The second most common question asked aside from “How do I stop drinking?” is “How do I help someone stop drinking?” Unfortunately, there are no cut-and-dry answers for either of these questions. Every alcoholic is different; not just in how they developed their problem but also in their drinking habits, the extent of their addiction, how well they hide it, and of course, how deeply it impacts others around them.
If you want to help an alcoholic, the first step is to do a bit of research — by reading this article, you’re already on the right track. Don’t beat yourself up if it’s taken blown-up arguments and altercations to get you here. No one is perfect, and sometimes, caring about someone is one of the most challenging obstacles we face as humans.
Instead of giving you pieces of generic advice on steps you can take on help an alcoholic from drinking, we’re going to provide you with some emotional tips. Tips that will allow you to offer the type of support your friend or loved one needs and keep you emotionally and mentally grounded in the process.
1. Accept Their Problem
This sounds like a silly suggestion, doesn’t it? You’re probably thinking, “Of course I’ve accepted they’ve got a problem. I’m reading this article, aren’t I?” But being aware of someone’s addiction is not the same as accepting the fact that they have one.
Accepting someone is an alcoholic is hard because it can feel like we’re clumping them together with the rest of the addicts in the world, most of whom are a far cry from the mothers, brothers, husbands, wives, and friends we know and love.
When we don’t accept that someone is an addict, we aren’t able to approach them with the type of understanding and selfless love they need. Instead, we come to them with expectations they won’t be able to meet. This only leads to disappointment and hurt on both sides.
So step one: Accept that all humans are flawed and having an addiction does not make the person you’re trying to help any less valuable.
2. Learn Their Type
Every alcoholic is different, which means there is no cookie-cutter approach to curing alcoholism. Trying to help an alcoholic with a list of steps you get online would be like doctors treating everyone who walked into the ER with a Band-Aid and Aspirin.
Instead, you need to analyze the drinking habits of the person you’re trying to help and figure out what type of alcoholic they are. Knowing the type of addiction they have won’t do anything to cure it, but it will put you a step closer toward understanding the reasons behind their problem.
3. Talk to Them Without Expectation
How can you make someone stop drinking if you don’t expect them to change? It’s not about losing your goal of getting them sober — it’s about helping them realize they want the same thing too. Talk to them like they’re just your friend or family member rather than a problem that needs to be solved.
Don’t emotionally distance yourself and expect that isolation to drive them toward recovery. If anything, it will only cause emotional pain that leads them to drink more for comfort.
Although you may have to take some physical and emotional space from an alcoholic for your own well-being, make sure that the times you do spend with them are as meaningful as possible and the driving force behind all your exchanges is love.