Helping an Alcoholic

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited : JANUARY 06, 
| 2 Sources

We get a lot of questions about helping an alcoholic. People who live with an alcoholic naturally want to know how to help an alcoholic.

Unfortunately, there is often little that you can do. We will, however, tell you some steps you can take that may help. We’ll also tell you what to do when those steps don’t seem to be helping.

How to Help an Alcoholic

  • Don’t let it stay a secret. An alcoholic often tries to drink in secret, and people around them often avoid mentioning the problem. In order to help with the problem, you’ll need to be upfront about it. Say, “I’ve noticed you are drinking quite a bit lately.”
  • Express your concern about their drinking. Say, “I’m worried about how much you are drinking.” They may brush off your concern, but say it anyway. You can say it more than once.
  • Don’t be judgmental. You want to help, not criticize or condemn. Being judgmental may backfire and simply cause the alcoholic to want to drink more.
  • Offer to help, but don’t try to force it on them. The best time to offer is when they have just suffered a negative consequence due to their drinking: in the morning when they have a terrible hangover, when they just got another DWI, when they made a fool of themselves at cousin Joe’s wedding. You get the idea.
  • Call AA and get a schedule of meetings and give it to them. They may or may not go, but at least they will have the information.

If The Above Tips on How to Help an Alcoholic Don’t Help, What do I do?

Well, that’s the million-dollar question. You’re not alone in asking it. Helping an alcoholic can be impossible at times. Remember, you can’t control another person. You can only control yourself. An alcoholic has to want help. And you can’t make them want it.

So what can you do if nothing seems to work? Focus on taking care of yourself. Consider joining an al-anon group, a self-help group for people who live with alcoholics. You’ll learn how to start taking responsibility for your own actions and how to stop taking responsibility for the alcoholic’s.

In fact, that can be part of helping an alcoholic. Making excuses for them and enabling their drinking behavior only makes their problem worse.

Seek help for yourself. Consider professional counseling if you need it. Don’t underestimate or minimize the stress you are under, coping with an alcoholic loved one.

Helping an Alcoholic if They Want Help

  • As we mentioned earlier, call AA and get a schedule of meetings for them. You can look up the telephone number in your local phone book, or look for it online. If you look for an open meeting, you can attend with them for support if they like (open meetings are open to anyone to attend; closed meetings are for alcoholics only).
  • Help them arrange for an assessment by a qualified alcohol and drug counselor to determine what sort of treatment they need. You can get a referral from their doctor or just check your local phone book.
  • Treatment often involves a family component. Helping an alcoholic includes support from family and friends. Be there to offer support. Also be willing to learn about the disease.

Getting an alcoholic help can be difficult, and sometimes it seems impossible. Remember, you cannot control another person. If you follow the steps given here, you will have done what you can. 

More about helping an alcoholic on our alcoholism intervention page

Alcoholism home page

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 

I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LPC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More