How To Help An Alcoholic Loved One



How to help and alcoholic

It is an unfortunate fact that many people in the UK live day-to-day with alcohol addiction. They are often in denial and require and intervention. And it’s not just the addict themselves that suffers. Alcohol has a profound impact on various aspects of life. Many people’s drinking has a negative, often devastating, impact on their wellbeing, as well as the personal and professional lives of their loved ones.

It is commonplace for people with an issue with alcohol or drugs to change mood and behaviour, while their overall health falls into decline. There’s plenty of cases where individual’s in the grip of dependency see their job suffer, cause of many arguments, have relationships problems – ultimately the source of great pain for all involved.

It also leads to tension and anxiety, where family members may be constantly living in fear that another drinks-fuelled argument or fight may arise. This can lead to a strained, almost toxic environment and can tears families apart.

Denial Is Part Of Alcoholism

It’s not uncommon for people struggling with alcoholism to fail to recognise the signs of addiction. There’s often a state of denial about their problem, unable to accept they are having difficulties with alcohol. Despite the fact the signs of addiction may be plain to see to all of those around them if they looked. Often it’s masked as stress at work, anxiety, depression etc. which can all be present. It;s a case of chicken and egg – what came first? It can be particularly difficult for those living with someone battling alcohol addiction, be it a spouse, partner or significant others in cluding children, as they simply don; tunderstand what’s going on. Watching the person they love destroy him or herself through booze can be very traumatic.

Denial in its truest form is simply not accepting there’s a problem, often when there clearly is. Alcoholism is the individual’s problem and only they can fix it (with some preofessional help) but often blame is put on to others as well as circumstances. At Step By Step we’ve heard every possible reason you can (and can’t imagine) people have used as denial for their drinking. This ranges from “I drink because of my upbringing” to “I drink because it calms me down” as well as “I drink because I’m bored” and “If you had a life like mine, you’d drink too”. All of these may be genuine life stresses but not everyone drinks for these reasons. In Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, it’s often said that it is denial that kills alcoholics.

What Can Be Done To Approach A Loved One With Alcohol Issues?

But what can you do if your loved one cannot accept they have a drinking problem, or may even refuse to believe it? How do you speak to someone who may not be ready to face it, or are not prepared to listen? If you wish to stage an intervention or make a loved one accept they have an issue with alcohol, you may be reluctant to bring it up. Even if you have the best intentions and believe it’s for their own good. You may be afraid your loved one, wife, husband, boyfriend or girlfriend, may take it the wrong way.

Get Advice

Often it’s best to be armed with the facts – read up about alcoholism. Practice what you are going to say and pick the right place and time. Get advice from others, speak to your GP or call one of the helplines we have listed below.

They may become defensive, or even offended at the very suggestion they could have a problem with alcohol. Often, alcoholics gets sad, upset or angry when confronted about their drinking, and you may end up wishing you had said nothing to them. This may be a reason why so many people continue to accept their partner’s or loved one’s drinking way beyond acceptable levels. So-called “let sleeping dogs lie”.

At Step By Step recovery, we are very much of the approach that not addressing a partner ‘sor loved one’s drinking is, in effect, enabling them to continue to drink alcoholically. Naturally, this is through no fault of yours – simply that it is difficult situation to deal with.

Addressing Alcohol Issues With Your Loved One

An intervention is usually done by professionals and held once other measures of approaching the indidual have failed. Technically these should be called Professional Interventions, as they are undertaken by professional alcohol misuse specialists. Before any professional intervention, it’s normal that you would want to address the subject with the person drinking.  It’s advisable that the situation is handled with sensitivity and empathy.

Often it helps to ask yourself how would you like someone to address the subject if they were afraid you had a drinking problem? How would you react if you thought they were coming on too strong,? If they were too critical or were interfering in your private life? You may even find it humiliating to talk about, so a careful approach is often the best policy during an alcohol intervention. Telling the person what their drinking is doing to them, how it’s affecting their health, their work, their happiness if often the first approach. Tell them how their drinking makes you feel – what it’s doing to your relationship – in a loving yet assertive way. This can be a second step and is a more concerned approach rather than disapproval. You may well be angry, disapproving and upset.

It’s always good during any approach to let your loved one or partner know you are primarily concerned with their health and wellbeing. It is not about trying to run their life.

A Professional Alcohol Intervention

In the video below, Psychiatrist Dr George M. Northrup explains what an intervention is and when a professional intervention should take place.


The situation must be handled delicately and choosing the right thing to say can be imperative. Experts recommend using positive language and phrases, where you speak in an encouraging, motivational and sympathetic manner.

If someone close to you has a drinking problem, you could also benefit from independent support or some counselling. Perhaps seeking the advice of an interventionist, alcohol rehab or counsellor before approaching your loved one. But also for your own wellbeing and mental health.

Seek Advice and Help For Yourself

There is no shame in asking for help, if you, your partner, or a family member have alcohol problems. Surely, it’s best to do something about it sooner rather than later? It can be a painful, stressful time watching someone you care about succumbing to alcohol addiction. But you do not have to face it alone. Rest assured there is guidance and support available for people struggling with alcohol addiction and their families, where you can work together to turn all of your lives around. This could be the turning point, which could help the addict escape from dependency, and save your loved ones the pain of watching them destroy themselves. And, at the same time save your relationship, family bond and overall family functionality and happiness.

If you need to speak to someone regarding help with a loved one’s alcohol, you can get in touch with us here at Step By Step as we are trained in dealing with alcohol misuse – most of our staff are in recovery themselves. There are also support group available for family members of alcoholics which we’ve listed below.

Please do get in touch with Step by Step Alcohol Rehab for free advice on an intervention or anything else to do with addiction.

References and sources of Intervention help:

Adfam is a national UK charity working to improve support for those affected by someone else’s substance use.
Telephone: 020 3817 9410

Al-Anon Family Groups
Al-Anon Family Groups provide support to anyone whose life is, or has been, affected by someone else’s drinking. They can help regardless of whether the person is still drinking or not. For some of our members, the wounds still run deep, even if their loved one may no longer be a part of their lives.

Helpline: 0800 0086 811

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