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9 Ways to Help an Alcoholic Who Doesn’t Want Help

While many people can consume a mild or moderate amount of alcohol safely, alcohol is an addictive substance that can cause dependency. An alcohol dependency that becomes severe is called alcohol use disorder or AUD.

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Individuals with AUD, also known as alcoholism, are unable to stop or control their alcohol use despite the negative social, occupational, or health consequences.

1 in 10 Americans struggle with a substance abuse disorder, and 15 million adults have alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Watching a loved one struggle with addiction issues can be difficult. An addiction to alcohol can interfere with professional and social relationships and the user’s overall health.

Because addiction changes the brain, an addicted person may resist help. They may believe their drinking is not an issue or might be ashamed or embarrassed to be labeled an ‘addict.’

While it’s up to the individual if they are willing to start their sobriety journey, you can also help. Here are some methods to help a friend, family member, or loved one who is struggling with addiction.

  1. Learn about alcohol use disorder (AUD)

Before taking action, it’s essential to verify that your friend or loved one has an active addiction.


Symptoms of alcohol use disorder include:

  • Drinking alone
  • Drinking more or longer than intended
  • Developing a higher tolerance or needing more to feel alcohol’s effects
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Cravings or intense urges to drink
  • Engaging in risky or dangerous behavior while intoxicated
  • Inability to reduce alcohol consumption
  • Memory blackouts or lapses in memory from excessive alcohol consumption
  • Drinking that interferes with school or work responsibilities
  • Withdrawal symptoms including nausea, vomiting, and shaking

If your loved one has one or more of these symptoms, they may have an alcohol addiction disorder.

You can learn more about alcoholism, the different types, and stages here.

  1. Start with a medical approach

Suggest or schedule a routine check-up appointment for the patient suspected of having an alcohol addiction. Inform the doctor of the suspected addiction before the visit. A medical doctor will be better able to identify the issues and see past the excuses of the addict. Doctors can also recommend courses of action or treatment facilities, which can be eye-opening for the addict.

  1. Don’t enable them

One of the biggest challenges of getting help is curbing activities that subtly encourage addiction.

Some examples of ways to prevent yourself from accidentally enabling an addict are:

  • Discouraging drinking 
  • Refusing to take over their responsibilities
  • Refusing to bail them out of jail
  • Avoiding giving or lending money to them 
  • Don’t take part in drinking sessions with them
  1. Be honest with them

Tell your loved one that you believe they have a problem and how their addiction affects those around them. Be non-judgemental, empathetic, and sincere with them about your concerns and explain the consequences of their actions. Ensure that you can have their full attention during this discussion, ideally face-to-face, in a private setting where they can let their guard down.

  1. Listen with compassion

Be prepared to face a possible adverse reaction. A person with AUD may be in denial and may react angrily to attempts to help them. Do not take it personally. Give them time and space to express themself and listen to what they have to say.

  1. Encourage them to get help

A person addicted to alcohol needs help. Whether it’s a therapist, a detoxification program, a support group, or an addiction recovery center, they need a dedicated resource to support them living without the addictive substance. As someone who supports them unconditionally, you can encourage them to seek help far better than anyone else can. You should urge the person to get into a formal treatment program, ask for concrete commitments, and follow up so they know your words aren’t empty threats.

  1. Offer to take them to a 12-step meeting

In 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, alcoholics can build a healthy support group of recovering friends. They’ll learn how to break old habits, take new and better action, and live by spiritual principles (think honesty, responsibility, integrity, and humility). By taking them to the meeting yourself, you can support them in feeling less anxious and making sure that they aren’t continuing to avoid treatment.

  1. Stage an Intervention

An intervention may be the right course of action for an addict who is resistant to help. During this process, family and friends come together to confront the addict and urge them to enter treatment. To conduct an intervention, some families consult the help of a professional interventionist, who can:

  • advise on how to get the person into treatment
  • explain what treatment options there are
  • recommend programs in your area
  1. Take care of yourself 

The emotional impact of helping someone you love to stay sober can take a toll on your own health. You should practice self-care and seek support from a therapist or counselor to support your mental health and overall well-being. You can also participate in a program for the friends and family members of alcoholics, such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon.

Risks of Waiting for an Alcoholic to Hit “Rock Bottom”

“Rock bottom” can be described as an alcoholic’s lowest point, either emotionally, physically, or spiritually. Reaching ‘rock bottom’ may have devastating and lasting consequences, including those involving health, finances, and relationships.

Alcohol addiction is a disease. If untreated, it can lead to other behavioral health disorders such as depression, as well as severe physical complications like organ failure, coma, or even death. In 2017, 2.6% of roughly 2.8 million deaths in the United States involved alcohol.

Addiction is treatable long before a person suffers to an unbearable point. So don’t wait to give them the help they so desperately need.

Find Help For Your Addiction

You don’t have to overcome your addiction alone. Professional guidance and support is available. Begin a life of recovery by reaching out to a specialist today.

Benefits of Addiction Treatment for Alcoholism

Addiction treatment for alcoholism supports every stage of the recovery process. The positive benefits include:

  • Medical detox and withdrawal support
  • A safe environment
  • Relapse prevention
  • Therapeutic intervention
  • Peer support
  • Family support
  • Aftercare and long-term support

More importantly, addiction treatment can help prevent the negative consequences of alcoholism, including the negative impacts on family, finances, relationships, and physical health. 

Questions About Treatment for Alcoholism? 

The most common treatment options include inpatient programs, outpatient programs, or partial hospitalization programs. The right treatment option for an alcoholic depends on their unique needs, background, and addiction severity.

The best way to discover the appropriate treatment option for your loved one is to reach out to an addiction specialist for help. 

COVID-19 Doesn’t Have to Stop You From Getting Help

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Resources

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Alcohol Facts and Statistics. www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-facts-and-statistics

“Alcohol Use Disorder.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohol-use-disorder

Basch, Gail. “Commentary: Don't Wait to Hit Rock Bottom - Treat Alcohol Problems before the Worst Happens.” Chicagotribune.com, Chicago Tribune, 25 Jan. 2020, www.chicagotribune.com/opinion/commentary/ct-opinion-alcohol-hitting-bottom-basch-20200125-thuij6qofbgq3a2qgxk4nknj6i-story.html

Kelly, John F, et al. “Prevalence and Pathways of Recovery from Drug and Alcohol Problems in the United States Population: Implications for Practice, Research, and Policy.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, Elsevier, 18 Oct. 2017, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0376871617305203

White, Aaron M. M, et al. “Using Death Certificates to Explore Changes in Alcohol‐Related Mortality in the United States, 1999 to 2017.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 7 Jan. 2020, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/acer.14239

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