Who can help in getting alcoholic into treatment?

Several people can help in this challenging task

We are all aware of how difficult it is to convince an alcoholic or addict to get into treatment. 

Who can help them?

The family

Of all the people who help the alcoholic into treatment and support their recovery after treatment, the alcoholic’s partner and children may be the most effective. The family has first-hand experience with the alcoholic. They know how serious the drinking problem is and how far it has progressed, and they often have the emotional power to compel the alcoholic into treatment.

To help the alcoholic, the family must learn as much as they can about this disease and understand they are not responsible for the alcoholic’s behaviour. The disease itself is responsible for the alcoholic’s behaviour and personality changes. By learning about the disease, the family can keep an emotional distance from the problems and understand why they act the way they do and what they can do to help them.

The family must also understand that the alcoholic has to stop drinking, or they will continually get worse. Waiting until the addicted person realises the extent of their problem is waiting too long, for the family itself may be destroyed by their involvement. Without their family, the alcoholic is less apt to get help.

The family can let the alcoholic’s physician know the extent of the problem and enlist their help in getting the alcoholic into treatment. The partner can explain the facts of the disease to the children so that they understand the alcoholic parent’s behaviour and what must be don’t to make them healthy again. The family can also talk to friends and relatives and make sure they understand the seriousness of the issue.

A significant problem at this point may be one of misguided loyalty. The family may feel disloyal when they reveal confidences or plot interventions behind the alcoholic’s bc. The alcoholic, of course, will cry “traitor” if they get wind of the family’s intrigues.

When devising a strategy for confronting the alcoholic about their disease, the family should seek professional support. Addiction counsellors, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) members and physicians may all be of help in planning the intervention and choosing the best available treatment program.

Finally, the family can squarely confront the drinking problem. Refusing to accept the alcoholic’s denials and evasions, the family members can calmly and firmly tell the alcoholic that they have a disease and needs help and help is available. The alcoholic must know that the family is not bluffing, and the family should therefore be prepared to follow through on any threats made.

Image by Sandy Millar from Unsplash

The road is not an easy one. The alcoholic may deny their problem, throw tantrums, or weep with self-pity. There may be ugly quarrels and moments when hope and optimism are too painful to help. Friends and relatives who do not understand the disease may believe the family is overreacting. Encounters with unenlightened physicians, psychiatrists, and other professionals who insist the alcoholic is psychologically or emotionally disturbed rather than suffering from a physiological addiction may be frustrating or confusing.

Once the family decides to do something to help the alcoholic, however difficult, it is less painful than continuing to be involved in their slow death. Covering up, ignoring, or denying the disease is sure to prolong the agony. 

The employer

The alcoholics’ employer can wield enormous influence over their decision to enter treatment. The employer can pose the critical choice: enter treatment or lose your job. A therapist once said, “An alcoholic may be insane, but he’s not crazy. He’ll get into treatment any time rather than lose his job. He has to have money to finance his habit.”

The employer’s ultimatum squarely backs the alcoholic into a corner. They can no longer pretend that their life is normal or that their drinking does not interfere with their work. The hard evidence is there, and their boss is not kidding.

Employer confrontations are successful also because the employer is dealing with an alcoholic who can still come to work and at least keep up a semblance of normal behaviour. If the alcoholic is still working, they are probably in their disease’s early or middle stages. They still have some pride and a sense of personal integrity, their physical and mental health is not too impaired, and their job is vital to them. All these factors help the alcoholic’s motivation to get and stay sober.

The physician

The primary physician can be pivotal in alcoholism treatment, helping the alcoholics realise the serious medical consequences of drinking, providing information and referral to an effective treatment program, and supporting the alcoholic’s sobriety after specialised treatment. The strictly medical aspects of their role are learned quickly. 

Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the best program in existence for helping alcoholics to stay sober. Still, it is not a particularly effective vehicle for getting the alcoholic sober in the first place. AA is not a treatment program because it has no detoxification facilities, no 24-hour medical care, no professional counselling services, and no authority to ensure patient compliance with a treatment regimen. 

Another tenet of AA philosophy which works against early treatment is the idea of “hitting bottom,” generally expressed as the belief that alcoholics can be helped only when they realise the hopelessness of their condition and are willing to accept help. 

Finally, AA is of limited help in getting the alcoholic into treatment because it lacks potent leverage. Unlike the spouse, employer, physician, or attorney, AA does not have the power or influence necessary to compel the alcoholic into treatment by threatening an even less attractive alternative.

AA members do, however, have the wisdom of experience. Treatment programs that incorporate the principles of AA or the counsellors themselves are in recovery have the best outcome.

Image by Jason Goodman from Unsplash


Friends often do more to hurt than help the alcoholic. The misconception frequently guides them that alcoholism is an emotional weakness, and they are unwilling t attach the label “alcoholic” to someone they love and respect. They are also accustomed to defending their friend against criticism because “that is what a friend should do.”

Yet the alcoholic’s friends can help. Armed with correct information, a friend can help the alcoholic realise their problem and confront it. The friend must learn how to approach the alcoholic. If he attacks, the alcoholic will defend, and no good will come of the encounter. If he approaches with understanding and compassion, the chances that the alcoholic will listen and act are much better.

They can refuse to be manipulated by the alcoholic’s rationalisations and denials and make clear to the alcoholic that h4y have a problem and need help. A friend who refuses to support the alcoholic’s continued drinking expresses his concern for the alcoholic’s life. This concern may make a profound difference.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, call Freephone 0800 140 4044

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