How to Help an Alcoholic: Overcoming Alcoholism

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited : November 11,
| 4 Sources

Getting an alcoholic help is about subtle persuasion not coercion

how to help an alcoholic

When you are worried that somebody you love drinks excessively, it could be difficult to figure out how to help an alcoholic. You might not know what to tell them or how they would respond if you ever bring it up.

If you want to learn about helping an alcoholic, the first thing you should do is learn more about alcoholism.

Alcohol use disorder, as described by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), is a kind of drinking problem that becomes serious.”

An individual with this condition doesn’t know how or when to stop drinking alcohol. They use up a lot of time thinking about it, and they can’t really control how much they drink, even if it is already causing severe problems at work, home, and financially.

Educate yourself on how alcohol effects people, what the signs of alcoholism are and what the nature of alcoholism truly is.

You need to realize that helping an alcoholic does not lie in simply telling them to stop drinking.

They are an alcoholic for the very reason that they cannot stop drinking.

If they could just stop because you tell them to, they wouldn't be alcoholics.

When is it believed to be alcoholism?

Alcoholism is a word used to refer to someone suffering from an alcohol use disorder. A person with alcoholism has both psychological and physical dependence on alcohol. They might even problems regulating their drinking habits or decide to keep drinking although it already causes problems. These issues could interfere with their social and professional relationships or even their health.

Alcoholic Help
Helping Yourself is the key

Start by getting help for yourself.

If you live with an alcoholic, you need more than help for the alcoholic – you need help for yourself, as well.

One of the best ways to get this help would be to start going to Al-Anon meetings or similar support groups. If you cannot physically get to a meeting then you could try Alanon meetings online.

Not only will the groups discuss ideas of how to help an alcoholic, they can also share coping mechanisms to allow you to deal with the alcoholic more effectively.

How to Help an Alcoholic
Setting Boundaries

Set limits of what you will allow or put up with.

You need to be specific and actually tell the alcoholic what these boundaries are.

If that boundary is crossed, you need to be firm and do what you said you would do.

For example, tell your alcoholic husband that he is not welcome at school activities if he's been drinking or tell your alcoholic mother that you don't wish to talk to her on the phone when she's been drinking.

It is no good setting a boundary and then not carrying though, the alcoholic will no longer believe you and you will be back at square one.

Do not create a boundary if you are not 100% sure that you will keep it.

Avoid Enabling the Alcoholic

Helping an alcoholic does not include covering up for them.

In fact, that is one of the worst things you can do as it enables the behavior.

So when your alcoholic husband comes in at 4 a.m. and then can't get up for work at 7 a.m., do not be the one to call in for him.

He needs to start facing the consequences of his dependence on alcohol. If he does not have to take responsibility for his drinking, he will never do anything about it becuase it doesn't impact on his impacts on YOURS.

Help for the Alcoholic
Detach Yourself from Their Behavior

Alcoholic behavior is not a pretty thing to experience or have to deal with. You need to remember that while you care for them, you are not responsible for them or their actions.

You need to detach yourself from the alcoholism before you can figure out how to help an alcoholic.

Stop rescuing them when their drinking gets them into trouble.

If that means leaving them in jail overnight instead of rushing to bail them out, so be it.

When Enough is Enough

Sometimes the only way to figure out how to help an alcoholic is to take yourself out of the picture.

If the alcoholism is hurting you or the rest of your family, sometimes the only wise decision is to give the alcoholic a final ultimatum – choose the alcohol or choose the family.

It's not easy but once you reach that point, leaving may be the only alternative for your own peace of mind.

Helping an Alcoholic
An Intervention?

Getting help for the alcoholic can come in the form of an intervention. In short, an intervention is one of two thing:

  • An alcoholism intervention can be when family, friends and colleagues get together and confront the alcoholic about his drinking, behavior and the impact both are having on his health and those around him (Read conducting a family alcoholism intervention for more on this course of action.)
  • An alcoholic intervention can also be when the family of the alcoholic employs the services of a professional addiction interventionist. He or she will arrange an intervention as above, with the help and support of the alcoholic's family and friends
  • A professional interventionist has skill and expertise in family systems, addiction treatment, and what is usually involved in encouraging an alcoholic to enter treatment.
The goal of an intervention is to get the alcohol dependent to see the light and motivate them to seek help for their problem. This is an active route to take but ultimately, it is the choice of the alcoholic to seek treatment, not the family.

love an addict
Loving an alcoholic is one of the most painful things you will ever have to cope with. Yet, it doesn't need to be, C.P.Lehman in his book, Help Me! I'm In Love With An Addict gives you the strategies that will enable you to find happiness and get your life back on well as other skills that are crucial when attempting to help an alcohol dependent.

Find the Ideal Alcoholism Treatment Program For You Today

There are so many alcoholism therapy options available, so there is really hope for anybody with an alcohol addiction to recover. If someone you care about has a problem with alcohol, please contact a treatment provider today to learn more about alcoholism treatment at a rehab center.

If you or someone close to you wants help and advice on quitting drinking then take a look at the following pages:

Return from How to Help an Alcoholic to Living with an Alcoholic 

Return to Alcoholism Help Homepage

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 


I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More


Hazelden Betty Ford. How to Help an Alcoholic. January 17, 2020.

Medical News Today. What is alcohol abuse disorder, and what is the treatment?. May 29, 2018.

Healthline.  How to Help Someone with an Alcohol Addiction. March 29, 2019.

WebMD. Worried About a Loved One’s Drinking? What to Do.

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