How to start the conversation if you are worried about a loved one
If you are worried about the alcohol consumption of someone you know and care for, it can be a delicate subject to discuss with them. It is something that requires sensitivity and empathy. You must also understand this still may not end with the person in question admitting they have a problem.
There are several recognisable signs of an alcohol addiction which include: denying the problem, increased tolerance causing higher consumption, and withdrawal symptoms when the person has a break from drinking alcohol. So how can you best approach an initial conversation and how should you prepare?
Click to download 'Methods of intervention with alcoholism' PDF
Be prepared for the conversation
Preparation can significantly help inform how you approach your loved one, and help you maintain control of the conversation.
- Read up on the signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction
- Read as much as you can around the subject to equip yourself for any path the conversation could take
- Observe the person as much as realistically possible to be certain your concerns are well-founded
- Contact a professional or phone a helpline to discuss what you'd like to do with an expert
- Avoid causing the person to feel attacked; tread carefully
- Try to use phrases starting with "I" rather than "you", for example: "I am worried about you" or "I am concerned about the amount you're drinking"
- Avoid directly pressuring the person - keep them relaxed
- Stick to positive language and avoid generic labels such as 'alcoholic' or 'addict'
- Maintain a concerned tone, not disapproving
- Ask open questions, such as: "You are drinking more; why do you think that is?"
- Choose a safe and private place and time, one where the person is comfortable
Your friend or family member might not accept they have a problem to begin with, or they may agree to what you're saying at the time without truly meaning what they say. It is crucial they accept they have a problem themselves. This can increase the likelihood of a successful recovery; rates are significantly higher when a person actively wants to seek help and treatment.
Billy Henderson, Addictions Unit Manager at Priory Hospital Glasgow said: "For anyone suffering from an alcohol addiction, recognising that they have a problem and need help is a huge stride. Addictions can be treated with professional help, and the earlier intervention takes place, the better the chances of recovery are. This makes it so important to take the necessary step and start the conversation."
If your loved one denies their dependence on alcohol, it's important to stay upbeat and put forward some solutions. This could be asking them to visit their GP, contacting organisations such as Alcoholics Anonymous (on their free help line), or possibly considering private therapy (Priory has a free and comprehensive addiction assessment).