When someone you know or love has a drinking problem, talking to them about your concerns can be a hard but necessary first step on the path toward recovery. The following pointers may help, starting with some good reasons to talk with an individual about their drinking problem in the first place.
Why Talk to an Individual About Drinking Too Much?
Watching a family member or friend with a drinking problem causes worry, because alcohol abuse can lead to dangerous behaviors like drunk driving. Signs of problem drinking include drinking more than intended, missing work, skipping school, and exhibiting reckless behaviors. Sharing concern about their wellbeing and how they behave while drinking may prevent them from getting into a situation they will regret forever.
Engaging an individual with a drinking problem in a frank conversation may persuade them to see things differently and help them avoid dangerous situations or legal trouble. However, some people may wonder how to tell someone they have a drinking problem or how to confront an alcoholic….
Prepare for the Conversation
Understanding problem drinking is essential before attempting to help a person headed for trouble due to drinking. The purpose is to help the individual realize that someone cares about their wellbeing and does not want to see them get pulled into a downward spiral by drinking too much. Before the conversation, consult with a trusted person who can offer some tips, such as a faith leader, health professional, or a substance abuse counselor.
When deciding to talk to an alcoholic, be prepared for some pushback. People who drink too much often find it hard to admit they have a problem. They may become agitated or uncomfortable and start defending their actions or telling a concerned family member or friend to mind their own business. They may be in denial or unsure of what to do about their drinking.
Choose the Right Time and Place for the Conversation
It’s difficult to talk with an intoxicated person about drinking too much. They are not in a state of mind to have a meaningful discussion. If they become angry and defensive, the result could be an argument with hurtful words or aggressive behavior that may close the door to additional efforts to help them. It is essential to choose an appropriate time and place to have the conversation.
Also, trying to talk with a person about heavy drinking while or just after drinking with them appears hypocritical. Choose a quiet environment rather than a noisy public place. After drinking too much, a friend or loved one may experience a hangover. It is best to give them some time to rest and feel better before talking about their drinking issue. That said, they also may be more apt to see and apprehend the negative effects of their drinking in the immediate aftermath of a hangover.
Begin with a Private Conversation
Having a one-on-one talk with someone with a drinking problem can be intimidating, but bringing too many people into the conversation can make them feel threatened. They may think that everyone is “ganging up” on them. Having a private conversation with the individual shows respect and may encourage them to talk openly about their drinking issue.
Empathizing with an individual who drinks too much can be challenging. A person who has never struggled with drinking cannot fully understand what the person who always drinks to cope is going through. Some people may drink too much to deal with personal issues or past traumas. The helper must think about how they would want someone to treat them under the same circumstances. In approaching the discussion, using phrases such as “I hear what you are saying” or “It must feel scary when you feel like you have had too much to drink” are ways to show empathy.
Be an Active Listener
Being an active listener takes practice, but it can be a way to keep a conversation on track, especially when talking about sensitive topics like drinking too much. Active listening means paying attention to what individuals say, acknowledging their concerns, and showing restraint by not interrupting or sharing opinions. Active listeners clarify what they hear by using phrases like, “So what I hear you saying is you don’t feel your drinking is a problem.”
Listening actively also involves reflecting. For example, a person might say, “Drinking helps me relax, but sometimes I drink more than I intend to.” A reflective response might be, “Are you saying you drink more when you feel stressed?” Whether the person needing help is a teen or adult, validating what they may be feeling without being judgmental can make a difference. The objective is to encourage the individual to feel comfortable sharing, think seriously about their condition, and realize they require help.
Stick with the Facts
If the individual almost stepped into the path of a car while drunk, telling them about the incident might help them realize that they are not fully aware of what happens when they drink too much. A person who raises their voice when they drink may be unmindful of it. Rather than saying, “You are mean and out of control when you drink,” a statement such as “The children and I were afraid when you raised your voice after drinking last night” may be more effective. Instead of criticizing or sounding judgmental, stick with the facts when explaining what happens when the individual drinks too much.
Use “I” Messages
Rather than using accusatory statements like, “You make a fool of yourself when you drink too much,” say, “Sometimes I worry about you when you drink.” Using an “I” message is not the same as excusing the individual’s actions or enabling. An “I” message helps convey feelings without provoking anger or resentment.
Understand the Goals of the Talk
There is a good chance that a first conversation about problem drinking may not cause a friend or loved one to stop drinking. However, it may convince them to think about their situation and consider getting help. It is crucial to keep the lines of communication open. Let the individual know they have a trusted friend or family member in whom they can confide, who will point them to helpful resources, and who will support them in their journey to recovery.
There Is Help for People Who Drink Too Much
Most people don’t know how to get a loved one to stop drinking, but a person who drinks too much must get help. People who binge drink or who get drunk occasionally may feel they don’t have a drinking problem. However, a drunk-driving arrest or committing a violent act are examples of things that can happen when people drink excessively, regardless of the frequency.
Help a loved one begin the journey toward recovery and avoid the tragedy and heartache caused by an untreated problem. Learn more about treatment for problem drinking or alcohol addiction. Our team of compassionate and professional counselors are available 24/7 and ready to help. Call us today at (866) 653-6220.