A person with a drinking problem usually has a direct negative impact on 4-6 others. Most people don’t know how to help a problem drinker. In fact, most feel helpless.
There are also two common myths. The first is that anyone with a drinking problem is alcoholic. The second is that those who are alcoholic can never drink again. To the contrary, those with drinking problems may only need to cut down rather than abstain.
There are a number of steps to help those with drinking problems. This is true even if they don’t recognize their problems.
Helping a person who drinks too much takes effort. It also takes knowledge, patience, and compassion. Clearly, there are some actions are helpful. On the other hand, many others are not.
- Remember that standard drinks of beer, wine and spirits contain the same amount of pure alcohol. So having a person switch from one form of alcohol to another won’t work.
- Try to remain calm, unemotional, and factually honest about how the person’s drinking hurts you and others.
- Discuss the problem with someone you trust. Perhaps a friend, clergyperson, social worker, or someone who has experienced alcohol abuse.
- Try to maintain a healthy, normal atmosphere in the home. Include the problem drinker in family life.
- Encourage new interests and engage in leisure activities that the problem drinker enjoys. Encourage the person to see old friends in non-drinking situations.
- Take good care of yourself.
- Set a good example.
- Be patient and live one day at a time.
- Punish, threaten, bribe, preach, or try to be a martyr. Make emotional appeals that may only increase the person’s feelings of guilt and the desire to drink.
- Make it easy for the person to keep on drinking too much by being an enabler. Protect the person from the negative results of alcohol abuse.
- Stop loving the person.
- Take over responsibilities of the alcohol abuser.
- Hide or dump bottles of alcohol. Or shelter the abuser from places where alcohol is present.
- Argue with an intoxicated person who is intgo.
- Drink with the alcohol abuser.
- Accept guilt for the actions of the abuser.
Changing behavior is very difficult. Perhaps you have tried to keep on a diet or stop smoking. Expect setbacks and relapses. Try to accept them with calm understanding. Don’t become discouraged. Remember that you are only responsible for your own behaviors.
Most people with serious drinking problems don’t need to abstain. In fact, they only need to cut back. So suggest that approach.
It really is possible to help a problem drinker. So don’t give up!
Resources: How to Help a Problem Drinker
Alcoholism Self-Help Information & Resources
Spada, M. An Introduction to Sensible Drinking. London: Robinson, 2017.
Turner, C. Practicing Alcohol Moderation. New York: Routledge, 2020.
This website is for information only. It gives no advice.