Say This Not That

Articles, Australia, International, Understanding Addiction

If someone you care about has a drinking problem, the best way to approach them in is a kind, considerate and empathetic manner. Put yourself in their shoes and think about how you would want to be approached if you had a problem like them.

Here are a few ways to consider approaching the topic with your family member or friend, who has a drinking problem: Say this, not that.

SAY: “I wonder if you drank less, if your health problems would improve.” It is true. You can even backup your statement with some facts, but do your best not to sound like a know-it-all. Some facts after one stops drinking include one’s complexion and skin looking and feeling better. One can also drop some pounds after cutting out alcohol since it is loaded with calories, and considering it is full of sugar, it can cause sugar cravings to decrease as well. After stopping alcohol use, one will also experience more clarity and concentration. It can also benefit one’s mental health as well. After quitting alcohol, one’s mood will increase as can their mental clarity. Health problems can be drastically affected by drinking alcohol. However, if one chooses to stop drinking, his physical and mental health can improve over time.

NOT: “Since you have become an alcoholic, your well-being greatly decreased.” Accusing someone of being an alcoholic, especially before they are willing to accept the fact they have a drinking problem, will quickly shut them down. There are many health concerns that are increased that come with being a chronic drinker, such as heart problems and cancer, but choosing your words wisely is incredibly important when trying to talk to a friend who abuse alcohol. Try saying the above statement, instead of this one, and it will hopefully come across much more loving.

SAY: “I have noticed since you have been drinking, you are not as happy as you used to be.” Yes, alcohol is a depressant, so it alters one’s mood. Not only could alcohol be adding to someone’s depression, but it could also be causing anxiety. Even if the person is taking medication for depression or anxiety, the medications may not be working if they are drinking alcohol while taking the medications. The alcohol will counteract the medication causing it to be ineffective. Alcohol can cause or deepen one’s mood disorder, but one’s mood can rise when he chooses to stop using alcohol.

NOT: “Are you unhappy because you have a drinking problem?” This type of question could backfire on you. The individual may not think they are unhappy or she may not think she has a drinking problem. She may be in denial about both of these issues. She may not be able to see the effects alcohol is having on her, especially not in the same way you can see it. The feelings she is experiencing may feel quite normal to her, so she might even be unaware her own feelings unhappiness. She might even blame her unhappiness on life or other circumstances and will not correlate it to her alcohol use. To avoid these statements, ask an open ended question like the one above instead of this one.

SAY: “I have been doing some research, and I am wondering if you should take an assessment about your drinking.” Talking to a friend your believe has an alcohol problem about completing an alcoholic assessment is a step in the right direction. Mentioning the information you have learned, while educating yourself about alcoholism, will also be beneficial. Any insight you can give them into their alcohol problem will potentially get them thinking about their alcohol use as a problem. Again, be careful with your wording. You do not want to sound like a wise guy or a walking encyclopedia either. You simply want them to see they may have a problem with alcohol.

NOT: “You have to stop drinking.” He does not HAVE to discontinue drinking. It is better for addicts to make their own choices about quitting. Him choosing to end his alcohol consumption usually produces better results throughout the recovery process. Also, this type of statement does not show concern or care about the person either. This is your opinion, and he may not believe the same thing. A better way to allow him see his alcohol use is a problem is to get him to take an alcohol assessment, like with the statement mentioned above.

Cutting out alcohol has both short term and long term benefits. Helping your friend realize she has an alcohol problem and helping her toward the path to recovery is a crucial step. No matter what, it is important for your friend to know that you will always be there for her, even if she decides now is not the time for her to own her alcohol problem.

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Anne -

Anne Lazarakis joined the DARA Rehab team from Sydney, Australia. She writes about addiction and mental health on a global, local and community level. She also relays personal accounts of substance abuse and recovery through the stories of our clients, their families and our own team members.

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