Alcohol Addiction: How to Support a Loved One with a Drinking Problem

Alcohol Addiction: How to Support a Loved One with a Drinking Problem

By Jackie Molan

Alcohol addiction is a very difficult problem to deal with, not only for the person struggling with it, but also for their loved ones. Since addiction and the subsequent recovery process tend to occur over a period of many years, it is important to understand how to support those we care about who are struggling with alcohol addiction.

Preparing for the Conversation

If you are concerned that a loved one is misusing alcohol, the first step is to do your own research about alcohol use disorder. Once you understand the signs, symptoms, and types of treatments, it will be easier to have an informed discussion with the person struggling. Give plenty of thought to what you want to say, and aim to start the discussion when the person is sober and you are both in a private space with limited likelihood for interruptions. You should avoid using terms with stigma attached, like “alcoholic,” and try to use “I” statements as much as possible to avoid sounding accusatory. For example, instead of saying “You have a problem and need to get help,” say “I care about you and am concerned for your health.”

The Conversation

It is often difficult for people to admit that they have an alcohol problem. Therefore, their first instinct might be to defend themselves and become argumentative. It is important that you stay as calm as possible and remind them that you are coming from a place of genuine care and concern. Offer to help them make a plan and take steps toward recovery, like calling a therapist to schedule an appointment. Remember that you cannot force them to go to treatment if they are unwilling, but initiating a conversation can be a good first step which might help them become more open to the idea. Many people will try to achieve sobriety on their own first, but ultimately, professional mental health treatment is the most effective way to confront alcohol addiction. 

Personal Considerations

While supporting someone with alcohol addiction issues, it is essential to remember to care for yourself as well. Set boundaries to prevent codependence, or becoming more invested in your loved one’s health than your own life. Discuss their comfort level with having alcohol in the house or having others drink in front of them. Above all, remain interested and invested in their recovery process. Support them in situations where they are involuntarily exposed to alcohol, and ask them about their treatment. Your support can be an incredibly meaningful piece in their journey to recovery.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit


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