Helping a friend

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How to help a friend

It may be difficult to know what to do if you are worried about someone's alcohol use. It may be particularly concerning if you think someone you are close to is drinking a lot and not telling you about it. It might be especially difficult if you try speaking to your friend about it and they deny that it is an issue for them.

This fact sheet contains a few tips for what you can do if you suspect your friend has a drinking problem.

Experimentation with Alcohol

It is not uncommon to experiment with alcohol and drinking alcohol may not necessarily lead to problem use. There are ways for you and your friends to experiment safely to find out what your limits are. The first time you drink alcohol, it may be a good idea to try drinking in a safe area, where someone can help you if you drink too much. This might be at home or at a friend's place.

If you are concerned about someone's use of alcohol use, it may be helpful to calmly talk to them about your concerns. Engaging them in a confrontational way may only alienate them.

Helping someone you think is drinking at a risky level

Helping someone who is not ready to change their behavior may be difficult and the decision for them to get help is ultimately theirs. Sometimes you may get so concerned over someone else's alcohol consumption that you may not be looking after yourself. It is important that you keep yourself safe. It may be helpful for you to talk to someone you trust about what is going on and how you feel. This may be a family member, teacher, school counselor, clergy member or youth worker. Speaking with an organization that specializes in alcohol and drug issues and treatment may be helpful for working out how best to approach your concerns. Check out the Important Links Section or contact the counseling center to find out how they can help.

If you do choose approach the person you are concerned about, there are several things you may want to consider before doing so:

It needs to be well-timed - Don't confront the person when they are drunk or high.

Be informed - It is a good idea to have a general knowledge of some of the dangers of drinking alcohol to excess and how to drink at a low-risk level. By doing this you are more able to stick to the facts when talking with your friend. Also, know the facts! Present the person with detailed facts about how his/her drinking has caused problems.

Discuss alcohol issues openly - Letting the person you are concerned about know that you are open to listening to them without being judgmental. This may encourage them to discuss their alcohol use with you. It is also important to stick with the "here and now" and not argue. Be genuine and sincere, although don't take responsibility for their behavior. And, finally, help them by making the connection between drinking and their problems.

Don't expect change to be immediate - Be supportive, but don't help or "enable" them to continue with the problem. Don't be part of the problem, be part of the solution!

What to expect

  • A lot of excuses
  • Empty promises
  • Attempts to challenge or insult you
  • Attempts to change the conversation
  • Empty promises
  • Attempts to challenge or insult you
  • Attempts to change the conversation
  • Attempts to challenge or insult you
  • Attempts to change the conversation
  • Attempts to change the conversation
  • Attempts to minimize or pass of the behavior as "No Big Deal!"

What to do if someone says they have a problem

Acknowledging alcohol may be a problem is a big step. If someone has come to you saying they have a problem, you may be able to assist them by finding out what help is available in your local area. Your campus health center, local doctor, counselor, hospital, or community health center may be able to help. Check out the Important Links section or the yellow pages for details of these people in your area.

Looking after yourself

Sometimes it is sensible to seek help and advice yourself if someone's behavior, due to an alcohol or drug problem, is negatively impacting your life. You may feel overly anxious or protective of the person with a problem or their behavior towards you may be threatening or violent. Remember, you can seek support and advice for yourself. Check out the Important Links section for more information or the NJCU Counseling Center website to find out about how they can help.