A: By the time family members ask this question, the drinker has usually developed a severe alcohol use disorder.
In other words, they have gotten to the point that they continue to drink in spite of obvious problems caused by their drinking. Personal, social and perhaps legal problems that would cause any reasonable person to conclude that their drinking habits should be curtailed or eliminated, do not seem to have much effect on those who are alcoholics, at least not in the long run.
The reason for this is alcoholism is almost always accompanied by denial that there is a problem. No matter how obvious the problem seems to those around the alcoholic, the alcohol dependent person loudly denies that drinking is the cause, and usually blames the circumstances or people around them instead.
When visitors to the Alcoholism site at About.com ask the above questions about the drinker in their lives, via email or on the Alcoholism / Substance Abuse Forum , the answer they usually receive is, "Unfortunately, there is not much anyone can do, until they admit they have a problem."
Forcing SolutionsIf the alcoholic is not ready to reach out for help, efforts by friends and family to try to force them to admit to the problem, usually causes more problems. It's only when the consequences of their drinking becomes painful enough will they reach out for help.
Sometimes in extreme cases, when the drinker's health and well-being becomes critically threatened, a professional intervention may become necessary, but even then sometimes the attempt will create even more family problems.
So, what do we tell the families when they ask what they can do to help? We suggest that they attend Al-Anon meetings in their area, or join an online group to learn more about the family disease of alcoholism.
In Al-Anon, family members can learn more about the unhealthy roles they may be playing in the life of the alcoholic, and whether or not their actions may actually be enabling the alcoholic to continue in their behavior, without them realizing it.
Are you helping or enabling? Answer These Questions to find out.
In Al-Anon Family Groups, family members can learn how to detach from the alcoholic's problems -- not the alcoholic -- and can find a wealth of Al-Anon literature to read that can help them to find solutions that lead to serenity.