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Confronting an Alcoholic

Confronting an Alcoholic

Talking to an alcoholic about getting help can be tough, especially if you’re close to them.

People with alcoholism are often in denial about their condition, or they’re high-functioning, which is when they’re capable of abusing alcohol while seeming like they have their life together. But the longer they go without help, the more their condition will worsen. If you have a loved one with this condition and you don’t know how to start the conversation about addiction treatment, we’re sharing some tips on confronting an alcoholic that can help.

Should You Confront an Alcoholic?

A lot of people are hesitant to approach their alcoholic friend, spouse, or family member for fear of offending them, angering them, or harming the relationship. If this is how you feel, know that it’s completely understandable and normal. Rarely does anyone like to be admonished about problematic behavior, which means that confronting an alcoholic probably won’t be a walk in the park.

So, should you confront them? Absolutely. If you have an alcoholic husband, wife, or family member who you’re close to, you should definitely try to talk to them about their problem and how to get them help. If you only suspect that they have a drinking problem, but aren’t entirely sure, then watch out for these signs:

  • Their breath constantly smells like alcohol
  • They drink alone
  • Their eyes are bloodshot all the time
  • They’re sleeping more than usual
  • They become angry more frequently, and for no specific reason
  • They’re missing school or work more often
  • Their performance at school or work is declining
  • They’re isolating themselves from you or others
  • They talk about drinking a lot
  • They’re secretive about their behavior and who they’re spending time with
  • They go out a lot and come back smelling like alcohol

While the signs of alcoholism vary from person to person, if your loved one is displaying any of these behaviors or characteristics, then alcohol detox or treatment at an addiction help center may be in order.

What to Say to an Alcoholic: Dos and Don'ts

So, how do you talk to an alcoholic without harming the relationship or pushing them away? Truth be told, you can never be sure of the outcome, but you can prepare yourself to do your part. Below are some dos and don’ts on how to talk to an alcoholic in denial that can equip you to start this tough conversation and get your loved one closer to recovery.

Do Talk to Intervention Specialists

It’s important to adopt an intervention strategy so you can approach this conversation as best as possible, and what better way to do that than to speak to an intervention specialist? These are professionals that know how to organize and lead interventions to help families of people with addictions find treatment for their loved ones. If you’re planning on confronting your loved one about their drinking, we advise that you meet with a licensed therapist, counselor, psychologist, or interventionist to discuss the nature of the person’s problem and how you can help.

Don’t Confront Them When They’re Drunk or Drinking

When someone you care about comes home drunk, it’s tempting to let loose and say the first thing that comes to your mind. But this isn’t effective. They’ll either tune out whatever you’re saying, not understand it because they’ve had too much to drink, or they’ll forget about it the next day.

You also risk starting an argument when you confront someone about their drinking when they’re drunk, so it’s better to wait for the next time they’re sober. You should also try to sit them down at a table to maintain a peaceful conversation.

Do Be Firm and Clear

When confronting an alcoholic, you can’t afford to be unclear or wishy-washy. You have to be direct. This doesn’t mean yelling or getting in their face, but rather using a factual and clear tone of voice and describing their behavior in detail and how it’s affected yourself and others.

You can even list dates, specific times, frequency of negative behaviors, how much alcohol they’ve had, and how much money they’ve spent. Sometimes it’s good to have concrete evidence so that the person understands the extent of their problem and its repercussions.

Don’t Use “You” Statements

Remember to use “I” statements instead of “You” statements when expressing your concerns and how you’ve been impacted by your loved one’s drinking. This means that instead of saying, “You concern me,” say, “I am concerned about your alcohol use,” or “I’ve been feeling increasingly worried about when you come home late at night.” This makes it seem less like you’re accusing them and more like you want to have a conversation.

Do Share How You’ve Been Personally Affected

As we spoke about earlier, be sure to mention how you’ve been affected by the person’s drinking. Oftentimes, people with drug or alcohol addictions don’t acknowledge their problem because they don’t realize the harm it’s causing others. Sharing how their drinking has affected you may be a much-needed reality check for them.

Don’t Call Them an ‘Alcoholic’ or ‘Addict’

Although these are terms that are generally used to describe people with alcoholism, they aren’t appropriate to use when you’re trying to confront someone about their drinking. Calling the person an alcoholic or an addict can seem like a harsh accusation or a label. Saying this can cause them to be defensive, so instead of using labels, focus on expressing your feelings.

Do Offer Options Instead of Ultimatums

Present the person with options by offering your help. You can say things like, “I was wondering if you consider seeing a doctor about your alcohol use. I’d be happy to go with you”, instead of saying, “you need help.” Even though you believe it’s obvious that your loved one needs addiction treatment, always remember that it’s up to them whether they want to go through with it or not. While you can suggest help, you can’t force them to do anything they don’t want to.

Alcoholism and Getting a Loved One to Treatment

Having a relationship with an alcoholic is one of the hardest things to do. Their uncontrolled alcohol use can affect you and the rest of your family. It can be difficult to stay patient and willing to help the person when they’re always doing something that causes you pain. But with education and professional help, recovery is possible.

If you’re seeking alcohol treatment for your husband, wife, friend, or anyone else, Banyan Treatment Centers offers different levels of substance abuse treatment to manage addictions of all types and severities. Because addiction affects the person as well as their loved ones, we also offer help for family members of alcoholics via our family services and programs.

To learn how we can help you or a loved one achieve long-term freedom from addiction, call us today at 888-280-4763 to learn more about the drug treatment programs offered at our Banyan rehab locations.

Related Reading: 

The Truth About Exhaustion after Quitting Alcohol 
The Alcoholic Liver Disease Stages & Their Warning Signs 

How Parents Can Prevent Drug Abuse: It Starts Confronting an Alcoholic: Dos and Don’ts 

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.