How to Help an Alcoholic Who Refuses Help

Last Updated: April 29, 2024

In our society, almost every social event or outing is fueled by alcoholic beverages and drinking these days, so it’s no surprise that alcoholism is on the rise.

According to Alcoholism Statistics:

  • An estimated 6.6 million children under 18 live in households with at least one alcoholic parent.
  • About 43% of adults in the US (76 million people) have had a parent, child, sibling or spouse who is or was an alcoholic.
  • Currently, nearly 14 million Americans adults abuse alcohol or are alcoholic.

These numbers are alarming, to say the least. Perhaps what’s more frightening is that most people who are battling alcoholism are also battling with denial of their problem.

Although alcoholism can wreak havoc on a person’s physical health, emotional well-being, relationships and work life, many people who problematically drink are able to function effectively for the most part and hide their alcohol abuse from others. In doing so, this drives their denial and most often keeps them from getting help.

Watching someone you love struggle with a drinking problem can be extremely difficult and frustrating. You may feel helpless because your attempts to help them are being unheard or refused.

There are many ways to help an alcoholic. However, this article will guide you through a step-by-step process of how to respond to an alcoholic family member or friend who refuses help.

Educate yourself

Understanding alcoholism and how this type of addiction affects your loved one is crucial. When you are able to better understand that alcohol addiction is a chronic problem that affects the brain and keeps the substance abuser coming back for more regardless of the consequences.

Educating yourself about how alcoholics feel and what they may be going through will not only help you relate to them better, but your efforts will also most likely be taken more seriously as you offer help. With all the information available nowadays on the Internet, finding resources and getting your questions is easily accessible.

Be honest and compassionate

Leading from a place of compassion once you’ve done your homework and research should be easier. Approaching your loved one about your genuine concern for their well-being is the best way to present a tough conversation. Let them know you care and you are worried about them.

It’s important to let them know you want to know how you can best support them in seeing their substance abuse and getting help. Be mindful of your words so you can ensure they carry a positive and repetitive message about your concern as you identify their substance use as problematic.

Remain patient

This is the hardest part. Usually, a person with a substance abuse issue is going to be in denial and will meet questions raised to them with avoidance, rationalization, and even anger at times.

Not only that, but an addict will likely not respond well to you if you lose your temper, seem impatient with them or are blaming and shaming them. There’s a fine line between being patient and enabling someone. Be very conscientious of where lines need to be drawn.

Set boundaries

Once you’ve presented your concerns in the most loving way possible, there is a strong chance your loved one may make false promises about cutting back or quitting.  This is the part where boundaries must be set such as:

  • Not interacting with them when they have been drinking.
  • Not loaning them money.
  • Not buying them alcohol.
  • Not paying their bills for them.
  • Setting limits to protect your home, finances and relationships.
  • Call the police if violence becomes involved.

Seek help from a professional to stage an intervention

If all of your attempts to offer support and help are falling on deaf ears, it may be time to seek the help of a professional who can walk you through how an intervention would work.

Interventions can be highly effective and are sometimes the only way to truly get through to an alcoholic. Ultimately, the goal of an intervention is to get them to realize their lifestyle is unmanageable and that their destructive behaviors are affecting everyone involved.

An interventionist will help you to evaluate the situation, make treatment recommendations and ensure the process is carried out in a way that will lead to a positive solution and healing.

Remember to practice your own self-care

It’s important to understand that while you may not be able to control your loved one’s alcoholic behavior, you do have a choice in how you think, react and participate. Be sure to get the support you need in places such as Al-Anon, support groups or therapy.

Getting help for your loved one

Helping someone into a treatment program for alcohol abuse can change the trajectory of his or her entire life. However, the road to this outcome can be long and grueling. Contact us today to learn how our treatment programs work and how you or your loved one can get on the path to recovery.


Family Alcoholism Statistics, Alcoholism Statistics,, 2013

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