April is Alcohol Awareness Month. Here are some useful tools and resources to utilize if you think a friend or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction.
What should I look for?
As with all addictions, there are often signs of alcohol addiction that indicate destructiveness in the areas of work, personal relationships and family relationships. Some of the signs may include an increased preoccupation with drinking, irritability/mood swings when trying to stop, "blackouts" or temporary short-term memory loss while drinking, increased isolation accompanied by drinking alone, and making excuses to justify drinking, i.e. to "deal with stress" or "feel normal."
What is an intervention?
Approaching a friend or a loved one can be a scary and vulnerable experience for everyone involved. During an intervention, it is important to approach your friend or loved one gently yet strategically. Be clear and communicative by providing concrete examples of their behaviors and the consequences you have observed. Using "I statements" to frame your experience of their challenges can be a helpful way to communicate your concern.
In general, there are four stages to conducting an intervention.
1) Validation: creating a safe, compassionate space to approach your loved one. You may wish to ask for support from others who have witnessed your friend or loved one's destructive behaviors. There is strength in numbers - the more support you have, the harder it will be for your loved one to minimize the severity of their behaviors.
Recognizing your own feelings (i.e. anger, resentment, fear) before you approach your loved one is essential in order to communicate with love and clarity. You may wish to prepare a letter and share it with him/her to express your support and concerns clearly.
2) Documentation: offer concrete examples of what you have seen from your loved one when they have been drinking. Provide detailed accounts of your experiences and utilize "I" statements to avoid blaming or shaming.
3) Recommendation: create a pre-arranged plan of action for your friend or loved one, whether it's attending an AA meeting or support group, seeking therapy or treatment. A licensed interventionist or therapist may also be helpful to guide you in brainstorming recommendations.
4) Consequences: this stage is often the most challenging to communicate and uphold. In order to have an effective intervention, our loved ones must hear the consequences of their destructive behaviors, regardless of whether or not they have already happened. Consider what you wish your role to be in your loved one's life if they choose not to take action, and be ready to set and maintain the appropriate boundary.