How to Help an Alcoholic?

Jun 13, 2018 | Blog, Addiction, Alcohol, Helping a Loved One

Alcoholism is a horrible disease that affects not only the alcoholic but also his/her family and friends. If you have lived with an alcoholic, you are all too familiar with living with broken promises, lies, manipulations, hurt, and anger. If you are trying to help someone who is struggling with alcoholism, it is helpful to understand the strategies that help and those that don’t.

What doesn’t work:

  • Trying to Control the Amount of Alcohol Consumption – When you see someone whose drinking is out of control, it is only natural to try to control the amount of their alcohol consumption. Unfortunately, this rarely works. Instead, the result is often an increase in arguments, manipulation, lies, and hiding of the alcohol. The more you try to control the alcoholic, the more likely you are to feel out of control.
  • Bargaining with the Alcoholic – Another common mistake that people make when trying to help an alcoholic is to bargain with them. “If you don’t drink tonight, we’ll … tomorrow”, or “If you just have one drink tonight, then I promise that I’ll…” Unfortunately, these bargains are rarely kept and instead become the fuel for future resentments.
  • Yelling/Arguing – You can never yell loud enough to convince an alcoholic to stop drinking. Instead, they tend to use the arguments as an excuse to drink in the future.
  • Threatening – Don’t threaten actions if you aren’t willing to follow through with them. Many people threaten action in hopes of convincing the alcoholic to change. Unfortunately, over time, the alcoholic learns to ignore the threats and the person who is delivering them.
  • Shaming – Alcoholics are already filled with shame. Calling them “worthless” or other names doesn’t make them want to stop drinking. Instead, they use it as an excuse to drink in the future.
  • Denial – Pretending like there is no problem or refusing to talk about it, doesn’t make the problem go away. It only makes you feel crazy, alone, and resentful.

What does help

  • Learn about recovery – The more that you know about recovery, the better you can help the alcoholic and yourself. Recovery is more than just getting sober. It is a lifelong process that involves emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual growth.
  • Take control over your own life first – If you want to make yourself feel crazy, try to control things that you have no control over. Instead, ask yourself questions such as: “What do I have control of and what am I going to do about those things that I can control?” “Which of my own behaviors can I change?” “If the alcoholic never quits drinking, how do I want to live my life?”
  • Be honest with yourself and others – Be honest with others and yourself about the effects that alcohol abuse is having on you and your family. The more that you can talk openly about the problems, the less crazy you tend to feel and the more support that you tend to create.
  • Talk openly with the alcoholic before they start drinking – Many people argue with the alcoholic when they are drinking and avoid discussions when they are sober. Flip this process upside down. Have open dialogue when the alcoholic is sober, even if the conversations are uncomfortable. This is when the alcoholic is most able to have meaningful dialogue.
  • Set limits that you can live with – Don’t make threats that you aren’t willing to follow. Instead, set meaningful limits that you can live with and then follow through with those limits. For example, “If you are drinking, I will not ride in the car with you.”
  • Get help for yourself – Remember, that addiction affects everyone in the family, not just the alcoholic. Seek support, such as Al-anon, and counseling with a therapist who is experienced in working with addiction.
  • Get help from others – Enlisting the help of others who care about the alcoholic can be a powerful tool.
  • Act during times of crisis – No alcoholic gets help when things are going well. Alcoholics only tend to get help during times of crisis. This crisis may occur when they get a DUI, lose a job, are threatened with the loss of their marriage, or some other crisis. During a crisis, alcoholics tend to be more receptive to getting help. If you know an alcoholic that is in crisis, get them into treatment quickly.
  • Interventions – An Intervention is a formal process of confronting the alcoholic about their drinking. This process usually involves multiple people and is designed to help create a controlled crisis that often brings the alcoholic into treatment.
New Dimensions Can Help!

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms or problems, New Dimensions can help. Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.

Our affiliate, MHThrive, provides Individual Therapy, Couples and Marriage Counseling, and Family Therapy at our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas. We also provide telehealth therapy for anyone who resides within the State of Texas. To schedule an appointment with one of the MHThrive therapists, contact us at 713-477-0333 or visit to learn more.