Living with someone who has an alcohol problem can be very difficult. Every single interaction, no matter how mundane, can lead to an argument in a matter of seconds; what starts out as a simple comment, such as “Could you take out the trash?” can escalate into a situation of violence.
In this article, we have put together a few helpful tools to avoid such conflicts, as much as possible, and to help you stay safe when faced with aggression from a person who is under the influence of alcohol.
Avoiding Conflict with an Alcoholic Family Member and Giving Them the Support They Need
Whether the family member is your husband, wife, brother, or child, it is important to remember that alcohol is a depressant that affects decision-making – when your family member has consumed large quantities of it, you are not dealing with a rational person. Therefore, even if you use convincing arguments with them, these might be of no use.
As a matter of fact, some studies on the brain have shown that alcohol consumption reduces activity in the prefrontal cortex, which affects both our memory and self-control functions. This, in turn, can lead to episodes of uncontrollable anger and violence. These episodes may include not only physical aggression but also psychological violence, which might undermine the family member’s self-esteem, and sexual violence.
The first step to avoiding conflict is to try to talk to the addicted person when they are sober, which is the only time they will be able to hold a logical and rational conversation. Sometimes, it might be advisable for the whole family to intervene, so that the alcoholic understands they have a problem and the whole family will support them in finding a solution together.
The second step is to try to create an environment where there is no alcohol and, if necessary, cut off the funding for the person’s addiction. You may decide to keep separate bank accounts, cancel credit cards, or reduce the amount of cash readily available in the home. The goal is to make it harder for your alcoholic family member to drink and create space for sober conversations where you can address their addiction and possible solutions.
Thirdly, avoid spending time alone with the addicted person and try to be accompanied at all times by another family member, so that you can get help if necessary.
How to Act During a Violent Episode
As you may know, violent episodes are unpredictable, so you can’t always be prepared. That is the reason why you need a back-up plan in case you can’t have someone accompanying you at all times. You might choose to keep your car keys close at hand at all times or think of a code word you can send a loved one via WhatsApp so they can come quickly or call the police for you. The important thing is that you can escape and be safe at the slightest sign of violence.
But, even more important than that, you need to seek professional help as soon as possible to learn how to manage these situations. Episodes of violence of this kind may have tragic consequences if they aren’t dealt with quickly. Even if you’ve been able to handle arguments in the past, it doesn’t mean that you will always be able to stop a person who is not fully in control of their actions and emotions.
As such, our recommendation is very clear: take action as soon as possible. At Dianova, we have been treating people with alcohol problems for over 35 years, helping them to re-establish strong and healthy family ties.
Don’t put your life or your loved ones’ lives at risk.
There is a solution for what you are going through. All you have to do is take the first step.