Confronting an alcoholic friend or family member

Confronting an alcoholic friend or family member is a daunting task but with the right approach, the process can be less painful and very effective. Confronting an alcoholic often induces fears of jeopardizing a relationship and this makes people reluctant to confront their friends or family members despite being concerned for their well-being.  By utilizing  a non-confrontational approach however, you can prevent this and can actually foster an even stronger relationship.

Confronting an alcoholic friend or family member often involves a formal intervention and many people believe that this is the only option to address the situation. While they can be effective, they are not practical for the majority of people.  Fortunately there is an easier, yet very effective approach that anyone can take to address this touchy topic with their loved ones.

The first step in confronting an alcoholic involves determining whether or not someone has insight into their addiction. This will determine the aggressiveness of your approach. If they are in denial, they require a softer, more subtle approach.  Regardless of their level of insight however, the key is to confront them in a non-confrontational manner that is supportive rather than judgmental or critical.  Overly aggressive confrontation tends to put people on the defense and they immediately resist anything you may say.  This makes planting the necessary seeds of sobriety virtually impossible.  How then, do you successfully approach them?

Although often tempting, confronting an alcoholic while they are intoxicated is the worst time to do it.  Even though this is often when their most problematic behavior emerges, it is also is the time they are least open to hearing about sobriety.  Equally important is to minimize the perceived threat and have the conversation in private without other people around.

Before confronting an alcoholic however, it is crucial to understand what tends to motivate them in their life. Successful career aspirations? Money? Physical health?  The reality is that nobody will stop drinking because you want them to stop.  People are inherently selfish so putting sobriety into a context that appeals to their selfish motivations is the most effective way to motivate them. For example, putting sobriety in the context of improved productivity at work for someone who measures their success by their career achievements will more effectively induce a change in behavior.

Another effective approach to successfully confronting an alcoholic involves relating your own situation with theirs if possible.  Without discussing their addiction, talking about the benefits of sobriety in the context of your own life, can spark their interest and plant the seeds of sobriety.  This interest can subsequently be cultivated by continuing to set an example of how sobriety has allowed you to excel in life.

All of these approaches require patience and time. Understandably this is frustrating, however using a supportive, non-confrontational approach where you consistently lead by example, cultivate subtly planted seeds of sobriety and relate sobriety to one’s selfish motivations, offers the best chance at achieving your goal while maintaining a healthy relationship.