How Do I Know if My Loved One is an Alcoholic?

by Aug 20, 2018SUD Resources0 comments

There are times when we sense that something’s just not right with a family member or other loved one, but we can’t put our finger on it. If you’re wondering if someone close to you is an alcoholic or has a substance abuse problem, this article is intended to shed some light on how you can help.

Sometimes it is hard to tell if someone has a real problem if their culture or household engages in customary behavior that involves the use of alcohol and/or drug. Examples include the drinking that occurs at informal events like BBQs and other social activities, and the use of cannabis and other herbs as part of more formal, spiritual ceremonies.

Substance abuse disorder is often referred to as a “family disease”, as the behaviors of the one suffering typically take a considerable toll on themselves and their entire family unit and social circle as well. And oftentimes those family members and friends want to help but don’t know where to start or what they really can or should do.

If you’re not sure if your loved one has a substance use problem, or is just using a little too hard or going through a phase, there are few questions that you can ask for yourself about their behavior without involving them first.

Here are some important things to consider:

  • Does your loved one often consider taking alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs outside of their social circle?
  • Have there been times where your loved one’s alcohol or drug use has caused problems between themselves and other family members?
  • Is it normal for your social group to use certain substances in order to connect and thrive and “be a part of”?
  • Has anyone in his or her family ever had to defend the use and or behavior of the substance abuser?
  • Has your family ever had to defend or feel guilty or ashamed of the conduct of the loved ones after they have been drinking or using?
  • Have you found your loved ones drinking or using alone outside of the social setting?
  • Have you or your loved one created a bottom line in order to stop using substances and finding out that didn’t happen, i.e. the line keeps getting crossed or keeps moving?
  • Has your loved one claimed to not be using substances but you found out that they couldn’t stop?
  • Have you found that you really want help but don’t know what direction to take?

There’s a lot of information out there on how to help your loved one with a substance abuse problem, as well as how to manage yourself. There is no one right way that works for every single addict or alcoholic; there are just a few suggestions that we can offer for you to try.

It has been our experience that, at the end of the day, the addict or alcoholic has to want to get help for themselves. This doesn’t mean that you can’t talk to them, offer them help, guide them in the right direction, or do some research, but it is often found and been well-documented by recovery experts that pushing, nagging and other similar behaviors will typically not work with an addict or alcoholic.

Here are some key considerations for approaching the person who is exhibiting addictive or alcoholic behavior:

  • Research potential places for the individual to go Have some research done with places they can go for treatment or family therapy, or simply a 12-step meeting that they can try out.
  • If they have done so, refer gently to their having expressed that they want to quit or have acknowledged that they have a problem.
  • Be sure to show that you care; be empathetic and not judgemental.
  • Try to remain calm regardless of their response to what you are saying.

Things to avoid are:

  • Approaching your loved one while they are under the influence or while recovering from being under the influence
  • Conversing with them about this subject in public
  • Judgment, shame, blame and similar behaviors
  • A confrontational or angry approach. Try to keep your emotions in check.

If you feel that you are unable to approach a loved one about their substance use, you can always reach out to someone to help with an intervention. There are many professionals who can help you have this conversation and we’d be happy to connect you with a trained individual who can help you. There are advantages and disadvantages to having the conversation yourself or to having someone assist in an intervention, and it ultimately depends on the individual concerned.

Help for You

As the loved one of an alcoholic or addict, there are many things you may or may not have gone through as well. Substance abuse disorder can be very traumatic for everyone that it touches. Fortunately, there are also a lot of tools to help you address the behavior of the person if they’re still using, as well as deal with and support them in their recovery.

It is also essential that you examine your own behavior toward the loved one., Are you enabling them, or using a lot of judgment and blame? If that person’s behavior and use have become a big part of your life and if your world is revolving around them and how to care for them, then it’s important to consider setting boundaries and getting some help for yourself. Some places to look are 12-step programs for family members, family therapy with the addict or alcoholic, or seeing a therapist on your own.

Here are some resources for the addict and alcoholic, as well as for their family members. If you have any questions, please give us a call or contact us by clicking the link below. We want to do everything we can to help with the man who is suffering from this disease in your life.


Resources for Family members:

Al-Anon family groups
Nar-Anon family groups
ACA – Adult Children of Alcoholics
Co-Dependents Anonymous
SMART Recovery Family & Friends


Resources for the addict or alcoholic:


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