Sometimes being a friend is about more than bathroom selfies and junk food fests that last into the wee hours of the morning. It can be challenging to come to terms with seeing a friend in trouble. If you know someone is struggling with alcohol abuse and want to help them, you’re already on the right track. Broaching the subject should be done delicately. It will likely be a difficult discussion to have, but one that is most necessary to get your friend the help that they need.
Listen With an Open Mind
Give your friend a safe and open space to express themselves. It may be tempting to make statements passing judgment on their actions, especially if those actions have been less than stellar. What is more important, though, is that you let your friend feel comfortable discussing their issues with drinking. Try not to make statements that antagonize your friend or back them into a corner. Part of presenting a safe space is making sure that you check yourself first for any preconceived notions and expectations about the conversation or your friend’s potential reaction. Alcoholism is a sensitive subject, and you must treat your friend with the utmost respect and understanding.
Be an Active Listener
Remember the words of Stephen R. Covey: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Be present in the conversation. You will likely have a lot that you want to say to your friend right off the bat, perhaps even things that they will not want to hear. Listen to their story and get an understanding of their troubles so you can help them to the best of your ability. Keep in mind that, while the actions of your friend may have hurt you or are still hurting you, this conversation is about them and not you. You want to help them and provide an ear to listen.
Offer Constructive Solutions
“Tough love” is not always the right way to handle a delicate situation. It can often push others away from wanting to seek help. To tell your friend that they need to get sober won’t offer any real solution. Suggesting that your friend reach out to a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, however, provides a means by which they can achieve the goal of sobriety. If a one-on-one conversation does not lead to progress, it may be necessary to stage an intervention for your friend, during which time offering an ultimatum would be acceptable. For now, though, keep it simple and honest. Tell your friend how you intend to help them and let them decide their next steps.
Keep in mind that your advice may not receive a warm reception. It’s important to remember that people will accept help only once they are ready to admit they need it. Helping a friend in need is not always easy, but it is always worth it.