Helping a family member with an addiction to alcohol is emotional and challenging. Many questions may persist as to how best to handle the individual’s circumstances without enabling the behavior. Often the roles in a family shift to accommodate the person with addiction. Positive actions exist which can support a family’s role in helping an individual with addiction without doing more harm than good for all involved.  There are many way to help a family member with alcoholism.


What to Do about Family Alcoholism

Often when family members want to offer help, it is difficult to know how best to approach the situation without making it worse. A person may ask the following questions to discern what is best:

  • What can be done to help?
  • Should alcohol be hidden?
  • Should a recovery program be forced on the individual?
  • What kind of financial support should i offer?

The best way to help a person with alcohol addiction is not found in the above questions. Detachment from managing the other person’s behavior, learning to let go of outcomes and loving the person in the situation are best. Some of the following action steps may be helpful when discerning best practices for helping a loved one with alcohol addiction


  • Accept the problem. The challenge of alcoholism is how it interferes with normal life and activities. Emotional or physical abuse may continue even after sobriety, job loss may wreak havoc on finances, isolation from family and friends and medical problems compound the issues a family may face. Denial of addiction merely prolongs the issue. Creating a list of ways in which drinking has harmed the relationship or caused problems may help identify ways to help and which things will not be helpful.
  • Let go of decision to stop drinking. It is human nature to want to do everything possible to stop a loved one from causing harm to self or others. It is not possible to make a person do what is not in that individual’s power or ability to do. Acceptance of one’s role can be the first part in truly helping the individual with addiction. What is not helpful is telling the person to stop and making threats may make the situation worse. Instead, do nothing. Stop doing and let the person with addiction start making decisions to get sober.
  • Know what is in one’s control. The ability to help lies in only doing what is possible for one person to do. Picking up a loved one from the bar after a night out drinking does not help the person take responsibility for the behavior or make adult decisions. Take personal responsibility and only handle what is in the present moment. Seek professional help if possible to stop enabling behaviors which exist in the family dynamic.



Be Proactive about Alcoholism in Your Family

Individuals who spend time around alcoholics understand heartbreak of watching a loved one suffer. Though it may be devastating to watch, it is not possible to force or manipulate a person into doing anything without the will to get better. Family addiction support is available but the best help may be setting healthy boundaries for self care and to show the loved one with addiction healthy choices matter. Once the individual has to make better choices, the ball lands on the other side of the court, waiting for them to decide on the next move.

Make pro-active choices

Finally, you can help the alcoholic by making the choices that are right for you. Anyone who has spent a long time around an alcoholic will tell you that it is absolutely heartbreaking to see someone you care about suffering, it is devastating to be denied the relationship that you should have. But you can’t force, trick, manipulate or demand someone else into doing anything. Further, family addiction support is available.

The best help you can give is providing love with a boundary so that you are taken care of and the alcoholic has the opportunity to experience their own choices and what they want those choices to be.

Fixing A Problem Is Not Helping An Alcoholic

When we think about our loved ones who have a problem with alcohol it is important to remember that fixing is not the same as helping. We can’t fix another person’s drinking problem, we can’t make someone else jump.

Instead, we can tell them what we see happening, how we feel, what we want, and what we need. But what we do with all of that is about taking care of ourselves. And with the right kind of help, we may very well make it easier for the alcoholic to understand how drinking is impacting their life!


We help families of loved ones with addiction navigate the process.

Call us to find out how we can support your journey

as a family through addiction. 800-910-9299.