Caring for someone with alcohol problems

When someone you are close to has an alcohol problem you might think that there is nothing you can do to change them, but in fact many people find that if they do or say things in a slightly different way, slowly change can happen.

You may be the person who knows most about the person who is drinking, you know what the triggers are and you will also probably be unfairly blamed for the drinking leading you to feel angry, resentful and let down. You must remember that you are NOT responsible for someone else’s drinking!

You may find yourself unknowingly colluding with them and compensating for them, swinging between being nice to them to keep them happy or getting very angry, issuing threats and saying hurtful things that you don’t mean because you are frustrated. These ways of dealing with the problem can actually give the person who is drinking excuses to carry on drinking and to carry on blaming you!

So don’t let that happen, take control of your situation and put in some clear boundaries. It might help to talk to a counsellor about how to put these in place and then how to maintain them. You can also practice with your counsellor what to say differently to the person who is drinking to help bring about change.

Some basic examples are:

  • Don’t issue threats you are not intending to carry out
  • Try not to label the person who is drinking, terms like alcoholic can push them further into denial
  • Don’t alter plans or cover up for the person who is drinking
  • Don’t challenge them when they have been drinking, choose your time to talk to them calmly
  • Be clear about what you find acceptable and unacceptable
  • Outline the possible benefits for them, yourself, your relationship/ the family/children if they agree to have a go at cutting down their drinking
  • Provide positive feedback if you feel they have done well, avoided alcohol, or cut down
  • Acknowledge how difficult it must be for them
  • Outline the benefits you have seen if they have put efforts into making changes
  • If they slip don’t see this as failure instead continue to encourage them to move forward
  • Tell them about Derbyshire Alcohol Advice Service (DAAS) and how a counsellor can support you together to work through this difficult time
  • Look after yourself and don’t keep the drinking a secret with those who are close, they can support you
  • Talk to others who have been in similar situations and who have found a way forward
  • Stay positive and encouraging rather than negative and defeatist (even though this can be very hard!)

Derbyshire Alcohol Advice Service - Relatives and Friends Together (RAFT)

RAFT is a dedicated carers support project run by Derbyshire Alcohol Advice Service for relatives and friends of people with alcohol problems.

You can contact the RAFT helpline on tel: 01246 206514 to speak to a counsellor or visit the Derbyshire Alcohol Advice Service (DAAS) website.

The helpline offers immediate advice, information and support. It is open:

  • Monday 9am to 5.30pm
  • Tuesday 9am to 8pm
  • Wednesday 9am to 5.30pm
  • Thursday 9am to 8pm
  • Friday 9am to 4.30pm

As well as offering advice over the phone, the service offers regular support groups and one-to-one counselling sessions.

Derbyshire Alcohol Advice Service's central office is in Chesterfield but their workers will see people throughout Derbyshire in GP surgeries, clinics or other suitable venues.

Relate Counselling service

Relate Derby and Southern Derbyshire work with DAAS to provide free counselling and support to carers and family members who are affected by someone else's alcohol misuse. The services is open to anyone living throughout Derbyshire. Contact tel: 01332 349177 

Derbyshire Recovery Partnership

There is a new service in Derbyshire called the Derbyshire Recovery Partnership, of which DAAS is a partner. The service is a combined drug and alcohol service and provides a variety of services including:

  • advice to drug/alcohol users and/or their carers/family members
  • medical prescribing and detoxification
  • a counselling service
  • group based treatment.

You can contact the service on tel: 01246 206514 or 0845 3084010

Other helpful websites

This information was last updated on 11/04/2017

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