How to Help an Alcoholic

Helping someone with alcohol addiction is never easy. It’s a difficult topic to raise, you may not know what to say, and despite how much you care, you might not be able to empathise with their situation. As hard as it is, you cannot force somebody to get help – they have to make that decision. But there are ways you can encourage them to make that choice.

This page will talk you through the most effective steps for how to help someone who’s struggling with alcohol addiction. Our experience and research can give you advice on how best to help an alcoholic. It includes when to have the conversation, what to say and how to support them during the treatment process.

When is it time to say something?

Knowing for sure that a person needs help with alcohol addiction can be very difficult, especially if they are in denial. Many people drink to excess, and while it may not be healthy, it doesn’t necessarily mean they need alcoholic addiction help. So how do you know if alcohol rehab is required or whether they could just benefit from cutting back on alcohol consumption?

Here are some signs to look out for:

  • A lack of interest in previously enjoyed hobbies.
  • Constantly going out drinking.
  • Only being interested in spending time with people if it involves drinking.
  • Regularly being tired, moody or unwell.
  • Behavioural changes.
  • Drinking during the day regularly.
  • Being overly anxious or seriously depressed.
  • Becoming more secretive and dishonest.
  • Being constantly hungover.
  • Being easily angered and less in control of their emotions.
  • Neglecting personal hygiene and appearance.
  • Abusive words or actions.

The best time to get help for alcoholics is always right now. If you are wondering how to help an alcoholic partner, know that the earlier they can get help for alcoholism, the better their chances of making a successful recovery. Sit down with them and have an honest conversation about your concerns. Even if you turn out to be wrong, at least they will know that you care. If you are right that they need help with alcoholism, you will have brought the subject to light and may spark them to realise the possibility that they need treatment.

Talking to someone who needs help with alcoholism

Admitting that you need help with alcoholism can be very difficult. Abuse and addiction are such taboo subjects that many people bury their heads in the sand and hope that the situation will improve by itself. This is why it is so important to talk to the person and explain your concerns. Here are things to keep in mind when you have the conversation:

Choose the right moment

Talking to a loved one about their alcohol use requires patience and understanding. This can be difficult because your relationship may already have been badly affected by their drinking. Choose a moment when they aren’t drunk or hungover because this could make them defensive or emotional. It may be even more challenging if it’s your mother or father, but the best way to help an alcoholic parent is to speak honestly and non-judgmentally because using an accusatory or judgemental tone may cause them to close up and become defensive. Take a step back, put yourself in their shoes and think about how you would feel if someone you love was to approach you with a similar problem.


A major part of communication is listening to what the person has to say. They may have work stresses or other triggers that are causing them to drink. Perhaps they have financial problems or issues at work that they are using alcohol to cope with. Having a better understanding of the underlying causes of their alcoholism can enable you to work through those causes with them.

Assess the treatment options together

Once they have recognised they need help, research possible solutions together. You can read through UKAT’s alcohol detox, addiction and rehab pages or look for local AA meetings that you can attend together. Once you have assessed the options, help them to make the best choice for their recovery. You can get in touch with UKAT and we can help them choose the right rehab centre.

Be patient but persistent

Remember that your loved one may feel defensive when you tell them they are drinking too much. The first reaction may be to deny the problem exists so be sure to show empathy and concern rather than disapproval. You may then find that they are more open to getting alcoholic help than you expected.

Can you help an alcoholic who is not ready for treatment?

It is important to understand that you cannot force someone to get help with alcoholism if they are not ready to do so. This may give you the perception that you cannot help an alcoholic but this is not true. Remember that alcoholism is an illness that can cause a person to change. It can be hurtful to watch your child act in a way that is secretive, manipulative or selfish but the most effective way to help an alcoholic son or daughter is to be patient with them by encouraging them to see how serious their situation really is. It may take some time but with your love and support, they may finally understand that they need help with alcoholism.

Self-care when supporting an alcoholic

If you want to help an alcoholic you will need to be strong. Seeing someone you care for struggling with alcohol addiction and watching the negative effects on their life can really take its toll. You may be feeling upset and frustrated so it’s important to do everything you can to look after yourself and gain the tools needed to help them.

The first thing you should do is to learn as much as you can about alcohol addiction so that you can understand the condition and spot the signs and symptoms. Speak to UKAT or get in touch with your local Al-Anon group – a group set up to help family members of those suffering from chronic alcoholism. This way, you can meet with other people in a similar position and get advice and counselling to help you deal with your own situation.

Most importantly, look after your own physical and mental health so that the burden of supporting an alcoholic doesn’t become too much for you to deal with. If the person becomes abusive or is endangering you or your loved ones, you may ultimately have to make the decision to walk away. Just remember that alcoholism is a condition that can make good people act in bad ways, so if you do walk away, try to leave the door open.

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How to help an alcoholic who is resistant to help

If your loved one is reluctant to listen, one option you have is to stage an alcohol intervention. This is where you have a meeting with a group of family members and close friends to encourage the person to get alcohol addiction help.

These meetings can be very effective at encouraging people to seek help with alcoholism provided they are managed effectively. If you need help with staging the meeting, contact us for more information. Alternatively, we can put you in touch with a professional who may even be able to stage it for you.

Supporting an alcoholic through treatment and recovery

The recovery process from alcohol addiction is tough so once you have successfully encouraged the individual to get help with alcoholism, they are going to need your support during treatment. In fact, the best way to help an alcoholic friend is to give them a strong support network, this can make all the difference in terms of making a full recovery.

While you cannot go through recovery for them, you can be there for them at every stage. It is important that they know that you are willing to do everything you can to make it easier for them to successfully complete their treatment. Remember to look after yourself during this time because supporting someone through rehab can be tough. Also, make sure you don’t overstep any boundaries because they may wish to have some alone time to focus on their recovery.

5 ways to help while your loved one is in treatment

  • Assure them that things are being taken care of while they are in treatment – They will need to focus all their energy on getting better and will find it easier to do this if there is no need to worry about home issues.
  • Help make their home an environment that is conducive to recovery – This is important because the transition from rehab back to everyday life can be difficult to deal with. Remove potential triggers from their home such as alcohol, prescription medication and substances that contain alcohol, such as mouthwash and certain foods.
  • If the rehab centre allows visits, come and see them whenever you can – One of the most difficult things about rehab is missing your family and friends. Visit whenever you are able to and call or text regularly. This will remind your loved one that you are thinking of them and are there to support them however you can.
  • While they are in treatment, take care of yourself – You may have been deeply affected by their addiction and now that he or she is being taken care of by a team of counsellors and therapists, you will have time to dedicate to self-care.
  • Some rehab programmes include family therapy and if this is the case, you should get involved – This is a great way to heal the whole family and deal with issues caused by the addiction.

Don’t give up hope

Watching somebody you care about struggle with alcoholism can be very hard but the help and support of loved ones can be the most important factor in somebody recovering. Remember that you are not alone and that UKAT is here to guide you and help your loved one get the treatment they need. Get in touch with us today and we can tell you more about our alcohol rehab programmes.

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