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How to Help a Friend

If you’re concerned about a friend’s drinking…

You can’t solve your friend’s problems. But you’re in a unique position to help.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Talk about your concern Often people aren’t aware that their drinking might be affecting others, especially someone who cares about them.
  • Listen People may be embarrassed or afraid to ask for help.  Once they know someone cares, they may be grateful for the chance to talk to someone they trust.
  • Give support Once a drinker wants to change, it’s easier to make a plan to cut back or to get help when support is in place.
  • Share information If the time seems right, offer to help your friend make a plan and get help.

What Can You Say?

Choose a time to talk when neither of you has been drinking.

  • Be as objective as possible. Don’t get pulled into an emotional debate or use vague examples.  Be specific about your concerns.
  • Use “I” statements, not “you” statements. “I’m afraid you’ll get kicked off the track team if you miss more practices.”  “I’m disappointed when we can’t spend time together because you have a hangover.”
  • Don’t preach, blame, judge or give advice. It won’t help your friend.  And it will get in the way of listening, for both of you.
  • Listen without interrupting. It will be easier for your friend to hear what you have to say if you’re willing to listen in return.
  • Be flexible. You might think you know the answer to your friend’s problem.  But everyone is different.  Allow room for solutions that can work for your friend.
  • Don’t expect instant results. It’s hard to predict how your friend will react.  You’ve accomplished something if you were able to tell your friend how you feel.

Even if your friend doesn’t want your help now, mentioning your feelings can be an important step in helping him or her later on.

*Taken from ETR Associates, “If a Friend Drinks Too Much”