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How To Help An Alcoholic

Knowing how to help an alcoholic can save their lifes, no doubt about it. The first step is to learn as much as you can about alcoholism and the process of recovery.

We always encourage someone considering it is to seek the support from friends and family, to deal with this sensitive circumstance. There is a free, nationwide support group called “Al-Anon.” It offers help for people in a relationship with a drinking problem. Remember, they are sick, not bad and need compassion and understanding.

  • It can be tricky and needs careful planning. The stakes are high.

Alcoholism is a disease that can destroy lives and tear apart a family if left unchecked.

The consequences of alcoholism are destroying families and marriages, poverty, loss of life, or prison time. And while there are lots of resources available to combat usually, the actual job of fighting this disease has to be shouldered by family members of the alcoholic.

If you are a family member of an alcoholic and want to protect your loved one, your family, friends, yourself, and others, the following is how you can help.

How to Help an Alcoholic Family Member

The first step to dealing with alcoholism in a family member is educating yourself on the problem. It means learning about the warning signs, the potential consequences, dangerous activities the alcoholic is likely to engage in, and most importantly, the resources available for treatment. Without a solid understanding of the problem, you can’t reasonably bring about a solution.

Be Prepared

There are three significant steps to preparing yourself to help an alcoholic family member. The first step is to identify the symptoms and consequences that the alcoholic is suffering or causing others to suffer. It is best to write out a documented list, including dates and times.

  • The second step is to detach yourself emotionally from the actions of the alcoholic. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still care about the person, but you need to be prepared to discuss and possibly witness destructive behavior without getting emotional.

The final step in the process is to practice talking to the alcoholic before actually engaging. Of course, you want to be at your best during this conversation, and just like with oral book reports in middle school, you are best when you practice a few times first.

What To Say

It is the most challenging step and likely to face the most resistance, so many people choose to stage an intervention. An intervention provides support for you and others concerned, even more than it helps the alcoholic. However, because an intervention also tends to create a fight or flight reflex in the alcoholic, you almost certainly want to have initial discussions one on one, if at all possible.

However you choose to talk to the alcoholic, you should try to be minimally confrontational and provide concrete details of the problem you have witnessed. But, again, it is the value of that list you created earlier. A discussion about vague concerns of drinking too much doesn’t have the same impact as offering multiple examples of times and places when the alcoholic drank too much and caused harm to themself or others.

This discussion should take place the day after a drinking binge.

Offering Solutions

Simply telling your family member they have a problem isn’t enough. Odds are, in some recess of their mind, they know already. What is most important is offering solutions and offering to help. Whether that means you will pay for rehab, drive them to a psychiatrist, or shop for them, so the alcohol aisle doesn’t tempt them, your aid is critical to solving the problem.

Be Yourself

Finally, it is just as vital that you help yourself as the alcoholic in your family. Alcoholism weighs almost as heavily on you as it does on the alcoholic, especially since you are spending resources (mental, physical, economic, etc.) to combat the problem. At the very least, you want to find people you can lean on to reduce the stress during this time, and it is probably a good idea to engage the services of a psychiatrist.

Alcoholism is a progressive, fatal disease. If it is left untreated, it will eventually take everything away from the afflicted person. It is a physical, psychological condition. Often, there is an element of denial about the severe nature of the situation. Rarely does the individual realize how their behavior has a profound negative effect on them and other people.

There is no doubt alcoholism is a disease. The American Medical Association and the World Health Organization unequivocally define alcoholism as a progressive and potentially fatal treatable disease. It is a disease with both physical and mental manifestations. Someone with alcoholism has a type of “allergy” to alcohol. In this case, the allergy is an unnatural reaction to drink in their body.

The first critical question would be, “Is this person an alcoholic?” or not. That is not an easy question. The best way to determine whether someone does have the disease of alcoholism is to have an honest assessment and evaluation done by a professional. It, of course, requires the complete cooperation of the person involved. Until someone is willing to admit they have a drinking problem, no one can help them.

3 Key Rules

Rule #1


It can be effortless to get too involved with someone else’s problem. It is especially true when the person is a beloved member of your family or close friend. If you are not careful, you will get all wrapped in their issues and lose yourself.



People with serious drinking problems can be very manipulative and controlling. Never allow them to take advantage of you. NEVER lend them any money. By supporting their drinking behavior, you are a part of the problem. Allow them the freedom to live their life as they see fit, as long as they are not hurting anyone else but themselves.



Until someone with a drinking problem “hits bottom,” they are not ready for serious recovery. Hitting bottom is different for everyone. The more you prevent the inevitable consequences of their life choices, the more you slow down the downward spiral of their descent to being helped.

8 Things To Keep In Mind

  1. You should start going to Al-anon meetings and work on their program diligently.
  2. The affected person must agree to get professional help.
  3. If diagnosed with alcoholism, suggest they complete an alcohol treatment program.
  4. After rehab, they need to go to 90 Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in 90 days.
  5. Make it clear that you are very supportive.
  6. Let them know that you will do whatever you can to help.
  7. Spiritual growth is the central taproot of long-term recovery.
  8. Let them work on their program.

Be Firm and Caring

Getting their cooperation can be a challenging assignment. Most people who like to drink alcohol do not like the idea they have a problem. It may take putting your relationship with them “on the line.” If they refuse to cooperate, then it means they have not suffered enough “consequences” due to their alcohol use. It is pretty rare for someone to consider stopping drinking until something serious has happened due to alcohol. Consequences may be work, marriage-related, health, or getting into legal trouble, such as a DWI arrest.

Those who drink ‘too much’ may be on the verge of alcoholism. How does one determine what constitutes an excessive amount of alcohol?

Daily drinking and blackout episodes could be considered good indicators of a drinking problem. However, you may be surprised to learn that even occasional drinkers could be alcoholics.

If you want to be the most helpful to someone who is an alcoholic, learn as much as you can about alcoholism and the process of recovery. You may need support to deal with this situation. There is a free, nationwide support group called “Al-anon.” It offers help for people in a relationship with an alcoholic. Alcoholism is a treatable medical condition. They are sick and need compassion. Consider doing an intervention is warranted.

In most cases, it takes someone who cares about them to take action. The action can vary depending on the individual’s situation. In some cases, a simple conversation expressing your concern is the most appropriate thing to do.

It can be challenging to know what to do when someone you care about has a drug or alcohol problem. In general, people have the right to live their life as they see fit. However, it is a different story when it comes to alcoholism and drug addiction. Nine thousand one hundred twenty-five people die every day in some alcohol-related incident worldwide. They are getting arrested for driving while intoxicated now carry mandatory jail time. Even smoking marijuana can have a profound effect on someone’s ability to drive care safely.

Consider a Well Planned Intervention

Consider doing an intervention is warranted.

Well-planned and executed interventions work. Interventions “force” someone to agree to go to rehab or suffer immediate consequences.

It is not easy knowing what to say to someone who is suffering from alcoholism. Alcoholism is a brain disorder characterized by a variety of mental and emotional problems. Once someone is diagnosed with alcoholism, they must begin the process of recovery. The method of healing is a progression starting with some form of treatment. Alcoholism treatment starts with medically supervised detox. Professionally managing the withdrawal symptoms is serious business. Detox can be fatal.

Once someone has lost their ability to control their drinking alcohol, there is a perfect chance they are an alcoholic. Being alcoholic means they suffer from alcoholism. There is nothing shameful about alcoholism. Some of the most intelligent and famous people in history suffered from alcoholism.

Do The Right Next Thing

The best thing to help a friend or a family member with a drug and or alcohol problem is to call us. We know exactly what to do and how to do it. We will talk with you about the best options so you can decide what to do.

Sometimes planning an intervention is appropriate. If done right, interventions are always successful.

  • If you decide to talk with the affected person, make sure you consider doing it with another person. It is a good idea to have someone else present to support you.

Getting someone to agree to get help for their drug or alcohol problem can be challenging. Usually, the person is in denial about how serious the nature of the situation is. So always plan what to say and know something about the rehab, treatment, and recovery process.

Join Al-Anon

If you are in any relationship with an alcoholic, we suggest you consider joining “Al-Anon.” Al-anon is a free support group for people in relationships with an alcoholic.