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How to Help an Alcoholic Friend

Authored By: Joe Gilmore

Table of Contents

Determining the best way to help an alcoholic friend might be eating up lots of your time if one of your closest is grappling with alcohol use disorder.

Someone with alcohol use disorder has a chronic and relapsing disease characterized by a difficulty or inability to control drinking, despite the obvious problems it’s causing. While every individual must decide for themselves when to commit to recovery, you can nevertheless do your part to get them the help they need.

5 Easy Ways to Help an Alcoholic Friend

1. Offer your unconditional support to your friend

2. Learn as much as you can about addiction and recovery

3. Set reasonable boundaries and maintain these boundaries

4. Accept that you may get a negative reaction if you attempt to help

5. Prepare some information about potential treatment programs without applying any pressure

1) Offer your unconditional support to your friend

Make it clear to your friend that you’re there to help them every step of the way once they commit to recovery. Reassure them you are not going to pressure them into taking action.

Be empathetic and non-judgmental, but make sure you’re also sincerely expressing your emotions.

Actions are louder than words, so try to edge your friend toward making concrete commitments to engage with treatment.

2) Learn as much as you can about addiction and recovery

The more you know about the disease of addiction and the lifelong process of recovery, the better placed you will be to help your alcoholic friend.

Familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms of alcoholism, and discover as much as possible about the most effective treatment modalities for the scope and severity of your friend’s alcoholism.

3) Set reasonable boundaries and maintain these boundaries

To ensure that your friendship is not impacted by your friend’s alcohol abuse, you need to set and maintain clear boundaries.

You set the rules when it comes to what you will and won’t do for your friend. Reasonable limits include:

  • Refusing to lie for your friend
  • Not supplying your friend with any alcohol
  • Rejecting any requests for money for alcohol
  • Refusing to engage in any arguments when your friend is intoxicated

While you may feel awkward setting hard limits, by refusing to enable your loved one, you are likely nudging them closer toward committing to recovery.

4) Accept that you may get a negative reaction if you attempt to help

Whatever approach you take when confronting a friend about alcoholism be prepared for the following:

  • Outright denial
  • Excuses for drinking
  • Lies about drinking

Embarrassment is one reason for this type of evasiveness. Also, your friend may be genuinely unaware of the extent of their alcohol problem.

Also, be prepared for an angry reaction. Let’s face it, nobody likes to be confronted about their faults. If you meet with a backlash, make sure not to take this personally.

If you meet with any resistance when you attempt to intervene, you should refrain from pushing the issue. Your friend will not get better overnight, so it’s senseless trying to rush things before their recovery has got underway.

The best you can hope for is to plant a seed about the many benefits of engaging with professional treatment for alcohol use disorder, and that brings us neatly to the final thing you can do to help an alcoholic friend.

5) Prepare some information about potential treatment programs without applying any pressure

If your friend is burdened by active alcohol addiction, they may have no idea about how to engage in addiction treatment or which type of treatment makes the best fit.

Learn about the difference between residential rehab and outpatient rehab. You’ll soon find out that most alcohol use disorders can be treated successfully through outpatient programs like PHPs (partial hospitalization programs) and IOPs (intensive outpatient programs). Your friend will have access to similar services to those available in inpatient rehab, but without the cost and without the restrictions.

Determine whether or not your friend needs a medical detox, or whether they can safely detox and withdraw from alcohol at home.

You can inquire about local AA meetings, and you could also call up some local rehab centers to get a ballpark estimate of costs and the admissions process.


To shortcut the process, reach out to the friendly Renaissance Recovery team at 844.912.2284 and learn how to help an alcoholic friend.

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Pat C

“I owe my life and my happiness to these people. October 8th, 2019 marked two years of sobriety for me, and prior to finding Renaissance I hadn’t had 24 hours sober in nearly 20 years.”

Paige R

“Renaissance Recovery truly changed my life.”

Courtney S

” I’m grateful for my experience at Renaissance, the staff are very experienced, they gave me the hope I needed in early sobriety, and a variety of coping mechanisms that I can use on a daily basis.”

Diana Vo, LMFT

Diana is an addiction expert and licensed marriage and family therapist who has been in the field of mental health for over 10 years.

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country