Few things are more painful to witness then seeing someone you can about deeply struggle with the throws of an addiction. In ways the person is unable to appreciate him or her self, you see how an amazing human being is being squandered and lost under a haze of influence and addiction.
Watching someone go through struggles of alcoholism can be a deeply painful process, and you might desperately want to do something to make them stop drinking. Here are some things you can do to walk alongside someone going through the pain of alcohol addiction.
1) Educate yourself about addiction
You may have noticed your alcoholic friend engaging in troubling patterns and behaviors for a long time, but not necessarily had the resources to understand what was going on. There are a lot of misconceptions about alcoholism and addiction, and alcoholics themselves, in a spirit of denial that sustains the addiction, frequently downplay the harm of their behavior or tell you it's easy for them to "just cut back a little."
Contacting medical professionals, or substance abuse counselors can be an important way to take a step back, and look at his or her behavior more objectively, and see if there is a troubling pattern. It can also be helpful to know what resources and possibilities are available to help someone begin recovery.
Your friend may not listen to you or think there's a problem, but your awareness can, over time, make a huge dent in a thick armor of denial.
2) Avoid enabling
Your presence in a friend's life can be deeply healing, and point the way past denial into believing help is possible. However, there are two potentially dangerous relational pitfalls, either of which can end up making the situation worse.
One is enabling, or seeking to protect the alcoholic from the consequences of his or her actions. Lending money, lying to a boss, or other actions that protect from the harm drinking causes may seem compassionate in the moment, but they actually help sustain the addictive behavior and further convince the alcoholic that there is no real problem.
The hard, but ultimately most compassionate thing to do is to let your friend realize the dangers of his or her behavior.
3) Yet at the same time, do not withdraw
Sometimes, it is very hard to deal with an addict. Their behavior may become erratic, and they will often fail to be trustworthy, as the addiction takes over.
While you should not take over or take responsibility for them, continuing to be a presence in their lives lets them know that hope is possible, and that you will not give up on them. They may not listen to you right away, but over time, you can continue to make a difference and help them see the truth.
4) Try to dialogue about real consequences, rather then preaching
Plan carefully the time and way you want to speak to them. You can not reason with someone in the midst of drinking, and so you should wait until they are sober, and find a safe, private, quiet place where they can feel as comfortable as possible.
In your urgency and concern, it can be easy to take on a confrontational and accusatory tone. However, be careful to not take on a judgmental or "preachy" tone, that could end up alienating or angering them.
Statements like "You are a drunk" are not helpful. Instead, remind them about specific situations in which their drinking was harmful or dangerous, and then use "I statements" such as "I've noticed that drinking turns you into a very different person, and I'm worried about you."
5) Protect yourself
Alcohol, and addiction, turns a person into something very different from their true selves. You may be lied to, manipulated, or attacked, and the journey can often be emotionally exhausting. Support groups for friends of alcoholics are available for you to understand what you are going through. Know yourself, and don't be afraid to take a break or ask for help if things ever get too hard.
Ultimately, you cannot force someone get help. The decision to peruse sobriety and healing is such a huge commitment of hard work that it can only be made by individual people for themselves. However, your honest and compassionate friendship can go a long way in helping them realize that recovery is both necessary and possible.