Helping Someone You Love with Problem Drinking

Individuals who suffer from alcohol addiction often experience numerous problems in their lives. It frequently becomes so overwhelming that they do not realize that they are not only hurting themselves. Anyone who cares about them and watches the effects of the illness as it takes over their lives is also affected. This may include family members, friends, members of groups or organizations to which they belong, and co-workers, among others. All of these significant others in the person’s life experience the pain of watching the downward spiral of someone close to them, someone they care about, who drinks too much. The greatest suffering of friends and family members is often caused by their inability to find a way to make a difference and help their loved one conquer what is causing them so much harm.

You Can Make a Difference

Multiple research studies have demonstrated that for every individual who is suffering from an alcohol problem, a minimum of four other people in their life are also negatively affected by their actions. Altering the focus regarding the meaning of these consequences, however, would allow us to see that we have a personal interest in helping someone close to us find the path to overcome their alcohol addiction. Frequently, while the individual may not be able to bring themselves to seek treatment on their own behalf, due to the effects of the disease on their brain functioning, decision making, and problems solving abilities, when they learn how much their behavior is hurting others they may be willing to do it for them.

How Can I Help?

If you think of all the effort, time, and tears, you have invested in trying to get your loved one to stop drinking and come to the conclusion none of this made a difference, you are not alone. Rage, tears, and empty threats will not help your loved one quit using alcohol. Part of the reason is that often, while people do want to help the person with the addiction, they are truly responding from their own emotions, beliefs, and responses, not those of the person with the problem. Remember that it takes a long time for this type of addiction to develop to the point that it is serious enough to affect the individual’s life and the lives of those around them. Additionally, keep in mind that they have come to rely on alcohol for various reasons and from their point of view, it serves important functions in their life. Perhaps they believe they are not able to interact socially without it or perform normally in day-to-day activities due to overwhelming emotions. Over time, when the person realizes you and others in their life will support them through what they perceive to be a terrifying option, they may eventually be willing at least to consider the possibility of intervention. This may seem like chipping away at mortar, but this step is among the hardest for the individual to take and is a sign of enormous progress.


“Helping Someone You Love With Problem Drinking” was written by Lauren N. Hardy, MA, clinical team member from Timberline Knolls.. Lauren has a masters in counseling psychology and several years’ experience as an addiction and mental health research analyst at Vanderbilt University, both of which give her the knowledge and experience to shed light on treatment for alcohol abuse and addiction.


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