July 11th, 2023
If you have an alcoholic friend, then you know how difficult it can be to help them. You may be worried about their health and their drinking may be affecting your friendship. It is important to know that while you may feel helpless, frustrated and even angry at times, there is real help available to them. As a friend, you are one of the best-placed people to give your friend the love and support they need to seek that help.
In this guide, we will discuss how to help an alcoholic friend. We will explain how to recognise if your friend is addicted to alcohol, the best way to discuss the situation with them and how you can support them through the recovery process.
Is my friend an alcoholic?
This is not always an easy question to answer as not all alcoholics are the same. Some people may drink heavily every day while others may only drink on weekends. Unless you are living with your friend, it can be impossible to know the extent of their drinking or its effects on their life.
However, as well as the regular telltale signs of alcoholism, there are other signs specific to friends that may help to confirm your concerns. These include:
- Your friend no longer partaking in activities you used to enjoy together
- Your friend refusing to do anything social unless it involves a drink
- Your friend drinking double the speed and double the quantity as everyone else in your party
- Going weeks without seeing your friend or them refusing to answer their messages or pick up the phone
- Your friend showing previously unseen signs of a mental health issue such as anxiety or depression
- Catching your friend out in lies about drinking
- Your friend being drunk or nursing a hangover every time you see them
- Your friend no longer spending time with your old friendship group, preferring instead to be alone or with other people who drink as much as they do
It is important to remember that any one of these alone could be a sign of some other issue than alcoholism. However, if you are seeing multiple signs, then it is likely that your friend has a problem with alcohol and needs help.
How to talk to an alcoholic friend about their addiction
If you are worried about your friend’s drinking, the best thing to do is talk to them about it. This can be a difficult conversation, particularly if you also regularly drink. However, there are some things you can do to make it easier.
Speak to other friends about the situation
First, ask around your other friends to see if they have noticed any changes in your friend’s drinking. This will help you to build up a picture of how long the problem has been going on and how severe it is. If you are a close group, you can try to arrange a time when everyone can talk to your friend together. This takes the pressure off you as an individual and also shows your friend that their drinking is affecting more than just you.
Set the right tone
Many alcoholics are in denial, and if your friend thinks they are just meeting for a chat and is suddenly bombarded with what seem like accusations, they are likely to become defensive or walk away. This can be particularly risky if they have other friends who also drink heavily because they may simply cut you out of their life and continue on the same path.
Discuss your concerns calmly and if they are in denial, remind them of specific nights out or occasions when there were incidents or when they were particularly out of control. Self-realisation can take time when it comes to alcohol addiction but try to present evidence in a way that will help them to recognise the situation themselves.
Involve their family
This is not always a good idea because your friend may feel they are being ganged up on or that you have gone behind their back. However, if you are close with your friend’s family, and particularly if they have voiced their own concerns to you, it may help to have them involved. With all of their loved ones saying the same thing, they may accept that they need help.
Common mistakes that enable an alcoholic friend
If your friend is an alcoholic, there are certain things you may be doing that are unintentionally enabling their addiction. It is important to be aware of these so that you can avoid them.
Drinking with them
One common mistake is trying to drink with your alcoholic friend so that you can try and control them or limit the amount they drink. This is a dangerous game to play. Not only are you likely to fail, but you are also encouraging your friend to drink more. If you want to help your friend, the best thing you can do is stay sober whenever you are in their company. This can be frustrating but you don’t want to encourage their drinking in any way.
If you want to help your friend, you need to set a good example. Find other activities that you can enjoy together that don’t involve drinking. Healthy activities such as sports, walks or meals in restaurants that don’t serve drinks can be a great way to spend time together without alcohol.
Giving them money or a place to stay
Another mistake friends make is giving money to an alcoholic friend to help them out. This may be because they are short on rent or need food because they have spent all their money on alcohol. However, this is only likely to enable their drinking, as is allowing them to stay with you as this will only give them more money to spend on alcohol. It is important to be firm with your friend and set boundaries.
Explain that you are happy to help them out but only if they are taking steps to address their alcoholism. Instead of giving them money, you could take them food shopping or help them to look for a cheaper place to live.
Making excuses for them
Many people with alcoholic friends are tempted to make excuses for their behaviour. This could be to their family, friends or even at work. You may feel like you are the only one who understands your friend or the only one who can help them so you want to protect them until you can get them into treatment.
Making excuses for someone with alcohol addiction is not helping them. In fact, it is only likely to make the situation worse. If your friend is an alcoholic, they need to face up to their problem. It is important that you are honest with them and explain that you are no longer going to make excuses for them. This may be a difficult conversation but it is important to take away anything that supports their alcohol addiction so they realise they need help.
How to help an alcoholic friend into treatment
The only real way to help your friend into treatment is to support them fully once they’ve made the decision to go in. It’s not an easy decision for anyone to make and they may try to back out or need further convincing that treatment is the best thing for them.
You could start by helping them to research different types of treatment and find one that you think would be suitable for them. UKAT has rehab centres across the UK so we can help your friend find a centre that is near to you so that you can visit them
Once your friend has made the decision to go into treatment, offer to drive them to rehab or help them to pack their bags. When they have begun their rehab programme, you can also visit them during the allotted visiting times. Reassure your friend that you will be there for them before, during and after treatment. This will help give them the confidence they need to start the recovery process.
Helping an alcoholic friend can be incredibly difficult but it is also one of the most rewarding things you can do. Seeing your friend overcome their alcohol addiction and go on to lead a happy and healthy life is an amazing feeling. UKAT has helped thousands of people overcome their addiction to alcohol and we can help your friend too. Get in touch with us today and we will help your friend get the treatment they need.