Recognizing the signs that an alcoholic is refusing help can be essential in understanding their resistance to treatment. Some common signs that might indicate an alcoholic is refusing help include:
- Denial: They may adamantly deny having a problem with alcohol or reject the idea that they need help. They might minimize the impact of their drinking on their life and the lives of others.
- Avoidance of Discussions: They may avoid or become defensive during conversations about their drinking habits, often changing the subject or refusing to engage in discussions regarding seeking help.
- Isolation and Withdrawal: They may withdraw from social interactions or isolate themselves from family and friends, preferring to spend time alone or with individuals who support their drinking habits.
- Anger or Hostility: They might react with anger or hostility when confronted about their drinking, becoming defensive or aggressive in conversations related to seeking help.
- Lack of Interest in Treatment Options: They show disinterest or outright refusal when presented with information about treatment programs, support groups, or any professional help.
Tips on How to Help an Alcoholic Who Doesn’t Want Help
If you have recognized that a loved one has developed alcoholism, you may have tried to get them help. Some individuals may be resistant to this help, even if their condition is life-threatening. Luckily, there are some tips to help an alcoholic who doesn’t want help. Some of the best tips include:
- Show Empathy and Understanding: Approach the individual with empathy and understanding. Avoid judgmental or aggressive attitudes. Let them know that you care about their well-being and that you’re there to support them whenever they’re ready to seek help.
- Encourage Healthy Activities: Engage them in activities that don’t involve alcohol. Encourage hobbies, sports, or other activities they enjoy that are not centered around drinking. This can help create a supportive environment outside of alcohol-related situations.
- Model Healthy Behavior: Demonstrate healthy habits and behaviors. Avoid drinking around them or being in environments where alcohol plays a central role. Show by example how a fulfilling life can exist without excessive alcohol consumption.
- Maintain Open Communication: Keep communication channels open without pressuring or nagging them. Regularly remind them of your support and willingness to help whenever they feel ready. Respect their decisions while gently reiterating your concerns about their health and well-being.
- Suggest Professional Help: Provide them with information about helplines, online resources, treatment programs, or support groups without insisting they use them. Offer them a brochure, website, or contact details for professional help or support groups specializing in alcohol addiction. This allows them to explore resources at their own pace.
Effective Treatment Options
One of the best ways to help an alcoholic, even if they don’t want the help, is having them seek out professional substance abuse treatment. There are several effective treatment options available for recovering alcoholics, including medications, behavioral therapies, and support groups.
- FDA-approved medications such as Naltrexone, Acamprosate, and Disulfiram help manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms while preventing relapse. They can be used alone or in combination with other treatments.
- Behavioral therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy and mindfulness-based interventions assist in changing thought patterns and developing coping skills, supporting individuals to avoid relapse triggers.
- Peer-based support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous offer valuable support globally and have been effective in aiding individuals to recover from alcohol dependence.
While there is significant research that showcases the effectiveness of these treatments, only 2.7 million people received treatment for substance abuse in 2021. Of those individuals, 1.4 million received treatment for AUD. This shows a significant gap between those in need and those receiving the professional help that’s available. Encouraging individuals to seek professional help is a crucial step in bridging the gap and providing support to a larger number of individuals battling alcoholism.
Learn More: How Long Does Alcohol Detox Last?
Can You Force Someone into Treatment?
Depending on where you may live and the situation at hand, you can force someone into receiving treatment. However, when a person is clearly suffering from substance abuse but is refusing help, some may think that forcing them to go into a treatment or rehabilitation facility will work. This process may vary widely from state to state, and it’s essential to understand what situations warrant involuntary commitment.
Currently, 35 U.S. states have enacted some kind of law regarding involuntary commitment due to drug use. In many states, such as Tennessee or Georgia, involuntary commitment for substance abuse typically requires specific conditions to be met. These conditions often include situations where the individual poses a serious threat to themselves or others due to their substance abuse. This may include behaviors like self-harm, threats of harm to others, or the loss of control of emotions, among many other aggressive behaviors.
How to Maintain Healthy Boundaries While Supporting an Alcoholic
Supporting someone with an alcohol addiction while maintaining healthy boundaries is crucial for both your well-being and the effectiveness of your support. To be able to help someone else, you must take care of yourself first. Some of the ways you can do this include:
- Understand Your Limits: Recognize and acknowledge your own limitations. Be aware of what you can and cannot do in supporting the individual. Establish boundaries by identifying what you are willing and able to provide in terms of support. By setting clear boundaries, you can provide support without sacrificing yourself.
- Avoid Enabling Behaviors: Refrain from enabling their addiction. This means not covering up for their behavior, making excuses, or providing them with alcohol. Enable them to take responsibility for their actions and their recovery.
- Avoid Emotional Dependency: Avoid becoming emotionally dependent on the progress or actions of the individual. Remember that their recovery is their responsibility, and while your support is valuable, their actions and choices are not within your control.
- Know When to Step Back: If the situation becomes toxic, abusive, or overwhelming, it may be necessary to step back. Reevaluate the situation and consider taking a break or setting firmer boundaries to protect your well-being.
Alcohol Addiction Treatment at Knoxville Recovery Center
Admitting you need help for an addiction can be overwhelming, difficult, and perhaps embarrassing. However, having a proper support system while undergoing the recovery process can be highly beneficial. At Knoxville Recovery Center, we offer support services, addiction treatment programs, medical detox, and aftercare preparation to those struggling with substance abuse. Our addiction specialists work with each client to create individualized treatment plans, resulting in the best care possible for our clients.
Contact us today to learn more about our programs and how we can help you begin your recovery journey.