My Best Friend Is an Alcoholic: What Should I Do?

Posted in Help for Friends and Family

My best friend is an alcoholic - what should I do?Alcoholism is a frightening disease for both the alcoholic and those around him or her. The psychological aspects of this deadly condition often prevent the users from being aware of or admitting to a problem. Alcohol users may be the last to know they are addicted, while friends and loved ones may have been worrying about their drinking for quite awhile. Friends and family may have to step in to support an addicted loved one and help him or her end addiction. This can be an awkward and difficult thing to do, but without caring confrontation the alcoholic may not get help in time.

Physical and Biological Aspects of Alcoholism

A basic understanding of the nature of alcoholism helps friends and family approach the situation. While early decisions to drink or drink in excess are a personal choice, once an addiction to alcohol has been established, use is no longer a matter of choice. Some people have a biological predisposition toward addiction and will become addicted after a few or even just one drink. In response to regular consumption of alcohol the body develops a physical dependency. When the dependent alcoholic does not have an adequate supply of alcohol, he or she will suffer physical symptoms of withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms are often obvious to both users and those around them.

Psychological Aspects of Alcohol Addiction

The psychological aspects of addiction are much harder to identify and to conquer. The euphoric high, or drunkenness, stimulates the pleasure center of the brain which is the same area responsible for emotions, memories, behavior reinforcement and impulse control. Chemical pathways in the brain are changed, as the body reorients itself around its new priority of using alcohol. A person who is determined not to drink can still be overwhelmed by a psychological urge to drink long after physical addiction has ended. The psychological impacts of addiction may last for months, years or even a lifetime. The established alcoholic will prioritize drinking over relationships and other former values. In order to establish a pattern of long-term recovery and sobriety, the recovering alcohol user will need physical and psychological rehab.

Preparing for Personal Confrontation with a Friend about Alcohol Use

Once you understand alcohol addiction and what is involved in alcoholism recovery, schedule a time to confront your friend. It is best that this be done in private. Focus on behaviors you have personally observed and issues that are specific to you. Make sure you articulate your deepest concerns and your willingness to help. You may want to prepare notes or an outline to make sure you remember to say everything you want to share. It is also important to have a follow-up plan. Bring our helpline number with you, and offer to call with your friend. If they need a ride to a treatment program, help with responsibilities while they are away or anything other potential stumbling block to attending rehab, make sure they know you are in their corner. If they agree to check into a rehab facility make sure to visit as often as you can and pledge to help them with their reentry into society. Attend meetings when invited, continue to study the disease and prepare to help with long-term recovery efforts. If you have any questions about what to say and what not to say, call our helpline and talk to one of our counselors.

When to Consider an Intervention for a Friend’s Alcohol Use

It often takes more than one person’s confrontation to reach an alcoholic friend about his or her alcohol use and need for help. If a personal conversation has been tried and the person is still denying addiction, a formal intervention may be needed. A formal intervention is a meeting with multiple friends and family members who have been personally affected by the individual’s substance abuse. Special intervention counselors are available to help moderate a meeting like this and to coach friends and loves ones about how to contribute effectively. There is no guarantee that an intervention will get your friend into rehab, but it will let him or her know that there are people who care and are concerned.

Help an Alcoholic Friend

If you have a friend who you suspect is an alcoholic, please call our toll-free helpline to get information, answers and support. We are here 24 hours a day, and our addiction experts can answer any question you may have. We are here to help you and your friend find the exceptional resources that will begin the journey to long-term recovery. Life is too short to waste on addiction. Help your friend see this truth; call now.