how to help an alcoholic friend

It’s not always easy helping an alcoholic friend, but it’s important you act sooner than later.

If you notice a friend has developed a habit of drinking excessively, he or she may need your help pulling back. Like many addictions, alcohol addiction may start as a seemingly harmless indulgence. If you’re not careful, this can develop into a chemical dependence without notice.

In this article, you will discover how to help an alcoholic friend.

How to Help an Alcoholic Friend Kick the Habit

A friend in need is a friend indeed. When it comes to alcohol addiction, a problem can arise when it comes to both parties agreeing that there is a need. Someone who is in addiction may not yet be at the point of wanting to acknowledge – and much less, change – the behavior. An observing friend, however, may see very clearly that there is a dangerous situation at hand. When seeking to help your friend to recognize and overcome an alcohol addiction, some preparation is necessary.

Here’s how to help an alcoholic friend.

Learn About the Problem

When seeking to help your loved one, coming in from an objective position of genuine knowledge about the situation can serve to take the edge off of the touchy nature of the subject.

While armed with information about the identifying symptoms of alcoholism, the stages of addiction, and the underlying causes of alcohol addiction, you will be better equipped to present your loved one with indisputable evidence that changes need to be made.

You will also be in a better position to avoid wrongly labeling or stigmatizing the situation, which will improve the likelihood of mutual conversation.

Rehearse Your Communication

One of the most difficult aspects of attempting to help a loved one out of a difficult situation is the closeness of the relationship. When our emotions are involved, as they are with a friend, we can be easily tempted to go off script and interject our own issues into the discussion. Before deciding to take your concern and information about alcohol addiction to your friend, spend some time outlining the key points that you wish to bring up. Practice your pitch in the mirror, or with someone you trust, and be prepared for the chance that your well-founded concerns may be dismissed or rejected by the addicted person.

Use Discretion in Timing

Just as the words you use and the ideas that you present need to be carefully crafted, the time and place that you initiate the conversation needs to be calculated. Bringing up the problem of drinking while your friend is intoxicated is rarely efficient, as the intoxicated mind is not typically capable of responding to a situation with careful consideration and rational output. You will also want to be mindful of the emotional state and mindset of your friend, outside of intoxication. Be sure that your bringing up of the topic doesn’t come out of the left field, and doesn’t result in your friend feeling blindsided by the approach.

Practice Empathy

With content and timing in place, you can move onto the deeper aspects of effective communication. If you have done your research into the factors which define and contribute to alcohol addiction, you are likely to have discovered that a person in addiction is rarely happy to be there. There are many emotional, mental, physical, and environmental factors that affect the likelihood of developing an addiction, and your friend’s situation will be no exception. Avoid blaming the addicted person, and extend compassion for your friend.

Be Honest

The fact that your concern is primarily about your friend does not erase the fact that it is also about you. If your friend’s alcohol habits weren’t negatively affecting you in some way, you likely wouldn’t be considering it a problem. Failing to mention the impact that the addictive behavior has on you, as a friend, would not accurately communicate the urgency of the situation. When discussing the issue, practice using I-statements, and let your friend know about the ways that his or her drinking is making your own life more difficult. There is a chance that your friend has, thus far, been entirely unaware that alcohol addiction has been affecting others.

Avoid Ultimatums

One of the easiest things to do – and one of the most harmful – is to respond to a stubborn friend by setting ultimatums. Ultimatums are basically threats that are used to attempt to coerce another person to behave in a way that the instigator desires. As most of us are inherently aware, changes that are made as a result of being forced are rarely genuine or lasting. An addicted person who is forced into a position of choosing your friendship or the alcohol may react with an initial agreement to stop drinking, but this is likely to be short-lived. If your friend ends up falling back into the destructive pattern, he or she is likely to experience intense guilt and temptations to lie about the continued behavior. These negative states of being are often associated with the descent into addiction, in the first place.

Offer Personalized Support

In place of demanding changes, what you do want to offer is support. If you have followed the steps for effective communication, you have likely received some insight into your friend’s struggle with alcohol. It may be the case that your friend is lonely, lacking in plans for the future, or suffering from previously undisclosed mental health issues. Rather than presenting ideas for recovery as you see them, you can be the best kind of friend by adapting your offers of support according to what your friend actually needs. Offer to get your friend out of the house to participate in some new activities, suggest some educational resources, or provide some phone numbers for local counselors. Finding inspiration to replace the addictive behaviors and perspectives with more adaptive ones is a big part of recovery, and you can play a role in fostering that inspiration.

Don’t Take Pushback Personally

If you know anything about the human nature of the stages of change, you know that we only change when we are ready to change. Until that point, we are likely to defend our current state as being acceptable, no matter what rational arguments are presented to the contrary. A person who is in the middle of addiction is unlikely to be receptive to the input from a concerned friend, regardless of the level of trust, love, and respect for each other. Be prepared for the chance that your friend won’t appreciate your attempts to get him or her back on track, and may even react to your suggestion that things are out of control with some hostility.

Professional Help

Now that you know how to help an alcoholic friend, you may want to consider introducing your friend to a professional.

Alcohol addiction often requires help from a professional. This ensures your friend is in the care of professionals dedicated to understanding how addiction affects the body and mind.

A professional will offer programs and therapy designed to assist the person recover from addiction in a safe environment, free from outside influence and temptation.

If you need help, please contact a professional for assistance today.