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It can be hard to know what to say to an alcoholic. You may worry that you’ll say the wrong thing, or that they will be angry with you for challenging them about their addiction.
When you live with someone, the stakes are especially high. You know that if things go wrong, it could cause tension.
That’s why it’s important to prepare for these sorts of conversations. There are things you can do in advance of talking to an alcoholic which will help you to offer the best possible support.
In this article, we discuss the most important things to remember when talking to an alcoholic, such as being honest, establishing boundaries, suggesting treatment options and being kind and considerate.
With the help of our advice, we hope you can have a useful and productive discussion with your loved one about their alcohol use.
Alcoholism, also known as alcohol addiction or alcohol use disorder (AUD), is an addiction to alcohol. It is one of the most common forms of addiction worldwide.
In the UK, according to government statistics, 59% of people starting treatment for substance addiction had problems with alcohol. 
Like any addiction, alcoholism can have negative consequences in all areas of life, from work to relationships, to finances.
The signs of alcoholism include:
The main symptoms of alcoholism are:
It may sound simple, but the best place to start if you want to have a conversation with someone about their drinking is by writing down some key points to get across.
Conversations like this are never easy, since there is every chance the person you are talking to will not want to hear what you have to say.
Writing down your main points will help you to focus your thoughts. It will also help ensure that you communicate all the things you want to communicate, without getting side-tracked, or overly emotional.
So, what are the key points you should focus on?
One of the biggest challenges when having a difficult conversation with someone about their drinking is making sure that both parties stay calm and listen to what the other has to say.
The person you are talking to may feel they are being patronised, or they may be in denial about the extent of their addiction.
Every conversation is different, but there are a few general points to consider about language, tone and so on which can help you keep conversations as helpful and constructive as possible.
As well as planning things you want to say, and moderating how you say those things, there are some more concrete actions you can take in order to get ready to speak to your loved one about their drinking problem.
Your ability to support your loved one as they are going through their addiction depends in part on your own mental state.
If you are depressed and anxious, not only does that make your own life difficult, it also makes it harder for you to be there for your loved one.
So, what steps can you take to look after yourself?
One step you can take is to reach out for help. There are several charities, organisations and support groups aimed at the loved ones of people with substance use disorders.
Other steps you can take to look after yourself include taking a break from your loved one to do something alone. Living with an alcoholic can be very demanding, and you should give yourself the opportunity to step away from that situation every once in a while.
Another concrete step you can take to prepare yourself for a discussion with your loved one about their alcohol use is to look into treatment options.
People with alcohol use disorders (AUDs) often display a reluctance to get treatment. By offering your loved one a range of options, you can help give them the extra push they need to get treatment.
The ideal treatment for your loved one will depend on the specifics of their case. Less extensive forms of treatment are available for milder drinking problems; more extensive forms of treatment (such as a full inpatient detox and rehab) are available for those with more severe problems with alcohol.
You can read more about the range of treatments available for alcoholism here.
If and when your loved one does decide to enter treatment, you can help them in a number of ways.
Family therapy is a form of therapy where the loved ones of people with SUDs are invited to join in with therapy. During family therapy, you will be asked to sit in on therapy sessions. Though the focus of family therapy is the person with the SUD, you can still contribute, and your presence at therapy will help your loved one enormously. Having someone else there during therapy provides support; it also helps to bring home the effects of addiction on the families of those with SUDs.
Another way you can help your loved one during treatment is by facilitating their recovery. You can take them to therapy sessions, make sure they eat healthily and make sure that alcohol and other substances are not in the house. Most of all, you can provide support and encouragement for them during this difficult time.
Helping your loved ones through treatment can be hard, but remember that once they have entered treatment, they are making a concerted effort to get better. The best thing you can do is help them get better as quickly and effectively as possible.
Having a conversation with your loved one about their alcoholism is a difficult thing to do, but it is also very important for everyone concerned.
We hope you have picked up a few useful ideas from this article which will allow you to have a productive conversation.
In addiction treatment we tend to focus on those with substance use disorders (SUDs), rather than their loved ones. But the loved ones of people with SUDs have an important …