How To Help An Alcoholic: 5 Tips To Make Recovery Easier On Them

By BetterHelp Editorial Team|Updated August 15, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Laura Angers, NCC, LPC

It can be difficult to watch those close to us struggle with alcoholism. Besides the strain that it can have on our relationship with those who have an alcohol use disorder, we may also see the impact that alcohol has on their day-to-day lives. Fortunately, those who are addicted to alcohol can receive help when they choose to. While professional help will provide them with ways to work through and cope with their addiction to alcohol, they will still need support from their friends and family around them to succeed. If you want to know how to help an alcoholic friend, 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 Struggling With Alcoholism?

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Not all people with alcoholism may be easy to identify. Some may be heavily affected by years of alcohol overuse, while others may have learned how to hide their alcohol addiction fairly well. The key to being able to help someone is to first figure out whether or not they are truly dealing with an alcohol use disorder. What would this look like? Signs that someone you know may be dealing with alcoholism can include:

  • They will 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.
  • Have expressed that they want to stop drinking so much but can’t seem to quit
  • They spend a significant amount of time drinking or getting over the effects that come with drinking.
  • They have issues maintaining relationships or have problems with work, school, or other commitments in their lives (where this means getting in trouble or losing out on major opportunities)
  • They do not care about the effects of alcohol on them or the people around them.
  • Engaging in risky behaviors after consuming alcohol, such as driving or having unsafe sexual relations
  • Are gradually drinking more and more to achieve the same effect
  • Show signs of shaking, irritability, mood changes, or other physical symptoms when they are not getting alcohol

Although you may not be able to see all these signs of alcoholism in another individual, 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: 5 Tips You Can Use

When someone is attempting to overcome an addiction to something, whether that be a substance use problem or an alcohol addiction, support is often one of the most important factors to success during recovery. Alcoholics will need their friends and family as well as professional support to help them stop drinking. That said, not everyone knows exactly how they should be helping 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 impacted 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. Although everyone involved will know that this wasn’t the best choice to make, you should expect relapses and setbacks to happen during the recovery process. Be compassionate and understanding towards them 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 will help them through the process more effectively than other negative emotions could.

  1. Help Them To Stay Occupied When Cravings Become Difficult To Ignore

When someone is first going through recovery (or even when they are facing a difficult situation down the road), trying to ignore cravings and urges can be hard. To overcome these urges, one will need to stay occupied. That said, there is only so much that someone will be able to do on their own. 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 for them. While you can’t expect yourself to spend all day with them, do try to keep them occupied as much as you can during the recovery process. It will become easier for them as they learn coping mechanisms that will help them overcome their addiction.

  1. 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 certainly not something that they will need to face alone. If you can help your friend or family member move forward more successfully, this is one way that you can show your support for them. 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.

  1. Keep Alcohol Out Of Your Home (Or Away From Them When They Visit)

Part of being able 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. This will keep them from having easy access to it if they do have a craving and are not able to stop themselves. If the alcoholic that you know does not live with you, it can still be helpful for them if you avoid bringing out alcohol when you are with them, taking them out, or inviting them to places where alcohol may be present or leaving out alcohol in open view. Even if this may be a temporary compromise, it is one that can be quite helpful during the recovery process.

  1. Participate With Them In Treatment

Having your friends and family by your side when you begin getting help can be a great comfort. To extend this comfort to your friend or family member, try attending counseling or a meeting with them. There, you can learn more about what other people are going through and how your loved one may be feeling as well. You can see just how much alcohol addiction impacts a person and how hard they are trying to stop drinking. By seeing these perspectives for your own, you can become closer to your loved ones and understand things through their point of view. They may also feel less alone when you are by their side and going through the process with them. This can be another great way to provide support for your friend or loved one when they need it most.

Overall, the most important thing to remember is to be there and to be supportive of someone who has an alcohol addiction. Even though they may experience relapses and fall back into old habits,

Taking The First Steps: Encouraging Them To Seek Help

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To stop drinking, someone needs to have access to resources that can help them cope with this new lifestyle. For many, this may begin with reaching out towards a therapy center near them that can handle their needs and transition. However, while traditional counseling is a great resource, it may not be able to support some people if they have sudden urges. For example, if they live far away from their therapist or have a schedule that makes it hard to see someone, they may not be getting as much support. Does this sound like something your friend or a family member deals with? If so, one recommendation you can make to them is BetterHelp.

BetterHelp is an online counseling platform that seeks to make counseling more convenient and affordable for everyone. Whenever someone needs help, they can easily 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 and alcohol addiction, this type of resource can be invaluable. If you’re looking to help someone in your life, find a resource that can provide them support when they need it most, you may want to consider online therapy.

Learning how to help an alcoholic can be a new experience for many. However, taking the first steps towards learning how to be more supportive during this time can greatly improve the life of another. If you know someone who is struggling with alcoholism and is starting to get help, use the 5 tips above to support them through this process and beyond.

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