What to do if you think your friend is an alcoholic
If your friend’s drinking habits are becoming a concern, you may be worried that they are developing an addiction and wondering how to help them. As someone close to the individual, you may be in a better position to recognise changes in their behaviour and offer support to your friend. Here are some ways you can help a friend struggling with an alcohol addiction and the appropriate steps to take if you’re concerned.
Choose Your Moment Carefully
Choosing the right moment is essential for both of you. Make sure you’re both calm and not in any emotional state. Remain confident and be prepared with as much information as you can so you can offer advice at the right moments. It also helps to prepare a plan in advance – if there are rehab centres close to your friend or meetings that you can offer to go to with them for support, this information is useful to have to hand when you speak to them.
Talk about Underlying Issues
People very rarely drink just to drink – there’s often an underlying issue, such as anxiety, depression or grief, that causes them to drink as a method of self-medication. While it’s important to speak to your friend about their drinking, it’s also important to acknowledge the reasons why they feel the need to do so. Ask them gently if there’s a contributing cause to their drinking and see if there are ways you can help them.
Approach with Empathy
The best way to approach someone you’re worried about is gently and with plenty of sensitivity. It can be humiliating for someone to be told they have an addiction and they may become defensive or be in denial about it, so it’s key to remain calm when you’re talking to them and show concern rather than disapproval. The language you use is also important – avoid making judgemental statements and use positive and empathetic phrases instead, such as ‘I wonder if you drink less, your health may improve” or “I’ve noticed changes in you since you started drinking more”.
It can be easy to slip into lecture mode when you’re worried about someone and they’re not acknowledging their destructive behaviour, but it can quickly backfire. If you want to get someone on board to your way of thinking, you will have more luck with a caring approach. It’s easy to start just telling them all the facts from how long does it take to detox from alcohol, to what it does to your liver. Don’t shame or threaten them and remember that although you’re their friend and you care about their wellbeing, you’re not their therapist or counsellor so their treatment should be the responsibility of a qualified professional.
Stay Connected to Them
First and foremost, you’re their friend, so you’re in a great position to help them relax and have fun. Find activities you can do together that don’t involve alcohol – where you would maybe once have gone to the pub for a drink after work, perhaps opt for the cinema instead or go for a walk. This will help to minimise the pressure they may feel in avoiding drinking but will still give you the opportunity to show them you’re supporting them as they work on their recovery from alcohol dependency.