If you have a friend that is drinking too much, or your partner has started to become increasingly reliant on alcohol, it can be incredibly difficult to know what to do next.
Drinking problems can often spiral out of control without warning and it can be tough to know how to help an alcoholic. If you’re concerned about your wife, husband, parent or friend, this guide will provide advice and information about how to help an alcoholic in the UK.
What is an alcoholic?
Many people enjoy drinking alcohol, and sometimes, it can be hard to determine when a person has a problem with drinking. Around a quarter of UK adults exceed the recommended weekly intake, but not all of those people are dependent on alcohol.
If you’re concerned about a loved one, it’s important to be able to spot the signs of alcoholism. Look out for your partner, sibling, parent or child displaying these signs:
- Drinking alone
- Lying about their whereabouts and what they have spent money on
- Becoming more isolated and avoiding friends and family
- Hiding bottles and cans
- Spending more money than usual and stealing
- Suffering signs of a hangover, for example, tiredness, stomach problems and headaches
- Changes in behaviour and mood swings
People who have addictions are compelled to continue even though they are aware of the negative consequences of their actions.
Giving up drinking is not easy to do, and this is why it’s so crucial to understand how to help an alcoholic. If you know how to support an alcoholic family member, friend or partner, you could make all the difference.
According to statistics from Public Health England, 24% of men and 13% of women drank ‘hazardously’ in 2016.
Approaching the subject
For many people, the hardest thing to do is accept or admit that alcohol has taken control.
As a parent, friend or partner who is looking to help, the first step you can take is to approach the subject and start a conversation. It’s not easy to know how to help someone with an alcohol problem, but talking can be hugely beneficial.
Make time to listen to your loved one, be kind and gentle, be patient, and keep coming back to the conversation if they’re not quite ready to open up just yet.
It’s important that your friend or partner trusts you, so reassure them and let them know that you’re there to help and support them.
There is no one-size-fits all approach to how to help an alcoholic friend, and it can be tough to determine how to get help for an alcoholic husband or to know what you can do to help an alcoholic sibling.
Try not to worry if you don’t get the reaction you wanted or anticipated first time around. Recovery is a long process, and it can take time for people to realise they need help.
Practical tips: how to help an alcoholic stop drinking
As well as offering support, a shoulder to cry on and time to talk and listen, you can also help a loved one to cut down on drinking by employing these practical tips:
- Changing your own drinking habits and avoiding places such as pubs and bars when socialising with your loved one
- Avoiding buying alcohol for the home
- Limiting access to bank accounts and cash supplies
- Encouraging friends and family to avoid organising activities that involve drinking
- Tracking alcohol consumption: many people are unaware of how much they actually drink
How to get help for an alcoholic family member
If you see a friend or partner struggling, it’s natural to think about how to help an alcoholic.
Most people don’t have experience of supporting somebody who has an addiction, and the prospect of helping a loved one can be daunting.
The good news is that there is help out there. Using the Internet and speaking to charities and health workers, you can find out how to get help for an alcoholic husband or wife or a friend who is struggling.
With the help of advisers and medical professionals, you can explore options like rehab programmes, support groups and talking therapies.
If your loved one is scared or worried, you or another friend or family member they trust can accompany them to appointments, and they can also take advantage of helplines and online forums.
How to help an alcoholic who doesn’t want help
One of the most difficult challenges for parents and partners that are worried about a loved one’s drinking habits is encouraging the individual to admit that they have a problem and ask for help.
There isn’t a set formula for how to convince an alcoholic they need help and it can be tough to reach a point when you know how to help an alcoholic parent in denial.
Take your time to lay the foundations for open discussions, try and highlight signs and symptoms that you’ve noticed in a tactful manner, and be open about how you’re feeling and how alcohol is affecting you without attributing blame or doling out accusations.
When you first broach the conversation, your loved one might need time to process what you’ve said and think about their actions and how alcohol is impacting them.
Keep offering to talk, speak about getting help and consider seeking professional advice to help you take the next step if they still refuse to reach out.
It can be beneficial to enlist the support of other family members or close friends if you feel like you’ve tried everything and you’re unsure how to help an alcoholic that doesn’t want help. Figures suggest that over 500,000 adults in England are alcohol-dependent, but only 18% are receiving treatment.
Very few people know how to help an alcoholic spouse or how to help an alcoholic son, friend or parent.
If you’re worried that somebody you love is drinking too much, there is support available.
Take time to talk to your friend or family member, listen, reassure them and encourage them to seek help. It’s very difficult to know how to help an alcoholic in denial, but if you’re struggling to make a breakthrough, charities, health services and support groups are there to help.