How do you support somebody that has a drinking problem?

Written by Nigel Simpkins

Alcoholism is a lot more common than people realize and it can affect anybody at any time. We have a lot of typical stereotypes that we think of when we hear the word alcoholic. You’re likely to picture somebody sitting on a park bench, drinking out of a big bottle of cheap alcohol, but that isn’t always the reality. A lot of people are what is known as high functioning alcoholics; they still hold down a job and go about their daily responsibilities, but in secret, they’re drinking very heavily and have a reliance on it. Alcoholism doesn’t just affect older people either, but we don’t often think of younger people as being alcoholics. Instead, you would just say that they’re the kind of person that likes to go out and party, but there is a point where that becomes a problem. University students are at risk of this because drinking culture is a big part of university, especially in your first year, but some people do take it too far.

Alcoholics are good at hiding their addiction and they come up with a lot of different ways to get around it so people don’t realize how much or how often they’re drinking. However, there are certain behaviours that indicate that somebody might have a problem with drinking. If you suspect that somebody close to you is struggling with alcohol addiction, it’s important that you’re there to support them. Unfortunately, that can be difficult because their behaviour will be affected and they aren’t going to be the most pleasant person to be around. A lot of people don’t really know what the best thing to do is and they end up distancing themselves from that person. If somebody that you know has a drinking problem, these are the best things that you can do to support them.

Get Informed

The first thing that you should try to do is understand what they’re going through. Alcoholism is a very complex thing and it often has its roots in other mental health issues. For the most part, it is a symptom of another problem, rather than the cause. Alcoholism can also be caused by genetics in some cases, so even though that person is responsible for their actions and they have to accept that responsibility, blaming them isn’t always helpful. If you spend some time understanding alcoholism and the different causes of the problem, it will help you to stop blaming that person and find better ways to help them overcome their addiction.

As a friend or family member of somebody with an alcohol addiction, you can attend Al-Anon meetings. These meetings are there to help you understand alcoholism better and they also offer you support to deal with the emotional issues that you are experiencing as a result of somebody else’s addiction. One of the most important things that it teaches you is how to distance yourself from the addict’s problems, and not the person themselves. Having that support network there will make it a lot easier for you to deal with and you will get a lot of good advice on how to move forward.

Approach The Subject Carefully

If you dive straight in and say that you know they’re an alcoholic and they need to seek treatment, they’re not going to react well. If they feel that they’re being ganged up on or attacked, they will push back against you. A lot of alcoholics are in denial so you should expect them to try to downplay the problem. Even those that admit that they have a problem might tell you that they have it under control and they’re going to stop drinking on their own, but this rarely works.

Before you have the conversation, you need to sit down and plan out what you’re going to say. Always start by telling that person that you care about them and you’re only having this conversation because you are worried. Then you can tell them that you think that they may have a problem and point to some problems that it is causing. For example, their drinking may be causing financial problems or relationship issues. When you can highlight ways that it is affecting their life, they will be more receptive to your suggestion of change.

Help Them To Find Treatment

Your first conversation is not likely to be successful but if you raise the subject more than once, they may eventually agree that they need treatment. At this stage, you should support them and help them to look at the different treatment options. If their problem is particularly bad and they are heavily reliant on alcohol, cutting it all out right away can be dangerous for them. In this case, it’s best to look into luxury rehab centers where they can safely reduce their alcohol intake and eventually stop. Being in that safe environment with experts around them is often what people need to make a clean break from the alcohol and start a new chapter.

As well as rehab centers, you should look into Alcoholics Anonymous. The 12 step program is often the best way for people to stop drinking because it offers continued support. It’s not just about kicking the alcohol, it’s about dealing with the root causes of the addiction and learning to take a new approach to life so they don’t have to rely on alcohol to deal with their problems.

Check In But Don’t Check Up

You’re always going to be worried about them relapsing and you’ll want to check that things are going well. However, it’s important that they feel trusted, they don’t want to feel like a child that needs constant checking up on. That’s why you need to check in, but not check up. What that means is that it’s ok to ask them how they’re doing and if there is anything bothering them that they want to talk about. But it’s not ok to keep asking them about whether they’ve been drinking and taking an accusatory tone with them.

The most important thing to remember is that recovery is going to be a long road and you need to be there to support them along the way.