Alcohol is a seductive drug. It alters a person’s thoughts and behaviors while the dependency develops. Many fall into the category of alcoholic without realizing it. They might drink excessively, black out regularly, and still behave as if they’re in the dark about any problem. Alcohol transforms the kindest of people into unrecognizable characters, without permission, and without warning. This denial is particularly troubling when trying to convince someone that they are an alcoholic.
Alcoholism is a chronic disease that can be life-threatening if left untreated. When you have a friend or loved one facing this disease, it is essential you establish a lifeline of support. This lifeline is that first conversation you have with the person.
It’s hard to know what to say when you love or care about someone who is abusing alcohol. You may not want to make your friend mad, or maybe you feel like his or her family would know better than you about how to deal with the problem. In the end, if you are concerned about someone, it is better to offer support, than to ignore it. By saying something, it may be the first step that individual takes toward recovery.
Knowing What To Say To An Alcoholic
There are a number of ways a conversation could go when you’re trying to convince someone they are an alcoholic. The first thing to remember is to avoid speaking to the person while they are intoxicated. Wait for a period of calm, when the person can think and respond more clearly. Remember, your friend is not their disease. Spend some time thinking about what you can offer in terms of a consistent message of support. Plan to meet at a location where alcohol is not present, in a comfortable setting.
It may be beneficial to establish a relationship with a treatment professional who can help you understand what to expect and how to cope with changes in the person, should they not choose to get help. They can help connect you with a professional interventionist, if an intervention is needed.
How To Start The Conversation
Begin the conversation in a way that does not the alcohol addicted person immediately on the defensive.
For example: Instead of:“You really shouldn’t drink so much.” Instead, focus on the effects of the disease. Consider:
- “I feel worried about you…”
- “I care about you and have noticed…”
- “Are you doing okay lately, it seems like…”
- “I know you would never mean to hurt me, but when you drink…”
Don’t hesitate to bring up specific examples of how their drinking has caused issues in their lives, but do so without shaming. For example, you might say, “We missed you last night and were worried when you weren’t able to make the movie…” Use examples that affect the people the alcohol-addicted individual respects and cares about (children, employer, parents, etc.)
Be prepared for excuses and denial. Understanding that most people who are suffering from a drinking problem are not always ready or willing to acknowledge the problem. They might tell you they can stop whenever they want to, or give you reasons why the drinking is acceptable (stress, “only drink after work”). Having some responses to these claims prepared ahead of time is vital in order to avoid a “No, I’m not. Yes, you are” argument.
Responding To Denial
In some cases, denial can feel like a slap in the face. Anger and frustration are understandable emotions, but not useful when trying to help your friend or loved one come to terms with their alcoholism. When the alcohol-addicted individual tells you “I don’t know what you’re talking about; I only drink after work and never bother anyone.” You’ll be ready with, “You’re a great worker and I value that. It would mean a lot to spend time with you after work without the drinking.” Or you might say, “I’ve had to cover for you a few mornings this week because you weren’t feeling well enough for work and I’m concerned it’s the alcohol.” These are not confrontational statements and they’re not as likely to perpetuate an argument.
Be Realistic About The Outcome
Convincing someone who is in denial about alcoholism that they have a problem doesn’t happen overnight. Be realistic about the outcome of your conversation and understand that this is a first step in letting someone know you care. While coping with addiction, just knowing someone is available to talk to honestly about what they’re experiencing can be hugely beneficial. Try saying, “Look, maybe you’re not ready to talk about this, but I want you to know I’m your friend and I’m here for you.” These statements create a lifeline for the person who, when ready, will know they have someone to turn to for help.
Don’t Enable The Addiction
Keep in mind, that when someone is using, they can behave in a manipulative fashion. It’s okay to say no to requests for money or alcohol. This doesn’t make you a bad person. It reiterates that you are there to help. Maintaining consistency of message “I’m here to help” is critical in reinforcing a lifeline for the person so that when they’re ready, they know where to begin. Giving someone money to buy more alcohol is enabling the addiction and can be the start of co-dependent behaviors.
The Next Step
Sometimes a person who has been abusing alcohol for some time is already aware they need help, but unsure how to get it. Knowing ahead of time what options are available locally to begin the process can be invaluable information for your friend or loved one. At this point, you can offer a ride or to help with a pet at home, should they choose to enter treatment. Consistency in terms of your support at this stage is critical. If you say you’re going to give a ride, then make sure to be available for that ride.
Things to remember when trying to convince your friend or loved one they’re alcoholic:
- Speak to them while they are sober
- Maintain positivity without judgment
- Avoid criticism
- Consistency of message
- Compassionate statements/questions (“I’m concerned about…” “Have you noticed…”)
- Have responses prepared
- Have realistic expectations
- Know where to start as far as treatment assessment or options
If You Need Help For An Addiction To Alcohol
Help for your alcohol addiction is here. AlcoholTreatment.net can connect you with the resources, treatment professionals, and rehabilitation options in your area. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Reach out and contact us today to discover a new and rewarding life in recovery.