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Sunday, February 19, 2017

My spouse has been drinking too much. What’s the best way to address this?

Posted By: Advancing Care

The first step in talking to a loved one about problematic behaviors is to initiate an honest, open and respectful conversation. Gail Bailey-Wallace, MD, Acting Section Chief of Addiction Medicine at Westchester Medical Center and MidHudson Regional Hospital, members of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth), says that citing statistics is less powerful than talking about relatable, everyday experiences. “If you observe progressive difficulty in their functioning after an evening of social drinking, the need for a drink upon awakening or increasing interest in alcohol consumption, begin the conversation by simply stating non-judgmental concern about what you observed,” she says, but be prepared for denial or anger. Then what? Though medications to combat cravings and treatment programs have long been available, she says, “The urgency that family or friends may feel may be another stressor for the patient and may push them to hide their drinking as they escalate. It’s important for the members of the support structure to understand that the patient has to be ready to seek treatment.” Once patients accept their reality, they can self-determine their next step toward recovery. The individual path will depend on variables such as age, life circumstances and mental/medical health. “They need to be an active partner in making changes,” Dr. Bailey-Wallace stresses. “You can’t force it.”