How To Help An Alcoholic: Five Tips To Make Recovery Easier

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant
Updated February 20, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

It can be difficult to watch those close to us experience the effects of alcoholism. Besides the strain that it can have on our relationship with them, we may also see the impact that alcohol has on their lives. However, there is help available for those with alcohol use disorder. 

While professional help will provide them with ways to work through and cope with their addiction, they still need support from their friends and family to succeed. If you want to know how to help a loved one with alcohol use disorder, we are going to dive into 5 tips to make recovery easier on them as they navigate the process.

How can you tell if someone is experiencing the effects of alcoholism?

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Alcohol use disorder is not always easy to identify. Some may be heavily affected by years of alcohol overuse, while others may have learned to hide their addiction. The key to being able to help someone is to first figure out whether they are living with an alcohol use disorder. 

Signs that someone you know may be living with alcohol use disorder can include the following.

  • They drink more than they intend to when they are around alcohol.
  • Alcohol is an important part of their life, so much so that they are dependent upon it to get through the day.
  • They’ve expressed that they want to stop drinking but can’t seem to quit
  • They spend a significant amount of time drinking or recovering from drinking.
  • They have issues maintaining relationships or have problems with work, school, or other commitments in their lives. 
  • They do not care about the effects of alcohol on them or the people around them.
  • They engage in risky behaviors after consuming alcohol, such as driving or having unsafe sexual relations.
  • They gradually drink more and more to achieve the same effect.
  • They show signs of shaking, irritability, mood changes, or other physical symptoms when they are not getting alcohol.
Although you may not see all these signs of alcoholism, chances are that you may have noticed a few in someone close to you. Being aware of what you should look out for is the first step in helping someone move towards recovery.

How to help an alcoholic during the recovery process

When someone is attempting to overcome an addiction, support is often one of the most important factors to a successful recovery. Those with alcohol use disorder may need their friends and family as well as professional support to help them stop drinking. That said, not everyone knows exactly how they can help when someone close to them is working to conquer their addiction. If you know someone close to you who has alcohol addiction, here are 5 tips that you can use to make the recovery process easier on them.

1. Know that relapses and setbacks are to be expected

Facing life head-on can be difficult for people who have been using alcohol to avoid it. This is especially true if, over time, someone has made many mistakes that have affected their quality of life. We must remember that the person we know is facing a whole new set of challenges. Sometimes, an individual may slip up and drink. Relapses and setbacks are common throughout the recovery process.  Try to be compassionate and understanding when these things happen. Over time, they will begin to learn how to deal with these obstacles without having to use alcohol as a coping mechanism. Being empathetic may help them through the process more effectively.

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2. Help them stay occupied 

When someone is going through recovery, cravings and urges can be difficult to ignore.  To overcome these urges, one may need to stay occupied.  They may succumb to their desire to drink if they find themselves alone. Connect with them more often so that you can help them avoid these urges and cravings. Whether you are simply going over to their house, inviting them over to yours, or scheduling small lunch dates or other activities, a little bit of time spent with someone can make a world of difference. 

3. Work on improving their lives with them

Choosing to quit drinking does not mean that any of the prior damage has been undone. Whatever areas of someone’s life have been impacted by alcoholism will still be there in their sobriety. This can be a difficult truth for many to face once they make the decision to stop drinking. 

However, this is not something that they need to face alone. If you can help your friend or family move forward more successfully, this is one way that you can show your support. This could include teaching them better money management, helping them find a job, or helping them navigate other aspects of life. While you can’t live their lives for them, you can show them the way if they’re struggling.

4. Keep alcohol out of your home (or away from them when they visit)

One way to successfully stop drinking is by avoiding the temptation entirely. If you live with someone who is addicted to alcohol, help them by making sure that there is no alcohol within the household. If they do not live with you, it can still be helpful if you avoid bringing out alcohol when you are with them, taking them out, or inviting them to places where alcohol may be present. Even though this may be a temporary compromise, it is one that can be quite helpful during the recovery process.

5. Participate with them in treatment

It can be comforting to have friends and family by your side when going through treatment.  To extend this comfort to your friend or family, try attending counseling or a meeting with them. There, you can learn more about what they are going through. You can see just how much alcohol addiction impacts a person and how hard they are trying to stop drinking. This can help you become closer to them and understand things from their point of view. They may also feel less alone when you are by their side.

Consider working with your loved one to find an appropriate support group or organization, such as one of the following.

These groups can provide additional resources, regular planning for accountability and stability in the recovery process, and a like-minded community to help offer additional support to your loved one through their recovery.

Taking the first steps: Encouraging them to seek help

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Get the tools you need to support someone with alcoholism

Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to help those with alcohol use disorder identify the causes for heavy drinking and develop coping strategies to help with recovery. One way to get this sort of therapy is through online therapy. Online therapy has been proven just as effective as in-person therapy, plus it may be more convenient and affordable.

Whenever someone needs help, they can get it from the comfort of their own home and on their own time. For those who may need help working through the complex emotions and feelings that accompany alcohol addiction, this type of resource can be invaluable. Additionally, tools like BetterHelp give those living with addiction to have  24/7 messaging with their counselor so that they can record their symptoms as they happen.


Alcohol use disorder can disrupt a person’s life in many ways, but there are effective treatment options available. If you’re trying to help a loved one overcome their addiction to alcohol, these tips may help you show your support. Online therapy is one effective resource for those coping with alcoholism (and their loved ones). It can help a person with alcohol use disorder cope with their urges and can help their loved ones show their support in healthy ways. 

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The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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