How to help a high-functioning alcoholic family member

A high-functioning alcoholic is dependent on alcohol but manages to do their job. They may also have a seemingly normal family and social life. They may not drink every day, but problems are still there.

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

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

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. For example, strained relationships, financial worries and 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 high-functioning alcoholics it can be even harder. They may not feel their drinking is causing them problems.

You can help by letting 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. Perhaps family members can speak to the person together.

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 of inaction on their part are

Page last reviewed: 8 November 2019
Next review due: 8 November 2022