Health Advocate Blog

Helping a friend or loved one with a drinking problem

Do you have a friend or family member who appears to need to have a drink–or several drinks–in order to have a good time or get through everyday life? These are common warning signs that someone may have a problem with alcohol. If so, their alcohol use could lead to addiction and their behavior may be affecting your life, too. Talking to your friend or family member about your concern as early as possible could help make a real difference in their life — as well as yours.

Consider speaking up if your friend or family member exhibits the following behaviors:

  • Acts differently or does risky things like driving when he or she drinks excessively
  • Is more argumentative when drinking
  • Is having accidents like tripping or falling after drinking
  • Seems moody or uncomfortable before having several drinks
  • Drinks to relieve stress or cope with problems
  • Withdraws from activities that the person once enjoyed
  • Drinks when he or she is alone
  • Pressures you or others to drink
  • Has broken promises or plans with you, shows up late, skips work, or neglects obligations or responsibilities because of their alcohol use
  • Downplays or lies about drinking use or is starting to hide their alcohol use from others
  • Starts spending more time with heavy drinkers
  • Seems uncomfortable at functions or avoids events where alcohol is not served

Keep in mind that your friend or family member may not fit these categories. Even if you just feel that he or she may be on the wrong track, don’t wait to say something.

What you can say

It’s a good idea to meet on neutral turf, but not at a bar or anyplace else that serves alcohol. The other person should be sober. Here are tips to consider:

  • Start by saying, “I’ve noticed you are drinking more lately and I’m concerned.”  Or, “When you’re sober, we share a great time and I enjoy your company, but when you drink you get moody and destructive.”
  • Consider talking about the effect your friend or family member’s drinking has on whatever the person cares about most, such as their career or children, for example.  The person may not be concerned about their own situation, but may care deeply about the effect their drinking may have on their children.
  • If the person readily admits to having a problem and wants to do something about it, consider offering a ride to an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting.

Remember to look out for your own needs. You can’t force anyone to get help. You might consider speaking to other people who know and care about your friend or loved one to see if they have other ideas about how to help them. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to seek help for yourself from support organizations like Al-Anon, which is for people who are worried about someone with a drinking problem.

For Health Advocate members

If you’re a Health Advocate member with access to our EAP+Work/Life program, our Licensed Professional Counselors are available to help you and your family members address alcohol and substance abuse issues, depression, anxiety, stress and more.