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How to Talk to an Alcoholic in Denial

How to Talk to an Alcoholic in Denial

The first step in getting addiction support is admitting you have a problem. However, some people are in denial about their addiction and don't believe they have a problem or that it's not as bad as it actually is. Denial can stop a person from seeking the treatment they need to improve their overall well-being.

If your loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction but is in denial about their problems, it can cause tension in your relationship and personal life. Learning how to talk to an alcoholic in denial can help encourage your loved one to get the help they need.

Why Does Addiction Cause Denial?

Denial is when someone downplays or ignores their reality and is often the result of deeper pain, such as guilt, shame, loneliness or fear of the future. When people want to suppress these uncomfortable feelings, they may turn to substances like alcohol or drugs. These substances help people ignore their feelings, and their denial can also extend to their substance use, where they may downplay the extent of their addiction or not believe it exists.

Addiction can be a vicious cycle where it helps comfort people but is also a significant problem. When people are in denial about their addiction, they will often be in denial about their substance use becomes impossible to ignore. While someone is trying to protect themselves from their uncomfortable feelings, turning to substances and addiction can cause more destruction than ever, and not just for themselves. Addiction affects everyone involved in a person's life, causing tension and grief for families and loved ones.

While denial can be a temporary way to deal with a traumatic or stressful situation, it can be harmful in the long run since it will prevent someone from addressing the root of the problem or seeking help. Turning to alcohol often deepens a person's denial. Some signs that your loved one may be struggling with denial include:

  • Comparing their alcohol use with others, saying they're not as bad as others.
  • Rationalizing that they need alcohol after a long day or stressful event.
  • Blaming other people in their life for their problems.
  • Minimizing their alcohol use because they believe they can still take care of their responsibilities.

6 Tips to Talk to Someone in Denial

If your loved one is in denial about their alcohol use, there are ways to help them. Below are some tips to help you learn how to help an alcoholic in denial:

1. Use "I" Statements

When talking to someone in denial about their alcohol use, you want to stick with "I" statements instead of "you." Using "you" statements can make a person feel like you're blaming them for what's gone wrong in their life, making them resistant to getting help. Instead, you should use "I" statements to talk about how their alcohol use has affected you and your relationship with your loved one, making it easier for them to understand the impact their alcohol use has had on the people around them.

2. Be Prepared for Negative Reactions

When you confront someone about their addiction, they may not react as expected. They may react negatively when faced with the reality of their situation, especially if they're in denial. It's essential to remember that your loved one is just trying to protect themselves from their negative experiences. If you're met with an adverse reaction, try not to take it personally. You can also take some time if emotions start to run high and reapproach the situation at another time.

3. Remind Them You're on Their Side

Many people confronted about their alcohol addiction may feel isolated or like they're being judged or targeted. You'll want to remind them that you're on their side and not against them. You should reiterate that you're here to support them through their addiction, and you can even offer them options, such as treatment programs that can help them address their underlying emotions and addiction.

4. Be Clear and Concise

You'll want to have a plan when you approach your loved one. Know what points you want to address so the conversation doesn't devolve into anger or other negative emotions. When you find out what topics you want to discuss, be clear and concise so your loved one understands what you're saying. You should also ensure that you listen carefully when your loved one responds, which will help them feel more supported and understood.

5. Stay on Track

It's also essential to stay on track when talking to your loved one in denial. If you let the conversation devolve, it can quickly turn away from getting your loved one help to something entirely different. Come prepared with your main points and stay on topic to communicate your feelings and concern. You should also come prepared with the following steps, such as encouraging your loved one to seek treatment and helping them to do so.

6. Utilize Support

If your loved one doesn't listen to you, it's best not to push. Instead, take a break from the conversation, find a second person who agrees with you and try again. However, you want to make sure your loved one doesn't feel like they're being cornered.

Remember to approach the conversation with empathy and keep in mind that your loved one is going through challenges in their life that are contributing to their addiction. If your loved one sees that multiple people care and are concerned about their well-being, they'll be more likely to listen and want to seek support with your help.

I've Talked to My Loved One and They Won't Listen. What's Next?

If you're loved one isn't listening to you, it can be challenging to deal with. Unfortunately, people have to choose to recognize their problems and seek help themselves. You can't do this for them, even if you want to.

However, you can continue to show your loved one compassion while telling them the truth. You can be empathetic toward their challenges while being honest about the severity of their addiction and how it's affecting their life and your relationship. You can continue to recommend resources and offer to go with them or support them however possible. You can find addiction programs near you and encourage your loved one to go.

Additionally, you want to ensure you're not supporting your loved one's addiction in any way. You shouldn't drink around them or do anything that may encourage addictive behaviors. You'll want to be clear that you don't support their drinking while still supporting them in other ways.

Contact Transformations By The Gulf to Start Healing Today

If you're loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction, Transformation By The Gulf can help. We are a substance abuse treatment center in St. Pete Beach, Florida. Your loved one can heal in a unique setting with traditional therapies and holistic practices to help your loved one receive comprehensive healing treatment.


Our programs are designed around biological, psychological, social, family and gender-specific needs since everyone's addiction is unique. Our treatments can help your loved one lead a productive, fulfilling and sober life. Contact us now to learn more about our programs and how we can help!

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Why Alcoholism Occurs After Gastric Bypass Surgery

Gastric bypass surgery has helped people combat obesity, diabetes and even the risk of heart disease. While it may be helpful for many people, it can also increase the effects of alcohol use. In fact, research shows an increased risk of alcohol use disorder (AUD) in patients after just three years post-procedure.

Understanding the risk of addiction associated with gastric bypass can help you prevent or address this issue. Keep reading to learn about the connection between this weight loss surgery and alcohol addiction, the symptoms of AUD and ways to get help if you or a loved one is struggling.

What Is Gastric Bypass Surgery?

Gastric bypass is one type of surgery for weight loss. During the procedure, a medical expert alters how the stomach and small intestine work to digest food. The surgeon creates a small pocket out of the stomach, which is then connected to the patient's small intestine. Food will then enter the small pouch before moving throughout the digestive system, bypassing a large part of the stomach and the initial portion of the small intestine.

Gastric bypass surgery can aid weight loss by:

  • Limiting how much food the stomach can hold
  • Reducing the nutrients and calories the body can absorb
  • Altering gut hormones to make someone feel fuller longer

Why Is There a Connection Between Alcohol Addiction and Gastric Bypass Surgery?

Researchers aren't entirely sure why gastric bypass may lead to issues with alcohol, though there are a few possible explanations and theories:

1. Changes to Blood Alcohol Content Level

Many patients report a higher sensitivity to the effects of alcohol after gastric bypass surgery. The stomach lining contains an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase that metabolizes alcohol. When alcohol enters just a tiny stomach pouch after gastric bypass, it comes into contact with less alcohol dehydrogenase and moves to the small intestine quicker, leading to more alcohol entering the bloodstream. As a result, patients drinking alcohol after gastric bypass surgery:

  • Have higher blood alcohol content levels.
  • Get drunker faster.
  • Have alcohol in their system longer than those who have not had the surgery.

These effects may impact how the brain responds to alcohol and explain the increased potential for an alcohol use disorder. This is similar to why women are more sensitive to alcohol than men. Women have significantly less alcohol dehydrogenase in their stomach lining, making alcohol enter the bloodstream easier. One alcoholic drink can affect a woman more strongly than one drink for a man.

As a result, drinking alcohol after gastric bypass surgery can result in more alcohol consumption — patients might get drunker faster and take longer to sober up, making drinking seem more appealing to some.

2. Changes in Gut Hormones and Reward Circuitry

Another potential cause is that weight loss surgery affects your gut hormones, including dopamine. This and other hormones impact feelings of hunger and fullness, but they also influence the sense of reward we feel after eating and drinking. Essentially, drinking alcohol after gastric bypass might be related to a changed hormone balance, and the boosted reward sensation can lead to AUD.

Alcohol is, therefore, recognized differently in the brain following gastric bypass surgery. If the pathway to a reward sensation becomes more activated after drinking alcohol, it can lead to addiction.

3. Addiction Transfer

Another possible reason for the connection between gastric bypass surgery and AUD could be addiction transfer. Like addictive substances, food can trigger feel-good chemicals like dopamine. Patterns of overeating might transfer to substances like alcohol after gastric bypass.

While researchers cannot entirely dismiss this theory, it's more likely the chemical, physical and biological changes that occur as a result of gastric bypass are most responsible for causing AUD in post-surgery patients.

That said, the following are risk factors of addiction transfer to be aware of:

  • Personal or family history of substance use disorder
  • History of eating disorders
  • Past trauma, such as childhood abuse
  • Regular alcohol use before surgery
  • Lack of healthy coping mechanisms
  • Lack of social support
  • Feelings of isolation
  • Depression, mood or anxiety disorders

Who's Most at Risk for an AUD Following Gastric Bypass?

Some factors can affect the likelihood of alcohol addiction among gastric bypass patients, such as being male, being young and feeling left out or like you don't belong. Those who already struggled with alcohol use before surgery are also at a higher risk of AUD.

Overall, people at the most risk of alcohol addiction after gastric bypass include:

  • Men
  • Smokers
  • Young adults
  • Those missing a support system
  • People who use drugs recreationally
  • People who regularly consume alcohol

Factors that did not appear to influence the development of alcohol misuse post-surgery include binge eating tendencies before treatment.

Signs of Alcohol Use Disorder After Gastric Bypass Procedure

The signs of alcohol use disorder after gastric bypass surgery might not be noticeable at first. The following are symptoms of addiction you might notice in yourself or a loved one following the procedure:

  • Spending the majority of your time drinking or hungover
  • Unsuccessful attempts to reduce or stop drinking
  • Having cravings to drink
  • Drinking's interference with daily responsibilities
  • Engaging in reckless behavior while intoxicated
  • Quitting previously enjoyed activities in favor of drinking
  • Relationship issues
  • Drinking to the point of blackout or losing memory of events while drunk
  • Having to drink more to get the same effect
  • Drinking more or for longer periods than planned
  • Having withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop alcohol consumption

If you or a loved one has experienced two or more of the above symptoms, an alcohol use disorder may be developing. Luckily, there are several alcohol treatment services available that can help you overcome the cycle.