How to Help an Alcoholic Get the Help They Need

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Alcoholism doesn’t only affect those suffering from the disease. It also affects the people around them as well. Family, friends, and even co-workers can all be affected an alcoholic’s behavior. Because alcohol abuse is often viewed as sensitive or highly personal information, many times people don’t want to share their concerns with the person they are worried about for fear of crossing boundaries.

In other cases, if you are close with someone who is an alcoholic, you may have already tried to convince your friend or family member to seek help without any luck. It can be difficult to face alcoholism and accept it for what it is – an addiction. Yes, alcoholism is a disease but it is a treatable one. The person who suffering doesn’t have to sustain it for a lifetime, if they are willing to receive the treatment and care they need to achieve and maintain their sobriety. Maybe you’re thinking, easier said than done.

While talking about problems with alcohol with someone you care about may not be a comfortable or easy discussion, it’s necessary to preserve their health. Recovery is not an easy road but it is doable and well worth. If you’re trying to find the best way to help an alcoholic in your life, think about how you want to approach the situation, who you want to be there to help support you, and what part you can play to get your loved one the treatment they need.

#1: Build a Support System

When you decide it’s time to extend your hand to help someone in need of treating their alcohol addiction, you will want to have support both for you and the person you are confronting. Discuss how you want to approach the conversation beforehand. Decide who’s going to lead the conversation, what kind of outcome you’re hoping for, and what you’re going to do if the discussion goes off track.

It’s likely the person suffering from alcoholism will deny having a drinking problem at all, which can easily steer the conversation toward being argumentative. Try to avoid placing blame but rather share concern and expectations for what you’d like to happen.

In other situations, the person may acknowledge their alcoholism but refuse treatment. This can be frustrating because if there’s a problem, it seems like the obvious solution is to get help. However, for someone who is battling addiction, they may not be fully aware of how their actions are affecting their life or the people in it. It might be a “habit” they’ve come to accept and find no reason to get help for.

While you can’t predict how your family member or friend is going to respond, you need to be prepared to respond as calmly as possible. Discuss these different scenarios with your support system ahead of time so you know how you want to handle them when the conversation happens. Make sure everyone is coming from the right mindset and can be trusted to handle themselves in a manner that is helpful to the purpose.

#2: Do Your Research

Before you have the conversation with your friend or family member, have a solution in place. If the goal is for them to seek treatment, then provide several options that you have already researched. Make it easy for them to decide rather than create another roadblock standing in the way.

When presenting your research, focus on the highlights of the facility. Is it in a peaceful area? Has it received positive reviews from others? Is it close/far away from home (depending on the person’s preference)? Make a list of all these benefits to show you have a plan in mind that will work and all they have to do is agree to it.

During this discovery time, divide up the research between the support system to make it easier on everyone. Also, consider if insurance is available to pay for it and/or decide will be responsible for the financial aspect. You can’t force anyone to seek treatment if that’s not what they choose, but you can set it up so it seems like an option that should seriously be considered.

#3: Be Strategic When Choosing a Time and Place

When you decide to have the sit-down discussion to offer your researched treatment options, make sure it is a place where the person feels comfortable. Have everyone turn off their phones and make sure any kids and dogs are being looked after so they don’t cause a disruption during the talk. Generally speaking, you want to avoid any outside interruptions when possible.

It’s important to focus on your loved one without becoming distracted. Let them know how important they are to you by giving them your undivided time and attention. Choose a day and time when you think their schedule is open for at least a few hours. And don’t discuss treatment when the person is intoxicated. If that does happen, then you’ll have to reschedule the talk because their mindset won’t be in the right place. It could actually cause more harm than good.

#4: Give Specific Examples

It’s likely your family member or friend will feel embarrassed, hurt, or angry for being forced to talk about their alcoholism. Avoid going back and forth to determine if they have a drinking problem or not and stick to facts. Give examples of when their drinking has hurt or negatively affected you. Remember to speak with an empathetic tone rather than an accusatory one. There may be instances you reference the person may not remember or deny altogether.

Be sincere when sharing these details and focus on its effect on you and what the effect on them was as well. This can be anything that is relevant including problems at work, run ins with the law, and repeated negative behavior during family gatherings or other social events. Run through these in your mind and stand confidently when bringing them up because it’s common to second guess yourself in the moment. Be firm in your statements but maintain a kind tone. The point is to illustrate how their behavior has reached a damaging level due to alcohol addiction.

#5: Identify Enabling Habits and Eliminate Them

It is a tough position to be in when someone you know is causing themselves pain through alcohol abuse. You may want to help them by giving them second, third, fourth chances to change their behavior. You may have covered for them at work or with other family members. You may have loaned them money for rent or bills or even offered to have them stay with you, thinking it would help them get better. What this means is that you have been doing everything you thought would help them.

Unfortunately, when it comes to addiction, these normal ways to help a person in need do not work. The addiction has taken over their body to a point where they can’t control how much they drink. It changes their behavior, mood, and actions. They may say or do hurtful things that aren’t typical of their character. This is a result of the alcoholism. As long as it’s part of the picture, reasoning with the person isn’t an option.

Enabling seems like such a harsh reality because it makes it seem like you are the person responsible for the person drinking when you’re not. But as long as you support their habit through excuses, money, or anything else, then it becomes a problem that will never be fully addressed. It cannot be treated until there is a full acknowledgment that it is a problem in the first place.

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#6: Map Out the Treatment Plan

The ways you’ve decided to help your friend or family member in need may not be the same as what they think they need to get better. They may believe that having financial, housing, or others types of support are what will prove your love and understanding for them. It is getting treatment that is the solution for their sobriety. When the time comes to speak with them, you’ll want to have a plan mapped out. Organize how they’re going to get to treatment, who’s going to pay for it, and where they will stay when they return.

The person you’re trying to help may want to hear about how the plan will work. It can be truly unsettling to change their day-to-day lifestyle. If you show the progression of treatment and the goal, it can help convince them that treatment is the best option. A written out plan will also help anyone who is involved in the process to have the right expectations for next steps. What role will each part of the support system play and how can you all work together to make it a success? This can all be outlined in the treatment plan.

#7: Offer Reassurance

Extending your help to someone who is struggling with alcohol addiction may immediately put that person on the defense. They may be in denial and looking for someone or something else to blame. The best thing you can do is offer your reassurance. Let them know what you are doing is to help them. Give them a feeling of safety and security by withholding the urge to point fingers and place blame.

Alcoholism is a personal experience for everyone and it can be difficult to approach it from a fully practical point of view. It can be scary for the person who is suffering from addiction to feel like they’ll have support all the way through to their sobriety. You can help by offering reassurance when you talk about their treatment options and aftercare.

#8: Call a Professional Interventionist

Interventionists are available if you’ve tried all of the above and nothing has worked. They are helpful as a third party to guide the conversation and remain level-headed. There will likely be heightened emotions but to really get to the goal, which is getting the person the help they need, everyone needs to be focused on the task at hand.

Interventionists have the experience and education to answer questions that may arise and know how to handle various types of situations. Some conversations may be calm but without resolution. Others may be hostile but end up meeting the goal at hand. You never know for sure how it will go until you’re in it. Seek assistance when you need it. There may be methods or ideas for approaching the subject that you haven’t thought of that will work.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment Is Available

You may have been down this road before of offering help to no avail. But the person who you are trying to help maybe wasn’t ready to receive it quite yet, which can sad and frustrating. However, in the end, the person suffering from alcoholism must acknowledge the problem and want to receive help. When you pave the way to sobriety, it can help formulate the change that may have previously been seen as impossible.

Each step of the process is crucial and may seem slow moving but don’t give up. For someone whose body has been taken over by addiction, it will be a long road to change what they know best. As a close friend or family member, you know how your loved will respond. If they do not respond well to several people at once, then only have one or two people speak at a time. If they would like to see a physical plan, then print one up so they can visually see the steps you have laid out for them. Whatever you think will help and make it personal to their situation, do it. Every case of addiction is unique which means the approach to treat it must be unique as well.

There are solutions and ways to help your friend or family member seek treatment in a rehab center where they will feel safe and secure. The conversations leading to recovery may be difficult and the road may be full of ups and downs but it will all feel worth it to get them the help they need. If you’re wondering where to begin to help, call us and we’ll walk you through options. You don’t have to feel alone through this process and they don’t have to either.

Find hope. Find recovery. Begin a commitment to lifelong recovery today – for yourself, your friend, or for your loved one.
(888) 325-1995


Alcohol Rehab Guide. Government Treatment for Alcoholism. Revised Aug. 2018, Accessed Feb. 12, 2016.

National Institute on Drug Abuse and Alcoholism. Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help. 2014, Accessed Feb. 12, 2016.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Support and Treatment. Accessed Feb. 11, 2016.

Health Direct. Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation. Revised March 2018, Accessed Feb. 13, 2016.

Health Direct. How to Help Someone With A Drug Problem. Revised March 2017, Accessed Feb. 13, 2016.

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