How to Help an Alcoholic

Trusted, detailed info on how to help an alcoholic and what helping an alcoholic really means and entails. Read and learn how to help an alcoholic.

Once you've admitted that alcoholism is a problem for your loved one, or once your loved one is getting help for their alcoholism, the next question is: "how to help an alcoholic?" Before the alcoholic is in recovery, the focus of helping an alcoholic is on getting the alcoholic treatment; once the alcoholic stops drinking, helping an alcoholic involves supporting the alcoholic through the recovery process.

Start helping an alcoholic by helping yourself first. Learn how to help an alcoholic by contacting local addiction agencies, support groups or web sites to educate yourself on alcohol abuse and alcoholism.

How to Help an Alcoholic - Helping an Alcoholic Get Treatment

You cannot make an alcoholic stop drinking. Only the alcoholic can do that for himself. However, you can help an alcoholic seek treatment. Seeking treatment is the first step in recovering from alcoholism.

Most alcoholics are in denial in that they will not admit they have a problem with alcohol. One way of helping an alcoholic is trying to make them see the harmful effects their drinking is having in their lives. When the alcoholic is sober, help an alcoholic by discussing as calmly and rationally as possible, their actions and their consequences. Helping an alcoholic involves using specific examples of actions and how they affected others.

The alcoholic may not agree that these behaviors are due to drinking, but addressing problem behaviors is still helpful. In helping an alcoholic, it is important to make clear that you still love the alcoholic.

Helping an alcoholic then involves making an action plan to address their behaviors and the negative consequences. It may help the alcoholic to be given an ultimatum or time limit. For example, "if you do not agree to treatment I will move out on the 13th." Any ultimatum made needs to be real and needs to be stuck to in order for it to help the alcoholic.

Ideally, this will help an alcoholic accept treatment for alcoholism but an alcoholic can only accept treatment when he admits there is a problem.

How to Help an Alcoholic - Helping an Alcoholic in Recovery

Once an alcoholic begins the process of recovery through treatment, helping an alcoholic turns to supporting the alcoholic's recovery. Education on alcoholism treatment and recovery is the first step in helping an alcoholic through the recovery process. Make sure to attend all recovery-related meetings or appointments whether the alcoholic attends or not.

Helping an alcoholic in recovery may also include:

  • Removing all alcohol from the home
  • Not serving alcohol at social gatherings
  • Not drinking in front of the alcoholic
  • Asking the alcoholic what he needs
  • Getting your own counseling or support for the effects alcoholism has played in your life
  • Doing something for yourself rather than obsessing over the alcoholic's drinking

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Last Updated: 20 June 2016

Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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