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hug_of_war's avatar

How do you handle loved ones' mistakes?

Asked by hug_of_war (10715points) August 20th, 2014

A person I know is going down a bad path with alcohol, and I’m really concerned. Yet, this person is not my child, and they are a legal adult, so I can’t really make them stop. (They are not driving drunk, and even if they were we don’t live in the same city so I wouldn’t know about it anyway).

I know you have to let people live their own lives, but it’s killing me seeing this person self-medicate. They used to drink less than once a month, and rarely to the point of excess. Now they are drinking at least once a week (again, that I know about, I suspect it’s happening more) which wouldn’t be a problem if they were not getting completely drunk (to the point of puking, not remembering what happened the night before, etc).

I know some people might think that is just normal, but they are nearly 30, and I know they are struggling mentally. I try to be someone they can talk to about the depression and such, but again I can’t make them do anything about it.

So how do you stop going crazy over stuff like this, when you have no authority to make decisions for them. I’m finding it difficult to just let them live how they want and not care about the consequences.

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9 Answers

lillycoyote's avatar

There’s not much you really can do. People with drug and alcohol problems need to come to the realization that they have a problem for themselves and have to want to get help for themselves. It’s very, very difficult to help someone who doesn’t want to be helped or is even willing to admit that they have a problem.

If you feel it won’t just make things worse, push your friend away, make him defensive, or make him resent your intrusion into his personal life, you could maybe just tell him that you are concerned about his drinking but the only one who knows whether that would be a good or bad thing is you. You may not be the first one to express concern. If your friend hears if from enough people it might get his attention eventually.

Buttonstc's avatar

There’s no question that this person needs help. If ones drinking often results in blackouts, that’s one of the criteria for alcoholism.

If they’re not ready for help then there is no way to force them. You’re correct about that.

Depending upon how well you know his other loved ones, you might be able to organize something that may present him with the consequences of his drinking sufficient for him to agree to treatment.

I’m referring to an organized intervention. Basically the mbers of the family gather beforehand , preferably with the help of an intervention specialist, to discuss each persons contribution to the effort.

The goal is to not only confront him with the consequences of his out of control drinking but also let him know how much everyone truly loves him and cares very much and don’t want to see him continue to destroy his life and relationships with everyone who loves him.

A concerted effort by all of you together is a lot harder to be in denial about. Hopefully it’s enough overwhelming love combined with truth that will cut through his denial enough to realize that he can’t go on like this.

The alcohol is simply a temporary escape, solves nothing and actually makes everything worse.

At least it’s worth a try.

marinelife's avatar

So sorry that you are having to stand by and watch this. There really are not any good choices here. You don’t want to enable them so tell them that you are concerned by their increased level of drinking and getting drunk. It will probably fall on deaf ears right now, but may plant a seed for sometime in the future.

Then, basically, don’t look while they go downhill. You must protect yourself emotionally and involvement with a drunk is no way to do that. For your support, you can go to an al-anon meeting for the loved ones of alcohol abusers. It may help give you the strength.

hominid's avatar

@hug_of_war: “I’m finding it difficult to just let them live how they want and not care about the consequences.”

It seems that you might not know enough about how they live or whether or not they care about the consequences, right?

If you lived near your friend and really saw him/her spiraling out of control and had expressed concern to you that they were losing control, you might have some thinking to do about how to deal with this. Likely, you’d be best to be there for your friend in any way you two decide is appropriate. As it is right now, you are making guesses about your friend’s actions and his/her desires of what they are going through and how they want to lead their life.

I don’t have a suggestion for you other than to recommend some questions that should be asked. You might want to ask yourself why you feel that your friend needs intervention. Why do you feel that you would be able to fix things? Might your interest in fixing your friend’s life be in any way a distraction from fixing your own? How might your friends view how you lead your life, and is there a chance that they might be concerned about you as well? What would you do if your friend were to ask you – tonight – for help or advice?

Coloma's avatar

It’s very kind that you are concerned, but…that’s where your involvement has to stop. No amount of concern or lecturing or intervention will make a difference until the person in question is ready to take a look at their behavior and take the steps needed to make changes.
The worst thing you can do is shame them for their behavior, they probably feel enough self loathing and shame as it is.
Do not judge, do not lecture, do not try to play therapist.

Just be a friend and help them come to their own conclusions, unless….their behavior is directly effecting you, in which case you may need to cut them off. People have to come to their own conclusions, usually the hard way, nothing wrong with that, it’s how many of us learn. Everyone has something they know they could, should, change about themselves, but…it’s nobodies business unless it is directly effecting you.
Ask yourself if YOU have some vested interest in being some sort of savior to this person, if You have a need to be some sort of hero. ?????

You might be surprised at discovering your own ego is at work here, wanting to be some sort of enlightening guru to this poor lesser soul. Being invested in a rescuer mission is just as bad as being a drunk, it’s codependent and equally unhealthy.

JLeslie's avatar

I assume you know they are drinking because they either told you, or have talked to you while drunk. If I saw a pattern I would tell the person I am concerned about them, and that I think they are drinking too much. Most likely they will get defensive, once in a blue moon the person also is worried about it.

If they are obviously drunk whenever I talk to them, I would tell them I love spending time with them and talking to them, but I no longer will want to spend time with them when they have been drinking, if they are sober they are always welcome. The longer friends and family members ignore or tolerate the behavior the longer it will take for the person to see what is going on.

Aside from that there isn’t much you can do. It can be heartbreaking I know.

It doesn’t sound like the person you are talking about is necessarily becoming an alcoholic. Is it possibly they have been hanging out with some friends who tend to drink on the weekends and so they have been too? I still would point out my concern possibly, but I would not jump to assuming they are out of control. I would have to see a pattern over several months to become very concerned or actually say something. Whatever I say would be short and sweet. No lecture, just concern, and setting my own boundaries for the relationship.

hug_of_war's avatar

@JLeslie – While they have on occasion been drinking with work friends, for the most part they are drinking alone, which is what really concerns me. This isn’t one beer to relax after a tough day sadly. I certainly wouldn’t call them an alcoholic yet, but with a family history of addiction (every single male member of his family for 3 generations has had some issues with it), I’m just concerned.

@hominid – I don’t think I can fix things, that is why I asked this because I’m aware I can’t. I’m just a concerned friend. I get other people can turn off their caring buttons easily, but when you have almost no one who gives two shits about you, the friends you do have each mean a whole lot.

Thanks everyone, most of your responses have been really helpful to me.

JLeslie's avatar

@hug_of_war Just so I understand, this is a couple you are talking about, or one person? You use they, but also use his. I would be worried too. Since addiction is in the family I would have a very negative view of any drinking, but I am negative about any sort of drinking with regularity. Every day, every weekend, it all bothers me.

hug_of_war's avatar

This person committed suicide Friday, Don’t give up on them, please.

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