Recognizing problems in others might be easy, but confronting those difficulties and facing them as a united front can be a real challenge, especially with those you love. Above-average alcohol consumption is an issue that affects 51.5% of Americans over the age of 18 and can lead to life-threatening illnesses like liver disease, which kills 15,990 Americans per year.
As well as the health risks, there are personal risks to family and friends if a person starts abusing alcohol. It’s a hard subject to breach, but this information should help to guide you in having a conversation with a loved one about how much they’re drinking.
Let them know you can see the signs
If you’re going to talk to someone about their alcohol consumption, it’s best to choose a time when they’re sober and relaxed, in a comfortable and familiar setting. It’s a delicate subject and there’s no need to add anything into the mix that will cause any extra stress.
The key point to get across is that you care very much about the person’s health, lifestyle, and relationships with friends and family. Every relationship comes under strain at some point, but there are healthy ways to cope and there are unhealthy ways to cope. Talk about why they’re drinking – is it to forget about problems or because they enjoy feeling drunk? In time, a person’s body will become dependent on alcohol and they may not know or be able to control their desire to drink. That’s a sign that they are in danger of becoming dependent and need to make a serious health decision.
Sit down and explain what you and those close to you are feeling. It doesn’t need to be a big intervention, it can be a quiet discussion with a few of you gathered in a private place. One thing to make clear is that having an alcohol problem isn’t something to be embarrassed or ashamed about. Someone who is, or is becoming, alcohol-dependent needs to know they have your support.
There’s always a chance that a person will not accept their problem, even when you’ve talked about the signs and explained your concerns. In cases like this, give the person some space and private thinking time to let them reflect and try to figure out what they need to do next.
Remind them about safety
Your safety is of the highest importance. Studies show that alcohol abuse is linked to domestic violence; out of 256 abused women in the US, 64% had partners who were alcohol abusers. Talking about the effect drinking has on those around you can be a good way to open the door to looking at ways to cut back or places to get help. A significant portion of marital violence is alcohol-related and even non-violent people can hurt others under the influence of alcohol. Making these worries clear in a way that doesn’t belittle a person is a good way to open the door to talk about reducing consumption. Showing a person that their actions are having a knock-on effect can send a powerful message.
Make sure they understand where you’re coming from, that you want to help in any way you can, and let them know that you’re aware of reasons for starting to drink, like depression or anxiety. Letting a person know they have a support network and a safety net is a solid foundation for the road to recovery.
Talk about the next step
Once you’ve talked it out and your friend or family member can see why you’re concerned, there are lots of steps you can take. It helps to talk to a professional whether the problem is big or small, just so that everyone is reassured about what is going to happen.
There are lots of services available to people who need help cutting back their drinking. Talking to health care providers is a great place to start to find out what services are available in your area. There could be group therapy meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous (www.aa.org) or any number of support and recovery programs that include counseling, advice on future steps, and an opportunity to go through the recovery process with other people. Discussing all of these options and more is vital so you can work out what is best for you and your family.
Whether you think someone is headed towards danger or already there, remember that it’s a difficult reality for everybody, including partners, children, friends. Approaching the topic with sensitivity and a wide range of options is the best way to keep everyone feeling valued, listened to, and – most importantly – out of harm’s reach.