You might have shared a drink with them, but while you knew when the party was over, they might not have. Alcoholism is a disease that afflicts one in every seven drinkers, and alcohol’s addictive qualities can hurt families, friendships, and the abuser.

If you think your friend is struggling with an alcohol problem, there is hope. But the first step to their recovery might be a conversation with you. Here’s how to talk to your friend and help them get the help they need.

Signs to Notice

  • Clumsiness: When drinking, many people lose fine motor skills and lack the coordination to walk or handle objects. While this might appear to be just clumsiness to the untrained eye, it’s a red flag for drinking.
  • Slurred speech: A telltale sign of alcohol abuse is slurred or incoherent speech.
  • Bad judgement: Heavy drinking clouds one’s judgement and makes violent, dangerous or rude actions more prevalent.
  • Shakiness: A physical warning sign of alcohol abuse is shaky hands, especially when the person hasn’t had a drink in a few hours.
  • Insomnia: Drinking heavily can change a person’s sleeping habits.
  • Behavior: The lack of interest in people or activities that once were important to them.

How to talk to someone with addiction

If the warning signs are apparent, your friend may have issues with alcohol. Still, a full evaluation with a qualified behavioral health professional is the best way to know for sure. But how do you talk about addiction with your friend?

What to say

Use Positive Language: What you say matters just as much as how you say it. Make sure you use positive, hopeful, inspiring language to spur your friend to seek help rather than guilting themselves into it.

Express Concern: Many alcoholics aren’t aware of the impact their drinking has on their family, friends or others. Show your concern for them and appeal to them emotionally.

Ask Open-Ended Questions: Don’t just preach—have an open-ended dialogue with them. Ask open-ended questions such as “what do you think?” to engage with them.

What Not to Say

Making Judgements: Alcoholism is a disease, and making sweeping judgements about your friend is a hard thing to avoid. Don’t be judgemental. What would you like to hear if you were in their shoes?

Using Labels: Don’t assign labels such as “alcoholic” or “problem drinker” to your friend. Use hopeful, embracing and accepting terms instead.

Steps to take

Before you have a conversation with your friend, find a resource to send them to. It’s not fair to confront someone with a difficult realization and leave them without help. The next step to take is to talk about it.When the time is right, have a casual, non-confrontational conversation with them about their issue, and bring along the resources that can help them along their path to recovery. Make sure you use encouraging, loving, non-judgemental language throughout your conversation. And—above all—be a friend, not a teacher. They need your help, not your admonishment.

Finding the Right Resource

Everyone who is trying to defeat their issues with alcohol needs a resource to help. Alcohol abuse may not be something your friend can conquer by themselves. When determining the right place to send your friend  consider these four things:

  • Is the behavioral services facility CARF accredited?
  • Are they committed to enhancing your quality of life?
  • Can they help your friend meet their personal recovery goals?
  • Can they create a custom recovery plan to help them on their recovery journey?

The journey to manage addiction may not be quick, but it’s an important mission. There is hope, and your friend can find help at Prelude.