20 Ways To Help An Alcoholic Heal And Live Once More

The media is full of reports on how alcohol harms health and wrecks lives and potential. You read such stories every day. Unfortunately, these articles are “hitting too close to home,” because you are now seeing a loved one spiraling downward with his or her alcohol use issues. You are worried about his or her health. You are upset because you are witnessing precious talent being wasted. You are sad because your loved one is burning bridges with friends and family members and gradually retreating into a dark, murky, and lonely world. At AddictionResource, we understand this dilemma, which is why we’re publishing this article full of tips on how to help an alcoholic, especially one who doesn’t accept that he or she needs help.  

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Addiction alcoholism statistics, more than 16 million American adults have an alcohol use disorder (AUD). But this particular article is not about them, or for them. This article is about and for YOU – the parent, the partner, the sibling, the adult child, or the friend of one of these millions of people who have an alcohol use disorder or are alcoholics. It contains some time-tested strategies for how to help someone with a drinking problem.

The 20 tips we pass along in this short How To Help Someone Stop Drinking Guide are not aimed at professional counselors or therapists, although these people can learn from them, too. Instead, these tips are aimed at YOU, an everyday person who is trying to help an alcoholic friend, or figure out how to help an alcoholic spouse, and thus provide help for alcoholics who don’t want help.

NOW is the time for you to reach out and help him or her heal. NOW is the time to offer your support, understanding, and compassion, so he or she can start to LIVE once more.

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In this article we provide 20 ways to help someone with alcoholism. If you are trying to deal with an alcoholic friend or relative, we hope these ideas will help you. But if at any point you would like additional information or need specific help with the challenge of how to help an alcoholic who doesn’t want help, please call our 24-hour hotline at (888)-459-5511 to speak with a knowledgeable representative.

Discourage Drinking Behavior

man looking at his alcohol addicted wife and insisting on consulting a doctor while trying to take a glass of wine from her hand with their son watchingThis first set of tips should a “no-brainer,” but often isn’t. One of the biggest challenges of how to get someone to stop drinking is curtailing your OWN activities that subtly encourage that person to keep drinking.

Often a family member or a close friend unknowingly becomes an enabler to an addict or someone who abuses alcohol. An enabler is a person who unwittingly creates opportunities so that a loved one can indulge in their addiction. Of course, their intention is not to fuel the addictive tendencies, but many people don’t realize that their seemingly harmless actions can backfire.

So to start, here’s a guide on what NOT to do to help an alcoholic:

DON’T cover up for them

When you cover up or make excuses for an alcoholic’s behavior, you unknowingly give them the idea that you approve of what they’re doing, or “have their back” when it comes to their unacceptable habits and actions. Besides, covering up is often an indication that you are probably in denial yourself about your loved one’s alcoholism.

DON’T bail them out from jail

There are countless examples of an addict deciding to seek help in quitting alcohol after hitting rock bottom and realizing what a mess his or her life is in. So if he or she lands up in jail on DUI charges or for indulging in alcohol-related crimes, don’t bail them out. Let them realize how alcohol has taken over their lives and the hazards of the slippery slope they are hurtling down. This can be one of the hardest parts of how to help alcoholic friends or family, but it’s an essential one.

DON’T take over their responsibilities

When you take over an alcoholic’s responsibilities, you give them permission to pursue their addiction. They get the idea that you approve of their habits and that it is okay to carry on as they currently are. Don’t shield an alcoholic from the consequences of not carrying out his or her work, school, or family duties. Let them face the music, so they realize how alcohol is damaging their lives and relationships.

DON’T loan them money unless they have landed in a hospital

Alcoholism is an expensive habit to sustain. So the need for funds to sustain the addiction is always present. As sad as it may sound, an alcoholic will stoop to lying to obtain funds from you. They will invent lies like having to pay the rent (while probably spending their nights in bars and their days sleeping on park benches) or to buy groceries (when in reality they couldn’t care less about preparing and eating nutritious meals) to obtain money from you. If you are certain that a loved one is an alcoholic, DON’T loan him or her money unless he or she has landed in a hospital or recovery facility and needs funds to undergo some treatment.

DON’T take part in drinking sessions with an alcoholic friend or family member

Probably the number one tip on how to get an alcoholic to stop drinking is DON’T GO OUT DRINKING WITH THEM. When you take part in these drinking sessions, you encourage his or her habit. It doesn’t matter if you drink just a tiny bit of alcohol or even a Coca-Cola. An alcoholic will interpret your very participation in the drinking session as an endorsement of his or her addiction, a message that it’s OK.

Start With Your Own Mindset

man doing research writing down something with a pen

Someone who has an alcohol use disorder is most likely to be in a denial mode. You won’t easily get him or her to accept that there is a problem, let alone work on solving it. On the other hand, someone who is an alcoholic doesn’t really care about how he or she “should be” living and functioning. He or she just live from one drink to another.

This leaves just YOU to save a life.

How to make someone stop drinking? YOU are the only person who can make your child, partner, friend, parent, or sibling realize how they are destroying their lives.

How to support an alcoholic? YOU are the only person who can persuade your friend or a family member to accept the help that is just a call away.

These won’t be easy tasks to pull off. So make sure you approach the job with the right mindset.

Educate yourself on the nature of substance abuse or addiction

Knowledge is power. The more you learn about the nature of alcohol abuse and addiction, their neurological roots, and how alcohol works on the mind and psyche of a person who abuses alcohol, the more you can empathize with your loved one and understand what he or she is going through.

Be compassionate

Addiction is not a moral flaw. It is the result of a complex interplay between genes, hormones, and the environment. When you get the facts straight, you can be compassionate when you confront a loved one who is an alcoholic. Don’t take the moral high ground and make him or her feel like a loser. On the contrary, displaying compassion and understanding can encourage an alcoholic to confide in you about the stresses that may have made him or her seek refuge in drinking. Don’t blame yourself for somebody else’s drinking habits.

You can’t work on his or her genes. You can’t alter the way he or she reacts to the addiction triggers present in the environment. You are not responsible for a person choosing to carry on drinking or not seeking help. In fact, the more you blame yourself, the more stressed you can become. What is more, your loved one can manipulate you and work on your feelings of guilt to extract money out of you.

Decide beforehand what you want to say during the confrontation

Here’s when knowledge again comes into play. You may want to tell a loved one how alcohol is harming his or her physical and mental health. Or you may want to make him or she realizes that addiction is just another disorder like diabetes or cancer that needs medical treatment.

Whatever you want to say during the confrontation, it helps if you plan in advance. This ensures you can come up with the most persuasive statement. Preparation lets you go over what you want to say during the confrontation and ensure that you speak only from a place of compassion.

Adjust your expectations

Do not stress by expecting results right after the first meeting. Do not expect an alcoholic to call in on an addiction counselor or visit a rehab clinic right after talking with you.

Instead believe that by confronting your alcoholic loved one, you are opening the channels of communication. You are giving him or her the chance to mull over the problem and feel motivated to quit alcohol. By showing that you care, you are assuring the person that you have only his or her best interests in mind. So in a later meeting, he or she will be more receptive to your suggestions.

How To Handle A Confrontation With An Alcoholic

Mother Arguing With Teenage SonConfronting an alcoholic is challenging. One thoughtless comment can send the person back to his or her world of demons and darkness. One misplaced remark can close the doors of communication forever. It is up to you to steer the confrontation, so you can persuade him or her to seek professional help to give up alcohol.

Is confronting an alcoholic risky?

Confronting an alcoholic can be very risky if the confrontation is not properly planned and prepared. One thoughtless comment can make the situation more difficult to handle. It will be harder to persuade the person to give up alcohol and seek professional help.

Here’s what you should keep in mind when you confront an alcoholic to ensure the interaction is healthy and the outcome is favorable:

Choose a time when he or she is sober

The presence of alcohol in system clouds thoughts and makes a person unable to think straight. So confronting an alcoholic when he or she is drunk is not a good idea. He or she will not be able to appreciate your motivations. Nor will the person be able to figure out what is good for him or her.

Don’t blame him or her

Do not turn the meeting into a blame game. If you are trying to help an alcoholic husband, don’t accuse him or her of being selfish. Same if you are trying to help an alcoholic wife, sibling, or adult child. Think for a moment. Would you blame someone for catching an infection or having cancer?

Hark back to what you learned about addiction and how quickly abuse turns into addiction and be compassionate. Blaming an alcoholic will make him or her feel bitter and distraught. He or she might even drink more to quell the surge of negative emotions.

Let an alcoholic know how his or her actions are affecting you and the relationship you both share

Don’t use the accusatory “you” tone when you converse with an alcoholic. Instead, steer the conversation towards yourself. This will make the other person more comfortable and more willing to hear you out.

Explain to the person how his or her habits have affected you – the mental and emotional stress you are going through and the additional physical and economic burden that you have had to take on. Explain how his or her drinking habits have strained the relationship you share. If you are trying to help an alcoholic family member, gently point out how often he is not home or how she hardly cares about spending time with you or the kids.

Often alcoholics are swayed more by the effects of their addiction on their loved ones than those effects on their health or jobs.

Don’t fall for his or her promises to turn over a new leaf

A conversation about one’s drinking habits is uncomfortable, especially if the person is in denial mode. An addict might want to wiggle out of the conversation by (falsely) promising that he or she will give up alcohol. High-functioning alcoholics especially are known to be master manipulators.

Don’t fall for such promises, and instead leave them to their own devices. A good rule of thumb is “Listen to what they say, but watch what they DO.” Make sure that you follow up and are prepared to confront them once more if they don’t stick to their promises.

Keep Calm

A confrontation with an alcoholic can turn into a stressful situation for you too. An alcoholic might blame you for his or her addiction or suggest that you are blowing the situation out of proportion.

During a confrontation, you might be upset or hurt. He or she may push your buttons. But DON’T react. Always try to keep in mind where the other person is coming from.

If an alcoholic is in a denial mode, he or she will have constructed rational-sounding reasons why they think you are over-reacting.

Also, remember that an alcoholic is someone who is physically dependent on alcohol; he or she has to drink to relax, to steady the nerves, and to feel that life is under control. For alcoholics, quitting alcohol means losing a companion or a refuge, not to mention having to go through a number of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that can make their lives feel like they are living in hell. It is no wonder that most alcoholics react aggressively at the mere suggestion that they stop drinking.

Be calm. Remember what you are doing – trying to help someone with an alcohol problem. Don’t make an alcoholic more aloof or hostile by spewing angry words yourself. You risk making him or her angry enough to walk away. If that happens, you may never be able to broach the subject with them again. Besides, if you are calm, the person in front of you may eventually calm down himself or herself, and then you will have succeeded in creating another window of opportunity to make your point.

Be prepared to seek the help of a professional interventionist

You can only try. After all, you are dealing with a human being. There is no formula to how his or her mind works. He or she may react to the same situation in different ways, depending on factors that can be as diverse and incomprehensible to you as how their day went or when he or she had their last drink.

As someone you love and care for, it can be difficult for you to be firm or objective with him or her. As a result, you may not succeed in persuading your alcoholic friend or family member to seek professional help. Worse, you may even put him or her off from having another meaningful conversation on the subject, forever. If things come to such a passé, don’t hesitate to call a professional interventionist.

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, an intervention is an educational session moderated by a professional and attended by the alcoholic and his or her family members and/or friends. During the session, the interventionist tries to make the alcoholic see the reality of his or her situation and make the person comprehend the consequences of carrying on drinking. An interventionist can make an alcoholic agree to embrace change and accept help.

How Can A Professional Interventionist Help An Alcoholic? The interventionist will try to make an alcoholic see the consequences of his drinking habits and make him agree to undergo treatment. An intervention session with a professional must be attended by the alcoholic and his friends or family members.

Take Care Of Yourself

 couple breaking up after argumentAs astounding as it sounds, this is something that most people don’t pay attention to, and it can end up ruining their lives. How can you help someone else if you are yourself broken and your life is in shambles?

The following 4 tips are even more important if you are trying to help an alcoholic family member. Having an alcoholic in your life is stressful. It is imperative that YOU remain sane, safe, and healthy yourself to help your loved one tide through his or her problems. Here’s how you must take care of yourself:

Put boundaries on your relationship, or escape, if need be

If all means of persuasion fail, you have to put boundaries on your relationship. It may sound harsh. You may wonder if you are doing the right thing by cutting ties. But sometimes people need a shake-up to change the status quo. Putting boundaries on your relationship might just be the “reality check” that your alcoholic loved one needs to come to his or her senses and realize how alcohol has taken a toll on multiple lives.

Now here’s a reality check for you as well. No matter how much committed you are to helping a loved one overcome alcohol addiction; you HAVE to quit if the situation turns violent. Alcohol depresses inhibitions and clouds the senses, so alcoholics can become aggressive and turn violent if they sense a threat from you.

ESCAPE if you feel you are in danger of being physically harmed (or have actually been harmed) by your alcoholic family member. It is imperative that you are safe before you attempt to help a loved one.

Don’t become co-dependent

Don’t get so immersed in the process of supporting an alcoholic loved one that you find yourself being dragged along the dark path that he or she is traveling on. This is NOT one of the ways to help an alcoholic.

Counseling an alcoholic is an emotional rollercoaster ride where you too have to confront the loved one’s inner demons and come face-to-face with hidden waves of emotions – rage, jealousy, or hatred – that you never knew existed. It is difficult to stay sane if you are not objective.

Avoid being dragged into a co-dependent relationship in which you can no longer remain logical and can’t see the half-truths and distorted versions of reality coming from your loved one for what they are. If you sense this happening, back off and let a professional counsel your loved one. You should also seek professional help to resolve any co-dependency issue that you might have developed.

Don’t drink yourself as a means to escape the stress

Living with an alcoholic can be immensely stressful for you. Again, it may seem like a “no-brainer,” but one of the ways NOT to stop someone from drinking is to succumb to pressure and start drinking yourself.

An alcoholic spends money and upsets the domestic budget, and you have to worry about making ends meet. An alcoholic neglects his or her duties, and you feel compelled to forego your own leisure to step in and take over. An alcoholic chooses alcohol over you and the relationship you share, and you wonder if it is the end of the road for both of you.

The stress can get to anyone, but DON’T drink to escape your woes. Find a healthy way to cope. Remember, you have to be strong yourself to help the person you love heal.

Seek emotional support to help you get through the stress

You have taken on the challenge of helping a loved one become sober. It was always going to be a stiff task. Don’t get bogged down by the stress and strain; seek emotional support from people who had been in the same place as you are now.

Often one of the best answers to the question of “How do you help an alcoholic? Is to get some help yourself. If there is no one you know personally to help, join a 12-step program such as Al-Anon, one that is designed specifically to help the friends and family members of alcoholics.

Having someone to confide in about what you are going through, a shoulder to cry on, and a sounding board to run your decisions by will take a load off your mind and lift some of the heaviness from your heart.

Caring enough to go through the anguish, anxiety, doubts, and turmoil of helping an alcoholic heal is the greatest help you can offer someone who is broken. The journey always starts with you. You have to be enlightened, empathetic, compassionate, and strong. You have to be a master strategist, astute planner, and thorough executioner. Of course, you cannot be a professional counselor or therapist to an alcoholic yourself, but you have to pull off something equally challenging – getting him or her to seek professional help in the first place.

Kudos to you for choosing to care!

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In this article we have provided 20 ways to help someone with alcoholism. If at any point you would like additional information or need specific help with the challenge of how to help an alcoholic who doesn’t want help, please call our 24-hour hotline at (888)-459-5511 to speak with a knowledgeable representative.

20 Ways To Help An Alcoholic Heal And Live Once More

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Comments 12

  • Hi
    My name is Gee. I am living in Australia. I read your blog, i think i need help to help myself from my alcoholic husband. I have tried each and everything that is mentioned in this blog to help him to control his alcohol. He has been gone through lots of problem because of this issue. At work he has been given last warning because He drinks whole night and go to work in the morning.
    He has destroyed our relationship emotionally and physically by unacceptable activities and affairs.
    Lots of problems that i could not help myself and get upset. I think i am almost under depression mode. Many times i fee to suicide. But that will not change anything.
    I really need help
    Or else i dont know what will i do.
    I hate him sometimes and i feel bad that i am not able to do anything for him.
    Please help me

  • Me, I’m finally getting out. I drove from Colo to Florida to be with rge love of my life only to experience lies and broken promises. Cant do it anymore. At my age I deserve happiness. I know where shes coming from because I was once there, but I’ve been clean a d silver for 25 years.

  • My brother and best friend are alcoholics. They are also bitter towards any enlightenment and often mock me since I am a believer of God. I never use God in my conversations with them because they get upset but they always use Him when they are drunk and try to make me feel bad about my belief. I ignore it and change the subject but I realize I have not tried to comfort them on thier alcoholism and how they hurt me when they are drunk and always make what I believe wrong when they are the ones ruining their life. They drive drunk and act like it’s funny and make jokes about it but I’m just left worried out of mind. I never seem to get the chance to speak with them sober because they are ALWAYS drunk. I feel at risk while with them because I dont feel they realize their carelessness and the harm they put others in. I have been around bad fights because of their drinking with their own partners and it’s always everyone else’s fault. They have made even other family members and friends drink excessively and love that they can make others fall with them. I dont know what to do. Or how to bring in the big picture when all they are is drunk.

  • I divorced my husband because he liked drinking and doing prescription medication. The same year I took in my older sister who is as bad as my ex husband. What is wrong with me, I retire in 3 months this is not the way I plan on spending my retirement. She gets to step 7 of her 12 steps and goes back to drinking more than ever. She has an small income but spends it all on her drinking. She has to live with me no one else will have her.

  • Useless information. Heard it all before. I am not a god-damned co-dependant. I live and breathe working consistently on a healthy lifestyle of exercise, diet, and choosing loving and kindness over judgement and condemnation. I encourage those patterns in everyone I know and especially my family members. They all think I live in a fantasy worlds. They have always discouraged my healthy choices, especially my son. He fluctuates between agreement and, “It is all about mind-set. Nothing to do with the body” attitude.
    Also, since my income is far below poverty level, I have and he has no insurance, recently losing his last opportunity toward a stable income because he has been so sick as a result of the alcohol consumption. Unable to work because of the swelling and pain interfering in breathing, decided an emergency room visit was necessary. The nurse practitioner on duty, after viewing the MRI and CT, delivered the devastating news of “Cirrhosis”, adding, ” one more drink will possibly kill you.”
    He tested that by walking to the liquor store, and purchasing a 775 mil of vodka. He lost the job he loved because he was unable to work a full day. The insurance had just validated on the day his employer delivered the news that he was “let go”.
    I listen respectfully as he pours his concerns and worries. I encourage him to follow the advice of the doctor, “No more alcohol.
    Stay away from those “friends who encourage drinking, etc”. All to no avail.
    As I am writing this, he is visiting with one of those “friends”. Although, he assures me that is not the case.
    Since my income is limited, I do not possess the resources to pay for any rehabilitation service.
    That is the sad and sickening reality of the “poor”.
    Undeterred, I perserve. My health, age and position in this money hungry society places me in the position of harsh judgement and sabatage from the benefit I truly offer and the service to others I offer expectating nothing in return.
    Just venting. I know nothing will change, just felt the need to defend my position. I despise any type of dependence, especially drug use. I have Fibromyalgia, and use only an anti-inflammatory diet and stretching routine/yoga exercise to aid in controling the pain and discomfort.
    Blessings to all who have the ability to pay. And, thank you for allowing me to “vent”.

    • Hang in there everyone dealing with this. I just ended a relationship this week after nearly 6 years because he is an alcoholic. He blamed all the problems and fights on me, but the bottom line is that the alcoholism killed the relationship. He’s been married 3 times. He has sucked the life out of me. I could never trust him, I think he lies about everything and he’s sneaky, disappears, the whole routine. The same thing happened with my ex husband, who was also an alcoholic. I promised myself I would never get into this again after surviving that nightmare. But I went right back to it with this guy. Interestingly, I don’t drink at all, very rarely. I am a nurse, which I think attracts these men to me. But after all this, I know I have to keep my own sanity and care for myself. I will not get back into this ever again. Painful lesson. I loved this man with all my heart and at one point, deluded myself into thinking we had a future together.

      • Please, any advice will be so appreciated. I have been married 37 yrs. met him when17. Have 2 children. The last 10 yrs. have been hell-he falls down, broke nose, shows up with scabbed eyebrow, totaled car in a pond almost drowned, treatment 3x plus hospital bills car towing ect. excuses for back, his ear- had surgeries since 25 now has implant and right side hearing aid. He works at cousins farm 2 hrs. away how convenient. So, I have been stuck out in the middle of nowhere with no car and no money. So, I got a OWI? Have no car no money to get temporary license or SRI paying for mine too.Thinking of moving out of state, children only keep in touch with me, family isn’t much help, sell house? If I leave he will die. I just can’t do it anymore. I know my anxiety and fear are affecting my health and other relationships. I pray everyday. God help me figure this out..

    • I completely understand where your coming from.I don’t have the $ to leave but worry everyday that his bad choices are going to leave me with nothing.He refuse help and even if he wanted it we could not afford it!At our age on a fixed income it’s cheaper to stay married.Tired of living between a rock and a hard place!

  • I am ready to have a conversation with my alcoholic family member but they are almost never sober. Is having the conversation no longer an option? Where do I go from here when I can’t find the opportunity to try?

  • Hi everyone, there is an answer. Its not rehab and AA.
    I was an alcoholic, I destroyed my life and impacted my childrens.
    5 years ago I was at rock bottom and my psychiatrist prescribed Naltrexone. It is a miracle solution. One tablet a day for 6-12 months and in most cases alcohol dependence is overcome. I no longer depend on alcohol. If I do have a drink socially I never get drunk and never lose rationalisation. I am now able to drink responsibly.
    I am in Australia and Naltrexone is on the PBS.

  • I’m tired of living with an alcoholic who makes excuses for his drinking and poor behavior. When he starts to drink it’s in excess and he is embarrassing to be around, but even worse is having to go home with him drunk. He is aggressive and argumentative.
    This is not fair or healthy for me and my two daughters to live with.
    I want their daddy to be around for them, but not have them grow up to thinking husbands drink and then behave this way towards their wife is normal. It’s not! They deserve better. I feel helpless.

    His alcoholism is ruining our marriage and our family.

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