How to Help an Alcoholic

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Alcoholism (alcohol use disorder) is a chronic and relapsing brain disorder that’s characterized by compulsive consumption of alcohol regardless of adverse outcomes. This can make it extremely challenging to deal with a loved one who continues to abuse alcohol in the face of obviously negative consequences. Alcoholism can be disruptive to all areas of life, damaging family relationships. Read on if you don’t know how to help an alcoholic loved one – there are many meaningful ways of helping an alcoholic friend or family member.

How Do You Get an Alcoholic Help?

For those wondering how do you help someone with alcoholism most effectively, it requires sensitivity, patience, and a carefully considered approach. Here’s how to convince an alcoholic to get help:

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  • Educate yourself: Learn as much as possible about alcoholism. Research the signs, symptoms, and nature of alcohol use disorder to understand what your loved one is facing more fully. Knowledge about the condition can help you communicate more effectively and offer the right kind of support.
  • Communicate with compassion: Approach your loved one with empathy, avoiding judgment or confrontation. Express your concerns in a caring and supportive manner, focusing on the effects of their behavior on their health and well-being, rather than making accusatory statements.
  • Encourage professional help: Gently suggest the possibility of seeking professional advice. Offer to help them find a healthcare provider or addiction specialist who can assess their situation and recommend the appropriate treatment. Be supportive but respect their autonomy and decision-making process.
  • Explore treatment options together: If they’re open to the idea, assist them in researching and evaluating different treatment options. This could include outpatient programs, inpatient rehabilitation, counseling, or support groups like AA (Alcoholics Anonymous).
  • Offer practical support: Offer to accompany them to doctor’s appointments or meetings if they’re comfortable with it. Help with logistics or daily tasks that might be overwhelming for them during this time. Your practical assistance can make the process feel less daunting.
  • Establish healthy boundaries: Set boundaries that protect both your well-being and encourage your loved one’s accountability. Be clear about what behaviors you will not tolerate and stick to these boundaries firmly but kindly.
  • Encourage healthy lifestyle changes: Support them in making healthy lifestyle changes that can aid recovery. This could include exercising together, cooking healthy meals, or finding new hobbies that don’t involve alcohol.
  • Be patient and stay hopeful: Recovery is a long and challenging journey that often includes setbacks. Offer your unconditional support and encouragement throughout the process, celebrating small victories and staying positive about the future.

Keep in mind that while you can offer support and encourage treatment, the decision to seek alcoholic help and work toward recovery should lies with your loved one. Your role is to provide a supportive and caring environment that makes it easier for them to take the necessary steps toward a healthier life.

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Can You Force an Alcoholic into Rehab?

Encouraging a loved one to seek help for addiction can be approached in various supportive ways. While it’s legally possible to force someone into rehab before they turn 18 and, in many states including California, for adults under specific conditions, this path involves both legal and ethical complexities.

The criteria for involuntary commitment include:

  • Evidence of addiction
  • Demonstrated risk of harm to themselves or others
  • Inability to meet their own basic needs without the assistance of another adult

Involuntary commitment could result in a mandated period of inpatient treatment, with the possibility of transitioning to outpatient care depending on compliance and progress.

Although legal mechanisms exist for forcing someone into rehab, recovery from substance use disorder is an ongoing journey that extends well beyond the duration of formal treatment. Success in achieving and maintaining sobriety is significantly higher when the individual personally commits to seeking help and engaging with the recovery process.

A more constructive approach than coercion is to stage an intervention. This structured conversation allows family and friends to express their concerns and support, highlighting the impact of the addiction on their lives and presenting the individual with options for treatment. The goal is to motivate the person to recognize the need for change and take voluntary steps toward recovery of their own free will.

Engaging a professional interventionist can provide valuable guidance in planning and executing the intervention. These specialists can advise on the intervention’s content, participants, setting, and expectations, potentially facilitating the process and enhancing its effectiveness.

While some people may suggest using ultimatums like withdrawing financial support to pressure the person, this strategy can be risky and counterproductive. Instead, show support and understanding, acknowledging the challenges of addressing alcohol addiction without assigning blame. That said, be open about the addiction’s impact on the family, maintaining a balance between compassion and honesty, to ensure that the person understands the seriousness of the situation and feels supported in their journey towards health and recovery.

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How to Help an Alcoholic Who Doesn’t Want Help

Working out how to help an alcoholic that doesn’t want help can be deeply challenging. It helps to try understanding why your loved one is reluctant to seek help. Common reasons include:

  • Denial
  • Stigma
  • Concerns about cost

Denial may stem from their inability to see their drinking as harmful. Enlightening them about the potential consequences of their actions and the risks of not seeking assistance can be a pivotal moment. It’s beneficial to educate yourself on the hazards associated with problematic alcohol use and the various treatment options available, so you can share this knowledge with your loved one at an appropriate time in a compassionate and supportive manner. You can also help to eliminate any stigma surrounding engaging with treatment, and you can help your loved one address any financial concerns – alcohol addiction treatment is typically covered by health insurance.

If you have initiated conversations about rehabilitation already and your loved one remains resistant to seeking professional help, it might be necessary to consider establishing some limits and protective boundaries within your relationship.

Although discussing rehab options is important, continuing to research and suggest rehabilitation facilities can be useful in case the person reconsiders. You might need to communicate clearly that you will no longer cover for their behavior, such as not calling in sick on their behalf after a bout of drinking. Set clear boundaries and expectations but avoid threatening consequences which you are not willing to enforce. This approach ensures that your actions are rooted in care and support, yet firmly illustrate the gravity of the situation and your commitment to healthy boundaries

Dealing with an alcoholic who doesn’t want help can be emotionally draining. Seek out support groups for friends and family of alcoholics. These groups can offer valuable advice, support, and coping strategies – here’s how you can go about this.

Best Resources for Family & Friends of Alcoholics

Support networks play an important role for individuals affected by the addiction of a loved one, offering various forms of assistance and community understanding.

  • Al-Anon: A global fellowship offering a recovery program for friends and families of alcoholics, Al-Anon supplies numerous resources including local meeting finders, quizzes, and FAQs for those supporting an addicted loved one.
  • Alateen: A subset of Al-Anon, Alateen targets adolescent family members of alcoholics, focusing literature on issues like excessive caretaking, self-esteem, and feelings of blame and guilt.
  • Nar-Anon: A 12-step program similar to Al-Anon, Nar-Anon serves the families and friends of individuals addicted to drugs, offering regular meetings to support those impacted by addiction.
  • SMART Recovery Family & Friends: As a secular alternative to spiritually-based support groups, this science-based program aids family members of those living with addictions through non-confrontational support methods and has meetings across various cities.
  • Families Anonymous: This 12-step program caters to family members of individuals struggling with drug or alcohol addictions or related behavioral issues, focusing on the shared experiences of attendees.
  • Recovering Couples Anonymous: Focused on couples dealing with substance abuse, this group aims to improve communication and intimacy, using a system inspired by AA.
  • PAL (Parents of Addicted Loved Ones): Operating under a Christian ethos, PAL is a non-profit organization that provides weekly peer-led meetings, offering educational resources and a platform for sharing experiences for parents with addicted children.
  • GRASP (Grief Recovery After Substance Passing): This community helps people who are mourning the loss of loved ones to addiction and overdose, providing a space to deal with the emotional and mental strain of loss.
  • NAMI Family Support Group: This group offered by NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) supports family members of individuals experiencing mental health symptoms, with free membership and weekly adult family member meetings.

Each of these groups provides a unique form of support, catering to different needs and preferences, ensuring that those affected by a loved one’s addiction do not have to face their challenges alone. Addiction support groups are always best as a supplement to evidence-based treatment, though – here’s how you can get help for your loved one right away.

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Get Treatment for an Alcoholic at California Detox

Whether your loved one is a functional alcoholic or they are facing disruptive consequences from alcohol abuse, we can help them recalibrate their life at California Detox.

Your loved one can begin their recovery with supervised alcohol detox at our luxury facility in Laguna Beach, CA. Access to medications and continuous clinical care streamlines the withdrawal process and enables a seamless transition to ongoing inpatient treatment.

During inpatient rehab, your loved one will engage with a personalized blend of the following therapies:

Get help for an alcoholic right away by calling California Detox at 949.694.8305.


Yes, many rehabs offer help staging interventions to get your alcoholic loved one treatment. Call our hotline if you need help: 949.694.8305.
When getting an alcoholic help, it’s important to remember that their addiction is often driving their behavior, not logic. Therefore, it’s important that you establish what you will and won’t tolerate before helping them, and make sure to communicate that you care about them, but can’t help them if they overstep these boundaries. Most addiction recovery programs (like California Detox) offer family therapy.


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