Last Updated on May 8, 2023 by Dr. Alberto Solà

Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance in the United States. According to the 2020 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survery on Drug Abuse and Mental Health, 10.2% of people age 12 and over self-reported that they struggle with an alcohol use disorder. This is not surprising.  Alcohol is legal for Americans over the age of 21, and it’s socially accepted, too. 

Although the popularity of alcohol is somewhat in decline today, many people still feel pressured to drink alcohol in certain situations. Others simply enjoy drinking alcohol. No matter what the case, alcohol is an addictive substance. Some people can enjoy drinking without any issues, but many people become dependent on it at some point in their lives. 

If you are interested in learning more about alcohol use disorder and want tips on how to talk to an alcoholic, read on.  When you know how to talk to someone about drinking, you may be able to save that person’s life.

About Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol use disorder is the proper term to use to describe alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, and alcohol addiction. The term alcoholism is still in common use but is rather outdated; doctors, counselors, and other addiction professionals no longer use it. 

This disorder is a medical condition. It is a disease that affects some people but not others. This disease is characterized by the fact that some people cannot stop or control their alcohol use despite social, occupational, or health issues. This brain disorder can be mild, moderate, or severe. Some people can recognize that they have a problem and can then quit drinking independently. Other people struggle with alcohol use disorder for many years and cannot stop without a great deal of outside help and support.

What causes alcohol use disorder? No one is sure. However, it seems that people are most susceptible to it if they start drinking at a young age, if they have a family history of alcohol problems, or if they have mental health issues and a history of trauma.

Unfortunately, alcohol use disorder cannot be cured. People who struggle with an addiction to alcohol will always be addicted to alcohol, even when they stop drinking. The key to recovery from alcohol use disorder is to stop drinking alcohol and to never start drinking again.

Recognizing and Understanding the Signs of Alcoholism

If you believe that someone you love is struggling with alcohol use disorder, then you are probably right. Through television, movies, books, and life experience, we’ve all been exposed to the common symptoms of this common disorder somewhere along the way. However, people who are addicted to drinking alcohol are often in denial that they have a problem, and many of their loved ones are often in denial, too.

People who struggle with alcohol abuse learn that in order to get better, the first step is admitting you have a problem. If you love someone who has alcohol use disorder, this is your first step, too. The person that you love may be an alcoholic if he or she spends a lot of time drinking, getting alcohol, or recovering from alcohol use. He or she may be unable to limit the amount of alcohol that he or she consumes in one sitting, and your loved one may demonstrate a strong craving or urge to drink at any given time, no matter what the setting or situation.

Further, your loved one may try to cut back on drinking but may find that he or she cannot do so independently. The person may fail to fulfill work or social obligations, he or she may give up things previously enjoyed to drink instead, and he or she may use alcohol when its not safe to do so – like when driving or swimming.

When someone struggles with a severe alcohol addiction, he or she may experience withdrawal symptoms, and these symptoms may be obvious to others as well. A person may shake, sweat, or feel nauseous when he or she doesn’t drink, and he or she may drink to avoid these symptoms.

Preparing to Talk to an Alcoholic

How do you talk to an alcoholic about his or her problem? Talking about addiction isn’t easy for anyone. Knowing how to talk to someone about alcohol abuse before you approach someone about something you view as an issue can help you immensely; it’s wise if you don’t go in cold. 

First, it’s wise to educate yourself about alcohol and alcohol use disorder. You want to have all the facts before confronting an alcoholic. You may have some knowledge and beliefs about alcohol use that are simply not true. For example alcohol is a stimulant, true or false? If you said true, you’re wrong. It’s a depressant. It may seem like a stimulant sometimes, but truly, it’s the opposite. 

Second, once you have all the facts, you need to prepare yourself for what you want to say. When figuring out how to talk to a family member about their drinking, you need to approach him or her from a place of love. If you want to set boundaries with an alcoholic friend, then you need to know what those boundaries are and stick to them. If you’re wondering how to talk to an alcoholic in denial, then you need to be able to tell that person clearly the ways that alcohol is negatively affecting his or her life and relationships, and how his or her drinking is affecting you personally. 

Every person is different. Everyone will respond differently when being confronted about their drinking. However, it’s always best to approach the situation calmly and reasonably from a place of love. Focus on your concern for the person. Explain that you are worried. Avoid using labels like alcoholic or addict. Be understanding. Offer options and solutions instead of ultimatums. It might be wise to come prepared with notes about what you wish and plan to say so you don’t get off track.

How to Speak to an Alcoholic Spouse

If your spouse is struggling with alcohol use disorder, you are the best person to speak to him or her and encourage him or her to seek treatment. You know your spouse better than anyone, and he or she is most likely to listen to you. 

Note the suggestions above. You need to approach your spouse with love and plan what you will say ahead of time. Be patient and understanding and do not raise your voice. Understand that there many be deeper problems that are fueling your loved one’s drinking like anxiety and depression. Be empathetic. Assure your spouse that you will be with him and her every step of the way through detox from alcohol, treatment, and recovery.

How to Speak to an Alcoholic Parent

The exact same approach will be of help to you when talking to an alcoholic parent as well. If you are under the age of 18 and are still under your alcoholic parent’s care, know that you do not have to face this issue alone Find another adult that you trust to help you confront your mother or father and to help you find support and resources for him or her. 

Also, at any age, know that there are many support groups for children of alcoholics like AlAnon and others. Seek them out and participate; they will help you immensely.

Tips to Talk to an Alcoholic 

No matter what relationship you have with an alcoholic in your life, you are doing the right thing by confronting him or her and by encouraging your loved one to seek treatment. More than 140,000 people die from excessive alcohol use in the United States each year. By speaking up and by being supportive, you may be saving a life.

As mentioned above, the main tips for how to talk to an alcoholic are to be calm, focused, present, focused, direct, and loving. Using those emotions and ways of being as a guideline is crucial. It would be best if you kept your cool no matter what happens. 

Set boundaries and stand up for them, but don’t be too pushy at first. However, you also must always stand your ground. Don’t let your loved one try to persuade you to loosen them or drop them. 

Come prepared with options for treatment. Be ready to encourage your loved one to start right away. Although many alcoholics will need medical treatment to detox safely, some people can quit drinking immediately and independently. However, those in the latter group will still need support like support groups and counseling or outpatient treatment. Arrive to the conversation armed with a number of different treatment and support options.

Explain to your loved one the many ways they are missing out on life. Point out how they are affecting others around them and point out ways they are not living the best life that they can. Consider using a resource like this post – 125 Things to Do Instead of Drugs or Alcohol – to remind your loved one of all the activities, opportunities, and possibilities that await him or her after getting sober.

Talking to someone about excessive drinking or alcohol use disorder is never easy. However, if you know someone who is struggling, you must approach him or her about it. If you go in prepared, the discussion will be easier. And remember, you may be saving your loved one’s life.

Treatment for Alcoholism at Clear Sky Recovery

There are many paths to recovery but at Clear Sky Ibogaine we strongly believe in our innovative ibogaine treatment that works for so many people who struggle with addiction of all kinds. This treatment will help your loved one get to the root of his or her problem quickly so he or she can immediately begin living a more healthy life. Our facility in Cancun, Mexico, is beautiful and is staffed with addiction recovery specialists with years of experience. Give us a call today to learn more. We’re here to answer your questions and we can’t wait to hear from you.