How to Help an Alcoholic Stop Drinking

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Quick Look

  • It’s essential to know and recognize the signs of alcohol addiction, such as excessive drinking and the inability to quit.
  • Alcoholism impacts the family, friends, work, and personal life of the affected person.
  • You can help out a loved one by carefully and gently discussing your concerns about their substance abuse habits.
  • Involving other family members and the community in the process will enhance support for your loved one’s recovery.
  • Seek professional help from a treatment provider who fits their needs. 

Signs Your Loved One Has a Drinking Problem

Alcohol use has long been associated with happiness and good times. However, the same substance also causes family and societal issues across the world.

This is especially for those who drink heavily.

According to a National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) report, more than 15 million people aged 12 and above have drinking problems.1

The number can be higher today considering the effects of the global pandemic on drinking habits.2

According to research, the social and financial stresses of the pandemic have led to an increase in alcohol use disorders (AUDs).

Although it’s the alcoholic who can choose to quit drinking, close family members and friends can help. The first step in helping an alcoholic is acknowledging the problem and identifying the signs.

The signs of alcoholism include:

  • Frequently drinking large amounts of alcohol 
  • Inability to stop drinking despite negative consequences such as liver and kidney damage
  • Spending a lot of time drinking and nursing hangovers
  • Strong urges to drink
  • Leaving meaningful or pleasurable activities to binge drink
  • Indulging in unsafe activities after drinking, such as driving or unsafe sex
  • Issues with relationships, work, or finances as a result of frequent intoxication from alcohol
  • Severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms when the effects wear off
  • Poor health and weight loss due to not eating
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Poor hygiene

If you notice a combination of the above signs, it may be time to seek professional help. 

Alcoholism left untreated will affect not only the alcoholic but also their family and friends.

How Does Alcoholism Affect Family & Friends?

Alcoholism is a disease that ruins relationships.

In the family setting, the effects vary depending on who is the alcoholic.

For example, if a parent is an alcoholic, the family is likely to end up in a financial crisis due to loss of employment, poor decision-making, and poor spending.

Nevertheless, alcohol is associated with poor spending habits. 

A spouse of an alcoholic may experience emotional, verbal, sexual, or physical abuse.3

Children are always the most affected when a family member has a drinking problem. If alcoholism leads to divorce, children get frustrated by the separation.

According to research, alcoholism is a major risk factor for child abuse. Furthermore, it is a consequence of child abuse.4

Friends may drink together for social reasons. However, alcohol dependence can ruin great friendship if the alcoholic proves to be a burden, nuisance, or an embarrassment.

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10 Tips to Help an Alcoholic Stop Drinking

It’s normal to get confused about how to help a friend struggling with alcoholism. 

This is why we have compiled the following  tips for helping someone stop drinking:

1. Know What Alcoholism is

Remember, alcoholism is not a weakness but a disease. Don’t judge an alcoholic, but seek ways of guiding them to sobriety.

Informing yourself about alcoholism helps you understand and recognize behaviors related to alcohol abuse.

You also get to learn the importance of helping rather than blaming.

When you understand what the condition is all about, you’ll be able to offer assistance.

For example, if you know that alcoholism increases the risk of dehydration, encouraging them to drink plenty of water may go a long way in aiding recovery.

As a family member, you can join a group such as Al-Anon and Alateen.5 These are groups focused on helping family members and young people living with an alcoholic.

Sharing information reduces the potential of stigmatization and encourages empathy.

2. Approach With Care

Alcoholism can be a difficult conversation. Don’t confront the person without a plan.

More importantly, do not try to discuss the issue when your loved one is still intoxicated or emotionally unstable.

Remember, you don’t want to make them feel attacked, judged, or shamed. So, avoid harsh or accusatory language.6

When you make your approach, be honest about your concerns. However, consistently show that you care about them.

During your conversation, don’t push them too hard. change the topic if they get uncomfortable or irritated in the process.

3. Open the Lines of Communication

Your loved one may be shy or afraid to approach you for help. So what can you do?

Make it very comfortable for them to talk about their drinking problem. You can do this by putting yourself in their shoes and showing them that you understand what they’re going through.

When they’re comfortable with you, they’ll be willing to have a deeper conversation about your concerns.

4. Find out the Underlying Cause of Alcoholism

Your loved one may be suffering from anxiety and depression, and they’re using alcohol to cope. However, telling them that they’re suffering from depression may sound accusatory.

Instead, ask them gently what they think could be contributing to their drinking behavior. 

Try to mention some common causes of alcoholism they can relate with. This may help them to open up to you.

5. Don’t Offer an Ultimatum

Someone struggling with alcoholism will choose alcohol over everything. For this reason, do not make them agree to a “quit day.” Doing so will give them more pressure and stress.

The last thing you want is to see your loved one frustrated when you’re trying to help.

The best thing to offer your loved one is an option for treatment.

To do this effectively, do some research on the types of alcohol treatment programs available near you.7

6. Avoid Being The Trigger

Drinking around an alcoholic encourages their urge to drink.

On the other hand, if you’ve already approached them about their drinking problem, drinking alcohol around them will not encourage them to stop.

In fact, it will affect the trust they have in you and discourage them from seeking your advice.

7. Do Not Enable Their Addiction

Making excuses for an alcoholic or bailing them out when they get in trouble is not helpful.

Giving your loved one money when you know that they will use it to buy alcohol makes the problem worse.

Practicing some tough love is necessary. Let them handle their own troubles. Even if they may feel unloved, it will benefit them in the long run.

8. Involve Other People

Do not give up if you’re not confident about your ability to help. Recognizing the problem and having the will to help is good enough.

If you know someone who has successfully quit alcohol, you can learn a few things about their experiences. Then, see how it applies to your loved one.

If they’re okay with it, have them talk to your loved one about recovery.

Other family members can also help by encouraging or funding treatment.

9. Be Supportive

When discussing recovery, show your loved ones that you’re willing to support them through recovery. This will encourage them to pursue the recovery journey without relapsing.

Set goals with them and even come up with rewards for achievements made.

Remember, recovery is a continuous process, and it continues beyond treatment. Having knowledge of both treatment and aftercare programs will help you prepare for the process.

As an affected person, you may also need to get some form of support, such as family therapy.

10. Seek Professional Treatment For AUD

Never undermine the strength of professional help. Addiction therapists, physicians, and counselors can provide effective treatment. 

They will also help you manage unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

Depending on the extent of addiction and availability of resources, you can choose to enroll your loved one in an inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment program. 

Outpatient programs allow the patient to attend treatment while continuing with their daily lives.

However, inpatient or long term recovery programs require the patient to stay in the alcohol free facility during the treatment period.

Treatment Options for Alcoholism

If you’re wondering if alcoholism can be treated, the answer is yes. 

People with AUD can benefit from some treatments and therapies available in alcohol rehab centers across the United States.

  • Behavioral Treatments. During behavioral therapy, counseling is used to help people change their drinking habits. Behavioral treatment includes cognitive–behavioral therapy, motivational enhancement therapy, marital and family counseling.
  • Medications assisted treatment (MAT). The medicines approved in the U.S. for the treatment of alcoholism include Acamprosate (Campral), Disulfiram (Antabuse), Fluoxetine (Prozac), and Naltrexone.8
  • Mutual-Support Groups. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other support group programs offer peer support to those wanting to quit or reduce their alcohol use. They are used in combination with other treatment strategies.

Caring for someone who has an alcohol problem may be difficult. While attempting to assist your loved one, it is important that you also find a way to care for yourself.

Seeking help from others, such as friends, family, the community, and support organizations, can help maximize support for your loved one.

Updated on November 12, 2021
8 sources cited
  1. Alcohol Use in the United States,” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
  2. Alcohol Consumption during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Cross-Sectional Survey of US Adults,” National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), 9 December 2020
  3. Types and Signs of Abuse,” Washington State Department of Social and Health Services
  4. Alcohol Abuse as a Risk Factor for and Consequence of Child Abuse,” National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)
  5. Who Are Al-Anon Members?,” Al-Anon Family Group 
  6. Words Matter: Terms to Use and Avoid When Talking About Addiction,” National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
  7. Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide,” National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
  8. Information about Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT),” U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.

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