Personal Assistance Service (PAS) | 2200 West Main Street | Erwin Square Tower | 4th Floor, Suite 400A | Durham, NC 27705 | 919-416-1PAS (919-416-1727)

Helping Someone with a Drinking Problem

You may know someone with a drinking problem and want to help, but are uncertain about how to do so. You may also be unsure about your role in providing assistance. Remember, you are not expected to "save" this person or to become a counselor for this person. However, by educating yourself about alcohol issues and by gathering support for yourself, you can better help the problem drinker.

  • Educate yourself about alcoholism/substance abuse and local resources before you need to use them. 
  • Raise the issue in a caring way. Express concern and cite behaviors you have noticed so you can address both the actions of the person and the frequency of behavior. Choose a location and time where you can speak in private — unless the person could be harmful to self or you.  
  • Be prepared for a negative response from the problem drinker. Do everything you can to remain calm and objective. Expect the person to be angry and defensive. Do not take the comments made to you personally.  
  • State consequences for the person continuing to drink without getting help. They could range from "I will continue to build resentment in this marriage" or "I am going to stop covering for you with your parents" to "I am leaving you." You could choose to say that you must limit your interactions with the person (such as a friend or family member) if he/she continues to drink. If the person could become dangerous, perhaps you need to address domestic violence or suicidal issues before the drinking problem can be discussed in a safer, controlled environment (like a counseling office, or in a psychiatric facility). 
  • If he/she responds positively, have a plan. "Let's make an appointment at PAS for Wednesday" or "I know our insurance covers alcohol treatment at Center A so let's go there tonight for a substance abuse evaluation for you." 
  • Striking while the iron is hot is most true in substance abuse treatment. Plan to follow through with your goals as soon as possible with the individual — in the same day, if possible. Problem drinkers often change their minds about getting help as time passes. Denial plays a big part in this change. 
  • Continue to support the problem drinker through treatment/recovery by attending family or marital sessions at the facility. Attend Al-Anon as frequently as possible and try different groups (at least six) before deciding on one. Get phone numbers of members who are willing to serve as a support system for you. All of this is easier to do with help from others who have been there themselves.