Watching someone you care about sink deeper and deeper into addiction is frightening and frustrating. Self-destructive behavior, followed by regrets or denials, become the norm; sober days become few and far between. If you are worried about a friend who drinks too much, you can help — but it’s best to be prepared.
Sometimes it’s easy to think that everyone else around you is thinking the same things you are, but that isn’t always the case. Asking mutual friends about their views is a great way to validate your feelings of concern. Choose times when you can speak privately and soberly, and never approach anyone who has been drinking or doing drugs. Avoid sounding judgmental; instead, express concern. Never broach the subject in front of others.
Contact a Support Group
A support group can help you even if your friends don’t agree a problem exists. Professional substance abuse counselors and therapists deal with these problems every day, and they have strategies you can use to help your loved one get treatment. You might also approach your loved one alone, with carefully prepared and specific mental notes.
Approaching Your Friend
Once you have quietly approached your mutual friends and spoken with a professional counselor, it’s time to consider speaking with your suffering friend directly and alone. Plan in advance what you’d like to say, and be specific. Choose a time when he or she is likely to be sober. Avoid name-calling and blame; instead, use “I” statements and express your concern about the specific negative effects that substance abuse has caused. For example, you might say, “I’ve noticed that when you do drugs, you miss work frequently.” Or, “When you drink, you act like a different person, and it’s someone I don’t enjoy spending time with.”
Expect the Consequences
Denial is a key symptom of addiction. What is obvious to you and others is likely not obvious to your friend. Don’t be surprised if you hear an angry outburst. If the person you care about isn’t willing to quit or get help, it may be time to stage an intervention.
During an intervention, your friends will confront your loved one in a formal, planned setting to express concern. The best and most successful interventions are lead by a professional interventionist, who will escort your friend to a rehab facility following the meeting if it is successful. If it isn’t, don’t panic; many “failed” interventions often lead to the struggling person seeking help, and finding sobriety, on their own.