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How Do I Talk to my Loved One About Their Drinking

Alcohol use disorder usually starts as a mild, harmless habit before spiraling out of control. 

On most occasions, people struggling with alcohol use disorder rarely know they have a problem until their lives start to crumble. 

Seeing your once focused loved one sink deeper into the pit of alcohol addiction can be overwhelming and, at the same time, heartbreaking. 

The good news, however, is that you can help break the chain of alcohol addiction by talking to your loved one in a calm, compassionate and non-judgemental way and convince them to seek professional assistance.  

In this article, we’ll take a look at techniques or tips you can use when talking to your loved one struggling with alcohol abuse disorder. We’ll also examine some of the main symptoms of alcohol addiction and how to help your affected family or friend overcome the issue. 

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More About Alcoholism 

Dealing with an alcoholic loved one can prove daunting, especially if the individual is yet to accept that they have a drinking problem. 

The worst part of a drinking disorder is that it initially manifests as a harmless escape before unraveling into a chronic addiction. 

Repeated alcohol abuse alters the function of neurotransmitters, which gradually affects an individual’s mental ability. 

Over time, an alcoholic’s brain is forced to adjust to the alcohol intake, which explains the usually severe withdrawal symptoms long-term alcoholics experience after reducing alcohol intake or quitting altogether. 

Therefore, if not addressed early enough, alcoholism can mess up an individual’s life and even lead to irreversible consequences despite the condition being treatable. 

Signs That Your Loved One Has A Drinking Problem

As your loved one sinks deeper into alcohol addiction, you’ll start noticing some behavioral and physical changes, as explained below. 

Changed Drinking Patterns 

What starts as occasional drinking usually evolves into daily drinking once an individual becomes addicted. Therefore, if your loved one has switched their drinking patterns and has become a regular consumer, chances are the drinking problem is worsening by the day. 

You’ll know the situation is severe if a beloved friend or family member can’t go a day without drinking or appears dull or moody if they don’t drink. 

Drinking-Related Legal Issues

Another red flag of alcoholism is the onset of troubles with the law due to drinking. Some of the common legal issues that can signal the start of an addiction include driving under the influence, trespassing when under the influence, violent behavior after drinking, and even drunken behavior in public.  

Charges like assault, theft, and domestic violence can also be attributed to alcoholism, especially if the individual never had a history of such offenses. 

Isolating Friends and Family Members 

The more a loved one drinks, the less they will be invested in socializing with friends and other family members. You’ll notice a sudden shift in behavioral patterns and perhaps even a change of friends. 

As alcohol dependence worsens, the alcoholic will become disinterested in spending time with friends or people that don’t encourage drinking behavior. This translates to more time at the bar and new ‘drinking’ friends who’ll be perceived as best friends. 

Failure to Cut Back On Alcohol Abuse

Another major sign of alcoholism is the failure to reduce alcohol intake or quit altogether despite recurrent promises. You’ll know your loved one is struggling with addiction if they can’t quit the drug despite its negative impact. 

For instance, your loved one might swear not to touch alcohol again after an altercation or a drunk driving charge, only to see them return to their normal patterns in a matter of days. 

Problems at School or the Workplace

Another sign of alcoholism that usually signals the onset of chronic alcohol use disorder is work or school-related problems. These problems are usually serious and can lead to irreversible consequences, especially if they persist for long. 

A top-performing student who becomes addicted to alcohol might start showing up late and recording alarmingly low performances. Similarly, a once dedicated employee might become truant and start underperforming at work. 

If not controlled at this stage, alcoholism can end up changing an individual’s life for the worse. 

Severe Withdrawals 

While it’s normal to experience mild withdrawal symptoms after a night out at the bar, severe symptoms such as excessive sweating, tremors, and even delusional behavior signal a potentially serious alcohol use disorder. 

Therefore, you’ll know your loved one is struggling with addiction if they can’t abstain from alcohol without experiencing serious withdrawal symptoms. 

Health Issues 

After years of persistent abuse, an alcoholic is likely to develop health issues, especially if they fail to reduce alcohol intake. Occasional alcohol consumption allows the liver enough time to recover, which reduces the chances of liver and other major organ diseases. 

However, excessive drinking increases the odds of contracting life-threatening diseases that affect the central nervous system, cardiovascular system, immune system, and the liver

Chronic alcohol addiction is also known to increase the chances of cancer. 

Inability to Balance Basic Tasks

Another clear sign of alcohol addiction is the inability to attend to day-to-day tasks such as personal hygiene, paying bills, and even caring for spouses or children. Alcohol becomes the center of an alcoholic’s life, with most time spent drinking or recovering from hangovers. 


Denial is another alcohol addiction red flag. If your loved one responds negatively to your approach and even denies being addicted, then chances are they are already hooked to the drug and will need professional intervention. 

Physical Changes 

An individual struggling with addiction will also have some physical symptoms such as loss of weight, which allude to a drinking problem. Chronic alcoholics rarely look neat and will often have an unpleasant liquor smell as proof of their repetitive drinking behavior.

In addition to losing weight, alcoholics can also develop scars or permanent injuries sustained during fights or alcohol-related accidents and incidents. 

Ways to Talk To A Loved One About Their Drinking

Understanding how to talk to a loved one about their drinking is key to helping them recover or at least warm up to the idea of receiving professional assistance. 

Below are some tips to observe when looking to have that potentially life-changing conversation with a beloved friend or family member about alcohol addiction. 

Take a Loving and Compassionate Approach

It’s crucial to take up a compassionate approach when discussing an underlying addiction with a loved one. Remember, alcoholism tends to make people irritable, irrational, aggressive, and even at times, violent– exactly why you should come off as loving and understanding. 

A loving and compassionate approach involves setting up a meeting in a strategic location, preferably during the day before cravings kick in and peak. 

Avoid Using Labels 

One of the worst ways to approach a conversation about addiction is using potentially offensive labels. Calling a loved one an addict or alcoholic, no matter how genuine you might be, might elicit negative reactions and offend the victim. 

Instead, you should focus more on the behavior as opposed to the label. This means talking about the behavior and its effects as opposed to comparing your loved one with other people who struggled with alcohol use disorder and ruined their lives in the process. 

Listen and Don’t Criticize 

Listening is an important part of drug abuse discussions with a loved one. As much as you’ll be raising points of concern, it’s equally important to lend a listening ear and give the victim a chance to express themselves. 

Don’t just listen for the sake of it. Instead, you should pay close attention to what the individual is saying to ensure you come off as concerned. Additionally, you should avoid criticizing a loved one’s opinion or point of view throughout the conversation. 

The more you listen, the easier it will be to communicate and express your concerns. So you should try your best to avoid overriding your loved one, especially when you differ with their assertions or points of view. 

Explain Your Worries Gently 

Once you’ve set up a conducive environment for the conversation, next is to explain your worries gently (and empathetically). Start by acknowledging the difficulties or challenges faced by the individual before stating your concerns. 

For instance, you can state that although you understand that work has been a lot stressful of late, you’re concerned that the drinking is becoming a bit too much and can lead to unwanted outcomes such as chronic addiction and even retrenchment.’ 

Gently Highlight the Behavioral and Physical Changes 

Although mentioning your concerns can help you communicate effectively with the victim, you should drive the message home gently and compassionately. 

Start by explaining some of the issues you feel have changed since the substance use disorder began. Be sure to highlight legal issues such as DUIs, violent behavior, and other cases that can help prove your point better. 

You can also mention how the addictive behavior has led to physical changes such as extreme weight loss and significantly reduced hygiene levels. 

Be Approachable

Another important factor to consider when talking to your loved one is approachability. Ideally, you should be easy to talk to, and your body language should help make the environment conducive. 

Avoid interrupting the loved one when it’s their turn to talk or maintaining an unwelcoming body language that can end up putting the victim off. 

Have Solutions at Hand 

The whole idea of talking to a loved one about an alcohol use disorder is to address the underlying problem. 

Therefore, when you kick start the conversation, you should have a rough idea of solutions, preferably addiction treatment facilities that you can suggest to your loved one. 

For long-term alcoholism, it is advisable to discourage home-based detoxification as the withdrawal symptoms will almost certainly be severe. Therefore, we’d recommend enrolling your loved one in a rehab facility that offers detox services. 

It will work well if you provide a variety of rehab suggestions to give your loved one options. Involving them in the decision-making process helps them feel like part of the process and, in turn, more open-minded to the idea of attending rehab. 

Is Rehab Really Necessary for A Drinking Problem?

It might be tempting to allow a loved one to recover or ‘fight addiction’ from home, especially if the individual is disinterested in attending rehab. 

However, for alcohol use disorder, it’s always advisable to seek professional assistance due to the risks of life-threatening withdrawals

When choosing a rehab, you can either enroll in inpatient or outpatient facilities. While outpatient facilities are convenient for functional alcoholics, they aren’t recommended for people struggling with full-blown addictions. 

An outpatient facility can allow your loved one to receive addiction treatment without uprooting their lives, which can work well for recovering alcoholics in school or with work commitments. 

The best form of treatment, however, is inpatient treatment, which besides providing 24/7 access to professional services, allows members to detach from their otherwise toxic environments in favor of well-regulated settings that are perfect for recovery. 

Should You Outsource the Talk To An Interventionist?

If your talk has proven unsuccessful, then you might want to outsource the work to experienced professionals. 

A skilled interventionist knows how to handle people struggling with addiction, which increases the chances of convincing your loved one to seek professional assistance. 

Fortunately, there is a wealth of rehabs that offer or at least partner with skilled interventionists to help convince addicts of the need to receive treatment. 

Contact A Rehab Center For Further Assistance

Get Help Today

Don't go through the process of recovery alone. There are people who can help you with the struggle you're facing. Get in touch with one today.

Make a Call

A licensed addiction treatment facility is the best way to help a loved one break the chains of alcoholism and reclaim his or her life back. 

As such, we strongly recommend contacting a rehab for further assistance. When choosing a rehab, remember to consider factors such as location, treatment methods, amenities, and perhaps even more importantly, cost. 

It’s also crucial to enroll a loved one in a rehab facility that’s licensed to provide medication-assisted treatment for alcohol, as it’ll help manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings better. 

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