Drinking problems are the cause of many relationship and other problems. It is a very difficult habit to break and affects everyone differently. As every heavy drinker and their partners knows the path is lined with broken promises, abandoned attempts, and unexpected lapses. Sometimes, when you think that everything is on the right track, at last, there is a throwback that can bring despair and an urge to throw in the towel.
As a partner, friend, or family member of someone with a drinking problem, it is easy to lose sight of your own needs and drown in the problems of your loved one. These three tips, each from a professional with many years of experience in helping people overcome their drinking problems, are designed to help you support them on the way to recovery.
Tip #1: Set Limits
To reduce the amount of alcohol your partner drinks, help them by setting a limit of how much they can drink each week and support them. Break the limit down into days, so the person who drinks too much can look at their daily target. It will not be easy, but when they do achieve their daily target reward them. It is important after a couple of weeks to slowly bring down that limit and it is also important to be realistic with that limit so they can achieve their goals of reducing the amount of alcohol they drink.
Tip #2: Focus on the Rewards for Change
The approach I take with an individual with drinking problems and their partner is to get them both to see that “the rewards for change must be greater than the rewards for staying the same.” The reason the individual developed a drinking problem was they perceived that there was a positive benefit or a reward for the behavior. If the partner will help the drinker take this rewards-based approach to change it will help both of them to work together and build more of a bond versus a consequences approach in which they eventually become adversaries.
Monte Drenner is a Licensed Counselor and Master Certified Addictions Counselor with 30 years of experience counseling people with drinking problems. Visit Monte’s website here, or follow him on Twitter.
Tip #3: Take Care of Yourself
Al-Anon is key. It is akin to Zen in the western world with its concept of detach with love, which tells partners—it’s not about you, but you have been affected; you can love the one you are with but not be controlled by him or her.
This message is — yes, you can change by beginning to take care of yourself instead of all of your energy going to helping the one you love with addiction. This simple shift in focus can create major change and healing in not only you but also in the person struggling with addiction.
Patricia O’Gorman is a practicing psychologist and co-author of 5 books on addiction, 4 on other topics related to addiction Including: “12 Steps to Self-Parenting,” “The Lowdown On Families Who Get High,” and “Healing Trauma Through Self-parenting: The Codependency Connection.” Visit Patricia’s website here, or follow her on Twitter.
These three brief tips from experts on treating drinking problems are helpful to get you on the way to support your partner and care for yourself. From setting limits to weighing the rewards of drinking less against the negatives of maintaining your harmful habits, these few steps can make the process easier.
In addition to getting professional help, joining a support group, and following the 12-step program, there are self-help programs available that are easy, convenient, and based on proven techniques. One such an example is an online 9-week program based on the principles of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, and mindfulness. Research has proven that exploring the thought processes that underlie drinking, plan and reinforce positive behaviors, and practicing everyday mindfulness help to break harmful behavior patterns such as binge drinking or dependency. If you are worried about your partner or yourself, start with a screening test before considering your options to figure out which is the most suitable action for you.