How to Help a Friend with Alcoholism

The disease of alcoholism is an equal opportunity offender. It can impact anyone, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or social standing. As such, it could even impact people who are close to you, including friends and family members. The good news is that alcoholism does not have to be a terminal condition, and recovery is always possible—though most of the time, recovery requires not only clinical treatment, but also love, support, and encouragement.

That’s where you come in. Simply by offering your compassion and concern, you could play a big part in helping your friend or loved one reach for the care that he or she needs.

This is a situation to approach with some delicacy, however—and for many of us, trying to help an alcoholic friend can seem daunting. Here are some suggestions to make the process a bit less scary.

Educate yourself. First, make sure you learn everything you can about alcoholism and about the disease of addiction. Find educational resources that can help you develop your empathy and understanding. Blogs, books, even local support groups can provide some meaningful insights.

Offer your support. Let your loved one know that you want to do whatever you can to help and support them. Remember that you cannot force anyone to change; you cannot coerce anyone to seek treatment; and you cannot “fix” anyone’s alcoholism. What you can do is let them know that you’re there for them, and that you care.

Speak with concern and compassion—not judgment. Avoid accusatory language, which might make your friend or loved one feel defensive. Often, “I” statements, rooted in feelings and relationships, work better than “you” statements. Consider “I love you and am worried about your health” vs. “You are drinking too much.”

Have the right expectations. Remember that recovery is a process. It won’t happen overnight, and it likely won’t happen without some setbacks along the way. Be patient. Don’t rush your loved one to be “all better,” but instead offer your encouragement and support over the long haul.

Avoid enabling. While you do want to be supportive, you don’t want to enable bad behavior—and that could encompass anything from lying and making excuses for your friend to loaning them money.

Don’t guilt yourself. Remember that someone else’s struggle with addiction is never your fault. Don’t pile guilt or shame onto yourself just because your loved one is struggling with this disease.

Remember the goal. Your goal, in the end, should be to encourage your friend or loved one to receive treatment. That may mean staging an intervention. Ultimately, though, recovery is most likely to happen when clinical treatment is sought, from a drug and alcohol recovery center.

To that end, it is smart to connect with an addiction recovery center in your area. You can get some good resources at, for example. Just make sure you consult with some professionals as you seek to help your loved one defeat addiction to alcohol.