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How To Help An Alcoholic

    How To Help An Alcoholic

    Alcoholism is one of the most prevalent addictions across the world.

    A dependency or addiction to alcohol will lead to excessive alcohol consumption, and even in the short term this can lead to disastrous health outcomes.

    Alcoholism also impacts people in other, less direct ways.

    It can wreak havoc on their financial stability, it can disrupt and endanger their employment and the future of their career, can ruin their intimate relationships and have a dangerous impact on their mental health.

    For all these reasons and more, many family members and close friends of someone struggling with their relationship with alcohol will want to know how to help an alcoholic.

    Indicators Of Alcoholism

    One of the first steps to helping an alcoholic is establishing that they really are living with alcoholism.

    Unless someone has specifically disclosed their alcoholism to you, it can be hard to establish whether or not they are living with an addiction or dependency on alcohol, beyond just a guess or hunch.

    This is because many alcoholics live their lives and go about their usual business while hiding their situation – often these people are called high functioning alcoholics.


    Part of the motivation for hiding their alcoholism comes from the social stigma attached to it.

    Many high functioning alcoholics are worried that their addiction could jeopardise their employment and their relationships.

    Because of this, if you suspect that a close family member or friend may be an alcoholic, you will want to look for the common signs of alcoholism.

    Physical And Behavioural Symptoms

    Often, the common signs of alcoholism are physical.

    Look out for:

    • The lingering smell of alcohol on their breath
    • Fluctuations in body weight
    • The appearance of wrinkles and looking older and more tired
    • Dry skin
    • Burst capillaries around the nose

    There are also behavioural indicators of alcoholism.

    Withdrawing from social circles and becoming more isolated is one sign, as is an inability to deal with stressful situations without becoming unusually emotional.


    If a person is showing these signs, you may want to directly ask if they are struggling to manage their alcohol intake.

    If they say yes, this is a great first step. However, they might not want to engage in the conversation, or may continue to conceal their addiction from you.

    In this instance, you can try going through the online CAGE questionnaire together.

    The questionnaire is accessible and short and provides an indication of whether or not your close family member or friend may be facing an addiction to alcohol.

    Helping An Alcoholic: Where To Start

    women interview

    Once you’ve established that the person is struggling with alcoholism, there are countless ways in which you can help.

    Many of these are supported by scientific research, which highlights that there is evidence for some methods being more effective than others.

    However, every person with an addiction to alcohol is unique and has their own circumstances and story.

    Sometimes the excessive consumption of alcohol is used as a crutch to deal with past traumas or current pressures.

    Sometimes it’s linked with a diagnosed or undiagnosed mental illness like depression or anxiety.

    If you want to help the alcoholic, it is important to take this into account and avoid any judgement of their situation of the reasons behind it.

    Knowing that everyone has their own individual situation, it’s important to conduct your own research into what might be the best place to start for you to help.

    With that in mind, here are some ways in which you can help an alcoholic:

    Staging An Intervention


    An intervention is when you, as a close family member or friend of an alcoholic, have a meeting with the alcoholic alongside other close contacts to instigate change in their life.

    Interventions often follow a structured format and it is recommended that they involve professional advice to have the best chance at success.

    An intervention requires you to have a set goal in mind for the alcoholic, for example: admission to rehabilitations services of therapy.

    It will also require you to lay out the consequences of what will happen if the alcoholic doesn’t engage and work towards progress, and you need to be able to follow through with these consequences.

    An intervention should aim to be compassionate and supportive, rather than judgemental and blaming.

    Therefore, as a group, you might want to consider practising what you’re planning to say so that emotions don’t overwhelm you when the intervention happens.

    A successful intervention is when the alcoholic goes on to make positive changes in their life, resulting in the end of the addiction and a healthier relationship with alcohol or complete abstinence.

    However, even an unsuccessful intervention can make the alcoholic reconsider their situation and become more open and receptive to the idea of rehabilitation or therapy further down the line.

    Alcoholics Anonymous


    Alcoholics anonymous is a well-known resource for people who are struggling with their relationship with alcohol.

    At an alcoholics anonymous meeting, people receive advice and support from other alcoholics and those in recovery.

    A group will share their experiences, and lend each other motivation to continue on their journey out of alcoholism.

    You can support an alcoholic by speaking to them about the prospect of attending alcoholics anonymous, and helping them to find a local group.

    Sometimes groups hold open sessions, in which case you can attend alongside your friend to help them while they’re there.

    By suggesting the idea of alcoholics anonymous, if they attend, they can then speak to you about their progress and the hurdles that they are facing.


    You can do your own research about the organisation’s 12-steps so that you can talk to them about it in-depth and give your own thoughts.

    Attendance at alcoholics anonymous requires the attendees to be sober, so it might not work as a very first step.

    However, alcoholics anonymous can be an extremely effective tool to keep in mind.

    Support Through Rehabilitation And Therapy


    If the alcoholic is receptive to your initial help and progresses to rehabilitation or therapy, there is still plenty you can do to offer support and assistance.

    Rehabilitation, and the entire journey through recovery from an addiction to alcohol, will be one of the biggest challenges an alcoholic will face.

    Throughout the process they will experience physical and psychological trials, as cravings take over.

    At this time more than ever, they will need the support of their family and friends to give them motivation and assurance.

    Always be compassionate, and stress the rewards of successful rehabilitation.

    Always be prepared to listen, and give your sincere thoughts and feelings in response.

    Most of all, never let the alcoholic forget that you are proud of them for their positive actions and that their life will improve in many ways when they’re on the other side of the experience.

    Don’t Forget To Look After Yourself


    The process of helping an alcoholic can be hard.

    It can be emotionally draining, and will sometimes test the limits of your empathy and patience.

    For this reason, it is extremely important to take care of your own mental health too.

    It can be extremely difficult for you, as a family member or close friend, who cares about an alcoholic who is struggling.

    If you find yourself getting worn down don’t give up, but do take a break.


    If you don’t do this, you won’t be able to offer your guidance and help as effectively, and you could end up damaging your personal relationship with them.

    To take time away from yourself, speak to others who are supporting the alcoholic and let them know that you’re getting word down.

    They can take over the role of the supporter for a while until you return refreshed and motivated to provide help once again.

    Getting Help Today


    If you have a loved one suffering from alcoholism and still aren’t entirely sure how to help them, reach out to us today.

    Our experienced call handlers are available to answer any questions you have and guide you down the right path, entirely for free.

    Once your loved one is ready to begin recovery, we can connect them to a wide selection of expert inpatient and outpatient services.

    With the right support behind you, no addiction is too tough to overcome.


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