Helping a Loved One Who Has a Drinking Problem

Helping a Loved One Who Has a Drinking Problem

It was a dark and stormy night ... really. I was out with friends, enjoying a celebratory drink marking one friend's new job accomplihsment.

It didn't seem like a big deal. Everyone was fine, laughing and back-slapping our friend and giving him sour most sage advice about what NOT to do on his first day at the new job. A couple of hours went by in a flash.

What some of us didn't realize at the time - including me - was his drinking. In the span of an hour, our friend had consumed four drinks. Not beer or wine. He'd had four fairly tall vodka tonics.

One friend with us knew - and she wasn't going to let him keep going like that. She told me later that she'd slyly asked the bartender to add some tonic to each drink after our friend took a few sips. Each time he set the glass down, a little more tonic went in. It was a unique trick that no one else saw happening.

She later told me how she'd stumbled upon our friend's alcoholism. She'd visited him at home a couple of times, taking dinner or a snack over to watch a movie with others. A few times, she went to throw away some plates and paper napkins, and found empty bottles in the trash. They were tall bottles that once held vodka - and there were several of them.

Over time, she noticed how many were there in a week. Five, or maybe six most times. On one visit, she counted seven.

It wasn't easy helping our friend confront his alcoholism. We talked about what the signs are and how best to talk with someone  who has a drinking problem. Then we worked with him to find a counselor and treatment - not pushing, but gently showing him the benefits of treatment.

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, a time to take stock of how to help someone you care about who may have a drinking problem. Every person is different, so every approach to talking with them about it is going to be different. Learn all you can and do what you can to help.

Our friend is doing great now. With a clear knowledge of his triggers and how certain situations once led to his drinking more than he should, he's made positive life changes that have helped him confront his drinking. He's got a good head on his shoulders now. And he doesn't drink anything harder than soda.

With knowledge and a good eye, you can make a difference in someone's life like that, too.