Caring for someone with a drinking problem

Caring for somebody with a drinking problem can be a huge challenge, and it is even more difficult if you can't get the help you need to look after them.

People who care for problem drinkers are entitled to just as much recognition and support as any other carer, but sadly they are often perceived differently by others. 

The stigma that surrounds alcoholism means that getting help isn't always an easy process, but throughout that process, it is very important to find time to look after yourself, too.

Caring is a difficult job that has lots of work involved, but if you don't find time for yourself, it makes it even more difficult. Finding time to stay fit and healthy will reduce the time you are hampered by illness, and being fit will make daily jobs easier for your body to handle. It sounds very simple, but ultimately this means ensuring you get a good night's sleep, you eat healthily, and find time to exercise.

Things to stop doing if you care for an alcoholic

Caring for an alcoholic can be mentally and physically draining, so it is important you look after yourself both for you and for the person you care for. In the process of doing this, there are several things you need to make sure you stop yourself from doing. These include:

Blaming yourself: A true alcoholic is going to try and drink regardless of what you say or do, so don't beat yourself up over it

Taking their drinking personally: Alcoholics will often make promises about quitting drinking, and yet find themselves drinking straight afterwards. It is important you don't consider this as them lying to you - alcohol can change the chemistry of the brain so they may not be in control of their decision making

Try to cure their drinking: It is unlikely you can solve the problem unless you are an expert in counselling. It needs to come from the drinker themselves

Cover their drinking up, or enable it: This is counter-productive to helping them get healthy. Be open and honest about the extent of their drinking instead

Accept unacceptable behaviour: Abusive behaviour is never acceptable, whether there is alcohol involved or not

Bring up the past: Alcoholism is a condition which gets worse over time, until the alcoholic gets help for themselves. You'll both benefit if you look to the future, rather than to the past

Have unreasonable expectations: Alcoholics are likely to promise they'll never drink again, but they can't even make that promise to themselves. This needs to be remembered if they do start drinking again

Put off getting help: if their drinking has been "a family issue" which has been managed by family members, it may be daunting to think about reaching out for help. There are plenty of groups who would love to hear from you and have heard many similar cases, so don't feel embarrassed about needing support.