Has someone close to you been acting different lately? Have you noticed a change in their personality or an increase in their drinking habits? If the answer is yes, this person in your life may be struggling with a drinking problem.
While a drinking problem isn’t quite the same as an alcohol addiction, they share many of the same destructive side effects, including mood swings, violent behaviors, impulsive tendencies and personal turmoil.
When you begin to notice adverse changes in a person’s health, work, family, social life or self-esteem due to their drinking habits, it’s time to talk to them about the way alcohol is affecting their life – but how?
How To Talk To A Family Member Or Friend About A Drinking Problem
Even when you share a healthy relationship with your loved one, talking to them about their drinking problem can be scary. You never know how someone is going to respond when confronted with the reality of how their drinking is affecting themselves and others.
While confronting a friend or family member with a firm request to stop drinking or go to treatment might seem like the best option, this is will often push them further away. Instead, approach them with sympathy and kindness. A loved one struggling with alcohol abuse is likely feeling embarrassed and shameful of their current problem and will require a judgment-free environment in order to open up.
Once your family member or friend is open to discussing their problem, let them know how their drinking has affected you and your family’s relationship with them. When they can see things from a different perspective, it may inspire them to change their behaviors.
Show your support for a family member struggling with a drinking problem by being willing to go to a support group with them, checking in on their progress and offering other treatment solutions. Some things to avoid when talking to a family member or friend about a drinking problem are:
- Talking to them when they are drunk or already drinking
- Talking down to them
- Being confrontational or aggressive with your approach
- Blaming your friend or family member for their drinking problem
- Making excuses for their drinking
It can be easy to brush off a friend or family member’s drinking problem when you love them and don’t want to cause disagreement, but not bringing it up could cause their bad habit to spiral out of control.
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How To Talk To A Spouse About A Drinking Problem
When you devote your life to someone, you don’t expect anything to come between the two of you, especially not a drinking problem. However, this is a reality that many spouses have to face during their marriage.
Being in a relationship with a struggling spouse can turn even the most straightforward conversations into shouting matches. If you decide to confront your spouse about their drinking problem, do it when they’re sober and in the mood to talk. Otherwise, they could become defensive or combative.
Once you’ve chosen a good time to talk, try to draw a connection between your spouse’s drinking and the resulting behaviors or consequences. When a spouse struggling with alcohol can clearly see how their drinking is affecting their day-to-day life, they may be more willing to change.
Throughout your conversation, refrain from using words like “drunk” and “alcoholic”. These negative words will immediately put your spouse on the defense and alienate them even more. Although you want to draw connections between your spouse’s drinking and the consequences of it, do so without placing blame. Using your spouse’s drinking problem as an excuse for everything will likely push them to drink more.
After you’ve spoken to your spouse about their drinking habits, don’t expect a drastic change overnight or ask for a promise of complete sobriety. Both of these are unrealistic goals, and will only set your spouse up for failure. Instead, support them by taking a few days off from social drinking, removing all alcoholic drinks from the house or limiting the number of drinks you both have in one sitting. Creating these boundaries are the perfect starting point to successfully managing a spouse’s drinking problem.
If your conversation and support do not inspire your spouse to make a positive change, you may want to consider setting up an intervention.
How To Talk To A Coworker Or Employee About A Drinking Problem
Talking to a coworker about a suspected drinking problem can be tricky because it’s an issue that often toes the line between being a personal or professional conflict. However, since businesses lose more than $86 billion in productivity to alcohol abuse each year, intervention is essential for the health of the struggling individual and the organization.
While having a few drinks at the office holiday party doesn’t mean that your coworker has a drinking problem, some common signs to look out for are:
- Frequently late to work
- Increasingly absent from work
- Preoccupied with office hours and meetings
- Erratic behavior
- Falling asleep at work
- Smelling of alcohol
- Neglecting their appearance
- Uncalculated risk-taking
When these signs begin to manifest themselves, team members will start to notice a decline in their coworker’s quality of work. At this point, a drinking problem has crossed over from being a personal issue to a professional issue, and it’s time to talk with the employee about these observations.
Before confronting an employee about their drinking problem, make sure you have documentation of your observations. This could include prior performance reviews, attendance records, tardiness or anything that shows a decrease in productivity.
Once you’ve collected all the necessary records, request a private meeting with the employee to discuss your concerns and observations. Throughout the conversation treat the employee with respect and consideration, while sticking to the facts. An employee struggling with alcoholism may break down or become defensive, but it is critical to remain professional and focused on the concrete evidence of their declining job performance and how you can work together to fix it.
After you’ve confronted the employee, refer them to the company’s Employees Assistance Program (EAP) or an outside treatment provider in order to seek further help for their drinking problem.
While opening up the conversation about a drinking problem may be uncomfortable, sharing your concerns with your friend, spouse or coworker could be the wake-up call they need to make a positive change in their life.