How to Help an Alcoholic Family Member

Dealing with addiction is one of the hardest things in the world, and it takes a lot of steps. Realizing that you need help, recognizing your addiction, admitting your wrong moves, understanding what needs to be done, and actually making a change are just some of the things you have to do. However, dealing with a family member who’s an addict can be even harder, and the biggest problem is the fact that you can’t do everything on your own – it’s up to them to make a change. When a family member has a drinking problem, this affects everyone involved, and you all need to act together, so here’s how you too can help a member of your family stop drinking.

Establish a problem

This is an issue all addicts are dealing with, whether we’re talking about compulsive eaters or those who use drugs – they don’t think there’s anything wrong with them. People who drink alcohol on a daily basis consider this to be a part of their lifestyle and a choice they’re making voluntarily, which is why they feel they’re not doing anything wrong. Consequently, that’s the reason why they don’t think they need an intervention or should stop drinking.

Therefore, the first step towards recovery is establishing a problem. Letting them know that this type of behavior is wrong is vital, and if you keep repeating that sentence over and over again, they might finally understand you. They know that alcohol makes them feel good and they don’t want to stop feeling happy, but they need to understand that this isn’t normal behavior, but something they should stop doing as soon as possible.

Offer an alternative

Even if you manage to explain to an alcoholic member of your family that what they’re doing is wrong, they might still ask you what they should do instead of drinking, and this kind of question will get you in trouble. Their logic may be wrong, but it’s simple to understand: they drink because they feel good, and then they feel even better after a few drinks, which is why they keep on drinking and drinking. And if you remove that source of joy from their life, what can you offer?

Unlike dealing with strangers with addiction, these are the people who you’ve known all your life and who you love, which is why you can approach them on a more personal level. Come up with a list of alternatives and insist on things you know they love doing, and show them that they can feel happy even without alcohol. Anything from traveling and practicing their hobbies to hanging out with other members of the family might do the trick, so don’t be afraid to get personal and show them that there’s life beyond alcohol.

Appeal to their conscience

Again, since you’re dealing with people from your own family, you can allow yourself to be a bit personal and appeal to their conscience. Explain why alcohol isn’t a good lifestyle choice and what it does to their bodies. Not that many people understand all the devastating effects of alcohol and how it can damage them in the long run, but if they did, they’d surely laid off the booze and acted differently.

Firstly, alcohol slows down the communication in one’s brain and makes it harder for people to think, which might not be such a big problem if you’re having one or two drinks a week, but if you’re doing it regularly, it could become quite a big deal. Also, it destroys one’s liver and can cause anything from inflammation and hepatitis to cirrhosis and cancer. Unfortunately, liver cancer isn’t the only cancer alcoholics have to worry about, because they’re prone to throat cancer too, while men could also have problems with prostate as well. In the end, alcohol can ruin one’s mental health and cause depression, and these are all the reasons why it’s among the worst addictions out there and why you need to explain these health issues to your family members too.

Talk to them

In the end, this might be the best and most effective solution in the world. Talking to your parent, sibling, cousin, spouse or child is the most natural thing ever, and you need to remind them that you still love them and want them in your life. The moment they start feeling your support is the moment they’ll start quitting alcohol, and all you have to do is reach out to them.

Talking to an alcoholic, no matter who it is can be rather hard, but there are a few topics all experts agree these talks should cover. These range from everyday conversations about sports and the weather, to talks about other members of your family and what they’re up to, to finally the issue you’re trying to deal with. By the time you reach the topic of alcoholism, your family member should feel relaxed and surrounded with love, and that will enable them to open up, talk about their problems, tell you why they’ve let alcohol control their life, and share their inner thoughts.


Dealing with addiction isn’t just hard – it’s time-consuming as well. You need to be patient, calm, and ready for a long and painful process, but if you’re really concerned about your family member’s well-being, you won’t have a problem investing your time and energy into helping them remove alcohol from their life.


Peter is a lifestyle writer living between Europe and Australia. Follow Peter on Twitter for more tips.

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