(This is one of a series of articles on alcoholism). Treating alcoholism is hard enough, but of the hardest things to do in life can be to tell a friend or loved one that his or her drinking has become a problem. It can be even harder if you’re trying to tell people your own age about the dangers of alcohol even before it’s a serious problem. If you think you may need a few conversation starters to use with your friends, here are some of the best ways to address what could be a potentially awkward or unwelcome conversation.
One of the first things you should do if you think that one of your
friends has a drinking problem is to get the facts first. You may have heard from someone that a friend has been drinking or you may suspect it yourself based on your loved one’s behavior, but make sure that you know that alcohol is definitely the problem before you confront your friend. Remember, you’re there to help, so you don’t want to offend your friend or loved one by accusing them of being an alcoholic.
Next, if you suspect alcohol may be the real problem, find out what is going on in your friend’s life that may cause him/her to drink. For instance, if you know that your best friend’s parents are going through a divorce or if there has recently been a death in the family, these could be reasons why some people would start to drink more heavily.
Teens (and even some adults) also drink because they think it makes
them more mature or outgoing. So, if you know that your friend has been especially concerned about being popular lately, there could be a chance that he will drink if the popular kids in school are drinking.
Keep in mind that even if you are out of high school, peer pressure is still a reality–many people drink in order to fit in with co-workers or influential people in the community, so you may even have to remind your adult friends who are otherwise sophisticated or affluent.
It is also a good idea to bring up casually, around other friends, that drinking is not necessary to have a good time. If a group at school or work is having a social gathering where you know there will be alcohol, you and your friends can simply plan to do something else and purposely not include alcohol in your plans. If the friend or loved one is opposed to the idea of an alternate gathering or immediately asks for alcohol, this is definitely a cause for concern.
The next step is usually to sit down with your friend in a private
setting and express your concern. Do not accuse your friend of having a problem; spend more time telling your friend that you want the best for him or her and that you want to see them healthy. Let them know that you are available to talk any time and that alcohol could lead to more serious problems in the future. You may also want to bring other friends along with you if you don’t feel comfortable talking on your own; this will also show your friend that there are several people who are concerned and willing to help.