How do I start the conversation about my loved one’s drinking?

ageing

Starting the conversation

Sometimes it can be difficult to even start a conversation with a loved one about their alcohol use. As a starting point, avoid bringing up the subject of their drinking when they are under the influence of alcohol. This will possibly result in arguments and increased emotions on both sides.

Look for opportunities to talk to them about their drinking, such as when they express regret or talk about something bad that has happened when they have been drinking. Try to start the conversation by explaining that you love and care for them.

Feeling valued and connected

It’s important that they feel ‘connected’ and a valued member of the family/friendship group. Try to avoid being confrontational, if they continue to deny their problem or are rationalising their alcohol use, end the discussion and try again another time.

In general try to concentrate on their health and wellbeing rather than the actual alcohol use.

For example, some questions you could start with are:

  • “I have noticed that you have not met your friends at the club for a while, has something changed for you recently?”
  • “Is there something that you are worrying about?”
  • “You don’t seem to be sleeping so well recently, do you know what could be causing this?”

Offering love and encouragement, as well as practical advice and support, can be very beneficial in keeping them safe. Guiding them to access help and increasing the likelihood of them making and maintaining positive changes. It is important to remember that the person drinking is responsible for their choices and behaviours, and only they can make the decision to change their drinking behaviour.

Practical advice

On a practical level, there are things you can put in place to ensure the environment is safe for your loved one or friend, these include:

  • making sure there are no loose wires to trip over
  • ensuring walkways and stairs are free of clutter
  • prompting them to turn off gas and electrical appliances before they start to drink
  • preparing food and ensuring they have snacks available and accessible
  • making sure there is a working smoke detector in the home
  • encouraging them to take a shower or bath before they start drinking to prevent accidents if they decided to do it later
  • keeping their house phone or mobile charged and within reach
  • talking about safer drinking habits, having non-alcoholic drinks in between alcoholic drinks and eating before drinking
  • dispensing medication in dosset boxes for easy monitoring of timing and dosage (speak to your local pharmacist about this)

 

If they ask you to buy them alcohol this can be a very difficult call to make, you may feel it is safer to buy them alcohol rather than risk them falling or getting injured while they are out. However, they could see this as you ‘enabling’ the behaviour which makes it harder to then have a conversation about change, in these situations you have to set clear boundaries.

Or if you live in one of the Drink Wise, Age Well areas we can offer support and advice to families and loved ones

You could also help by:

  • offering to visit their GP or health professional with them to discuss any worries or difficulties they may have
  • reassuring them that you are not judging them but only care about their health and well-being
  • including them in any social activity or plans, even if they refuse to go, keeping them involved will give them an important sense of worth and connection with you