When you can see that someone is struggling with alcohol, it is difficult to know what to do. How do you help an alcoholic? A common suggestion is not to enable people who are using drugs, but isn’t the alternative sitting around waiting for them to hit “rock bottom”. 

No. You don’t have to sit around waiting. There are numerous ways in which to help an alcoholic without enabling them. And yes, this even refers to people who aren’t ready to go to treatment yet. 

Helping An Alcoholic Starts With You

Before you approach your loved one or start diving into their alcohol-related habits, start with things you can do without them. What we mean by this, is think about how you can prepare yourself to be able to best support them in finding treatment and throughout the recovery process. This is going to be a bit of a journey, so you better be ready. Here are 5 things you can do to indirectly help an alcoholic:

  • Educate yourself. Learn what the signs are of alcoholism are, common risk factors and reasons why people drink, what alcohol addiction treatment encompasses, and what long term sobriety will look like.
  • Find your own support group such as Al-Anon.
  • Consider how and when you will approach them to increase the likelihood of a positive response.
  • Practice what you will say and how you will say it.
  • Reach out to an interventionist.

Talking to an Alcoholic

One of the things mentioned above that you can do is to practice what you will say and how you will say it, because our word choice and tone matters. The way we interact with those around us has a lot to do with how they react or respond to us. Here are a few tips on how to talk to an alcoholic:

  • Avoid judgemental phrases or tones (ie: “if you could only”, “why can’t you just”)
  • Show empathy and compassion
  • Be sincere and honest
  • Express a desire to understand
  • Focus on the actions, not the person

Supporting an Alcoholic

Support is among the most beneficial things an outsider can offer someone who is overcoming alcohol addiction. Still, it may be difficult to know how exactly you can show support. It may be something as simple as verbalizing your support, “I support you in your recovery.” Support can also be shown through actions. Examples of supportive actions range from simple hugs and approving facial expressions to voluntarily removing alcohol from a shared space. You can also sit with them while they make the phone call to get help and write down an action plan together.

Help By Getting Professional Help

Don’t ever think that you are on this journey on your own. There is endless help available to both individuals struggling with alcohol use and their loved ones. From online blogs, podcasts, and support groups to location treatment organizations, you can find all kinds of resources on how to help an alcoholic. In fact, one of the best things you can do to help an alcoholic is to get them admitted to an alcohol detox and rehab treatment program.