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How To Help An Alcoholic Playbook

Alcoholism is a treatable, medical condition. It does, however, require the full cooperation of the the person with it. If you want to know how to help an alcoholic, learn as much as you can about alcoholism and the process of recovery.

Alcoholics do not like to be told what to do. 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. They are sick and need compassion.

  • The best way to help an alcoholic can be tricky.

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

Consequences of alcoholism are such things as 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 combating 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, your friends, your self, 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. This 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 major steps to preparing yourself to help an alcoholic family member. The first step is to clearly 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. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still care about the person, but you need 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. 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

This is the most difficult step and the one likely to face the most resistance, which is why many people choose to stage an intervention. An intervention provides support for you and others who are concerned, even more than it actually 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. This 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 being able to offer multiple examples of times and places when the alcoholic drank too much and caused harm to self or others.

Also, as much as you may be tempted to talk to the alcoholic during a drunken outburst, don’t bother. This discussion only has value when they are completely sober.

Offering Solutions

Simply telling your family member they have a problem isn’t enough. Odds are, in some recess of their mind, they actually 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 actually solving the problem.

Be Yourself

Finally, it is just as important 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 serious nature of the situation. Rarely does the individual realize how their behavior is having 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 both 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 alcohol in their body.

The first critical question would be “is this person really 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 a honest assessment and evaluation done by a professional. This, of course, requires the full and complete cooperation of the person involved. Until someone is willing to admit they might have a drinking problem, not much can be done to help them.

3 Key Rules

Rule #1


It can be very easy to get too involved with someone else’s problem. This is especially true when the person is 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 live 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 are slowing down the downward spiral of their decent to being helped.

8 Things To Keep In Mind

  1. You should start going to Al-anon meetings and work their program diligently
  2. The affected person must agree to get a 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 main taproot of long term recovery
  8. Let them work their own program

Be Firm and Caring

Getting their cooperation can be a difficult 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” as the result of their alcohol use. It is fairly rare for someone to consider stopping drinking until something serious has happened as a result of 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 but how does one determine what constitutes an excessive amount of alcohol?

Obviously, daily drinking and blackout episodes could be considered good indicators of a drinking problem. You may be surprised to learn that even occasional drinkers could be considered to have alcoholism.

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. Alcoholics do not like to be told what to do. You may need support for you 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, if warranted.

In most case, 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 difficult to know what do when someone you care about has a problem with drugs and or alcohol. 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. 9,125 people die every day in some kind of an alcohol-related incident, worldwide. Getting arrested for driving while intoxicated now carries mandatory jail time. Even smoking marijuana can have a profound effect on someone’s ability to drive a care safely.

Consider a Well Planned Intervention

Consider doing an intervention, if warranted.

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

It 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 process of recovery is a progression starting with some form of treatment. Treatment for alcoholism starts with medically supervised detox. Detox must always be done under medical supervision. 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 very good 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 do 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 they are done right, interventions are always successful.

  • If you decide to just talk with the affected person, make sure you consider doing it with another person there too. 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 nature of their problem. Always plan what to say and know something about the rehab, treatment and recovery process.

Join Al-Anon

If you are in any kind of 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.

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