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How to help a family member who is dependent on alcohol

Someone can be dependent on alcohol but have a seemingly normal family and social life. They may also manage to do their job. They may not drink every day, but problems are still there.

If someone is dependent on alcohol, they may become defensive if someone suggests they have a problem.

Accepting there is a problem means accepting they may need to change.

Signs of alcohol dependence

How to manage better

When someone has an alcohol problem, family life can start to revolve around them.

Dealing with the problem can feel overwhelming. It can affect how the family works.

It can cause:

  • strained relationships
  • financial worries
  • a lack of structure and routine

Things that can help you to manage better:

  • Get some support.
  • Recognise and understand the effect alcohol may be having on your family.
  • Find ways to cope - to reduce the harm to you and your family.

Help them to accept there is a problem

Not accepting the problem is one of the main things that stops people from getting help. With a person who has an alcohol problem it can be even harder. They may not feel their drinking is causing them problems.

Let them know how their drinking behaviour is affecting you and your family.

You will probably need to keep doing this. It will make it harder for them to convince themselves that everything is OK.

Keep the lines of communication open. Try to be loving and supportive rather than accusing or blaming them.

Decide what action you want to take for your safety and quality of life.

Tell them:

  • how this will affect them
  • what changes you need from them
  • what the consequences are if they do not take action

How to talk to someone about their drinking

Page last reviewed: 22 March 2023
Next review due: 22 March 2026