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How to approach a friend about their alcohol use

If you're worried about a friend's alcohol use, you might not know how to start the conversation.

Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health

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Having a conversation with someone about their alcohol use isn’t easy, and if you have a concern about a friend, you might not know where to start. For many, this can be a difficult conversation, and it’s important you look after yourself while you try to help your friend.

These tips will help you get the conversation going.

Picking the right time and place

It’s important that you consider the best time and place to have this conversation, with few distractions and space to talk openly about the issue.

  • Don’t try to have this conversation when the person has been drinking or when they’re hungover. It’s best to pick a time when they have a clear head and can concentrate on what you’re saying.
  • Make sure the place you choose to talk is somewhere private, away from alcohol, and has as few distractions as possible. You want to be sure you can get their full attention and that there won’t be anyone around who might hear what you’re discussing.

What to say

It’s best to know what you want to say before you have this conversation. If you don’t prepare, you might say something you did not intend to or forget some important points.

Planning ahead of time means you can be clear and ready for how they might respond.

  • Be empathetic. This might not be an easy thing for your friend to hear. Be understanding, use non-judgemental language and tell them you’re bringing it up because you care about them.
  • To start off the conversation, try posing it as a question rather than a statement. You could simply say “I notice you’ve been drinking a lot lately, I just wanted to ask if everything is okay?” or ask “Do you have any worries at all about your drinking?”
  • Avoid lecturing them about their alcohol use as they’re more likely to get defensive.
  • Help them understand by focusing on the consequences of their drinking and use examples of things that have happened in the past as a result of their drinking.
  • Emphasise that you’re there to support them and help them through their problem.

What to expect

Be prepared for any kind of reaction. There’s a chance your friend might not accept there is any issue with their use of alcohol.

  • They might get angry, feel embarrassed, dismiss the conversation or refuse to talk to you at all.
  • If you find your conversation is headed for an argument, don’t push it. Leave your friend to think about what you’ve said and come back to it at another time.

Finding help

Before you go into this conversation, it’s good to know what options there are for finding help.

Look after yourself

If your friend’s use of alcohol is really affecting you, don’t go through it alone. You should talk to a trusted friend or family member about it; or you can go to a support service.

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Published October 13th, 2017
Last updated May 3rd, 2018
Tags alcohol
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