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My Best Friend Is an Alcoholic: What Should I Do?

Alcoholism is a frightening disease for both the one addicted to alcohol and those who love him or her. The psychological aspects of this deadly condition often prevent those using alcohol from being aware of or admitting to a problem. People addicted to alcohol may be the last to know they are addicted while friends and loved ones may have been worrying about their drinking for quite a while.

Friends and family may have to step in to support an addicted loved one and help him or her end the addiction. This can be an awkward and difficult thing to do, but without caring confrontation, their addicted loved one may not get help in time.

Physical Aspects of Alcoholism

Man Drinking Wine With Sad Family In BackgroundA basic understanding of the nature of alcoholism helps friends and family approach the situation. While early decisions to drink or drink in excess are a personal choice, once an addiction to alcohol has been established, drinking is no longer a matter of choice.

Some people have a biological predisposition toward addiction and will become addicted after a few or even just one drink. However, even when someone drinks what is considered a safe amount of alcohol, the person can develop a physical dependency. Once someone has become physically dependent on alcohol, if he or she does not continue to drink, they will not be able to function normally and will begin to experience withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms include the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Poor or unstable mood
  • Disturbed sleeping
  • Upset stomach
  • Headache
  • Rapid heart rate1

After dependency develops, a person will have a hard time quitting drinking without help. When someone continues in a behavior, unable to quit, without regard for the negative consequences, addiction has developed.2

Psychological Aspects of Alcohol Addiction

The psychological aspects of addiction are much harder to identify and conquer. The euphoric high, or drunkenness, stimulates the pleasure center of the brain which is the same area responsible for emotions, memories, behavior reinforcement and impulse control. Chemical pathways in the brain are changed, as the body reorients itself around its new priority of using alcohol.

A person who is determined not to drink can still be overwhelmed by a psychological urge to drink long after physical addiction has ended. The psychological impacts of addiction may last for months, years or even a lifetime. A person with established alcoholism will prioritize drinking over relationships and other former values. In order to establish a pattern of long-term recovery and sobriety, the person recovering from alcohol addiction will need physical and psychological rehab.

Chemical pathways in the brain are changed, as the body reorients itself around its new priority of using alcohol.

Preparing for Hard Conversations About Alcohol Addiction

Once you understand alcohol addiction and what is involved in alcoholism recovery, here are some steps you can take to prepare confronting your friend:

1. Choose the Right Time and Place

Schedule a time to confront your friend. It is best that this be done in private.

2. Plan What to Say

Focus on behaviors you have personally observed and issues that are specific to you. Make sure you articulate your deepest concerns and your willingness to help. You may want to prepare notes or an outline to make sure you remember to say everything you want to share. It’s also important to avoid words like always and never when referring to their behaviors.

3. Provide Options for Help

A follow-up plan is a must. Bring our helpline number with you, and offer to call with your friend. If they need a ride to a treatment program, help with responsibilities while they are away or anything other potential stumbling block to attending rehab, make sure they know you are in their corner.

If they agree to check into a rehab facility, make sure to visit as often as you can and pledge to help them with their reentry into everyday life. Attend meetings when invited, continue to study the disease and prepare to help with long-term recovery efforts. If you have any questions about what to say and what not to say, call our helpline and talk to one of our admissions coordinators at 269.280.4673.

When to Consider an Intervention

Counseling Group 600wIt often takes more than one person’s confrontation to reach an alcoholic friend about his or her alcohol use and need for help. If you have tried a personal conversation and the person is still denying addiction, a formal intervention may be needed.

A formal intervention is a meeting with multiple friends and family members who have been personally affected by the individual’s substance abuse. This meeting takes place with the hope and goal of getting your loved one to choose to enter treatment.

Special intervention counselors are available to help moderate a meeting like this and to coach friends and loves ones about how to contribute effectively. There is no guarantee that an intervention will get your friend into rehab, but it will let him or her know that there are people who care and are concerned.

Help an Alcoholic Friend

If you have a friend who you suspect is addicted to alcohol, please call our toll-free helpline, 269.280.4673, to get information, answers and support. We are here 24 hours a day, and our admissions coordinators can answer any question you may have. We are here to help you and your friend find the exceptional resources that will begin the journey to long-term recovery. Life is too short to waste on addiction. Help your friend see this truth. Please call now.


By Becca Owens, Contributing Writer


1 Alcohol withdrawal.” Medline Plus, January 14, 2017.

2 Tolerance, Dependence, Addiction: What’s the Difference?” National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens, January 12, 2017.