How To Tell Someone That You Think They Have a Drinking Problem


If you are worried about someone’s drinking then you are probably wondering how to tell them and if you should say something at all.  If you decide you do want to say something we have some tips for you. As your gut may tell you, just coming at them with the whole “You really should quit drinking I think you have a problem,” doesn’t always go over very well. If you follow these simple guidelines then you can do what you need to in order to get your point across in a caring and effective manner.

“I” Statements – Let Them Know You Care

The first suggestion when it comes to telling someone you are concerned about their drinking habits is to keep in the forefront of your mind how much you care for them. That is the whole reason you are saying anything at all. The most legitimate reason to tell someone you’re concerned about their drinking or drugging is usually in response to your own internal feeling. That means if you “feel” the need to say something to someone you’re concerned about then you should do so. If you are looking to tell someone you’re concerned about their behavior then you know avoiding the issue will just lead to more anxiety.

You don’t need to wait until the person you’re concerned about has a full blown drinking or drugging problem to address the issue. Be proactive about it and let them know that you care about them.

I See, I Feel…

When you tell a loved one you’re worried, concerned or upset about where their drinking habits are leading them, make sure that you are simple, specific, and concrete. Try to identify three instances, make them specific, which clearly demonstrate the problem with their use of alcohol that have you concerned.

Tell your loved one how you felt those times. Whether it was angry, frustrated, hurt, embarrassed, or scared just make sure you refer back to the emotions that you felt – not what is going on with them. If you want to tell them you’re concerned about them make sure the focus stays on the other person and that the tone remains calm and caring.

Say what you saw during the three specific instances that you bring up. Say what was said, what was done, where it occurred, when it occurred and who else was there. Make it clear how in your mind, their drinking and drug use played a role in those instances.

Do not under any circumstances try to diagnose someone if you’re worried. Don’t jump to the idea that they are an alcoholic or an addict. It can break the connection you have with someone. Keep your observations about their alcohol use on a level of “drinking seems to be…” not “your drinking is a problem.”

If they deny that their alcohol or drug use is an issue, then cite the problems in a way that is not accusatory, but explanatory.

I Expect, I Hope…

If you tell someone your worries and they are responsive, it is helpful to suggest solutions for them. For instance, say “I may be wrong, but I think it could be a good idea to see a counselor.” Or “I think it is important for you find what is right for you to overcome this, I hope you will seek help.”

Setting expectations for your friend or family member can also be done at this point. If you set bottom lines or boundaries, then you have to uphold them. If you give ultimatums and don’t stick with them, this only tells the person you are worried about that it’s ok to drink even if it hurts you or makes you made mad and nothing will ever really change.

If you want to tell someone you’re concerned about their alcohol and/or drug use just make sure you do it from a place of love. Maybe they are willing to seek help. If that is the case do everything you can to help them. If they aren’t ready to find help then you need to set boundaries for yourself and what you are okay with and not okay with.

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