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Helping an Alcoholic Family Member

Alcoholism has existed for thousands of years, as has advice for family members seeking help for an alcoholic in the home. This help has come from friends, coworkers, next-door neighbors, professionals, clergy, self-help groups, and books. Although much advice is misguided, there is a common dynamic for successful intervention—insisting the alcoholic accept responsibility for getting help, and not making him or her feel guilty for having the disease. The better approach emphasizes using every crisis as an opportunity to motivate the addict to accept help. In contrast, the “guilt or shame” approach concerns itself with controlling the addict, dispensing blame, and monitoring the time, amount, and place of drinking. The idea is to shame the alcoholic into exercising more willpower. The American Medical Association proclaimed alcoholism a chronic disease nearly 60 years ago. So did the World Health Organization. If you struggle with accepting the chronic disease model, you likewise will struggle to make this revolutionary shift from guilt to insistence on treatment. The guilt approach makes you a watcher, controller, and enabler. The accountability for treatment makes getting help non-negotiable. Helping an alcoholic requires the right mind-set—the one derived from understanding alcoholism as a disease without reservation.

Tracy Bussey | 11/13/2016

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