Can We Talk? What to Do When You're Concerned about Someone's Drinking
A September 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrated a significant and alarming uptick in problem drinking among Americans. If you are concerned about a friend or family member’s relationship to alcohol, but are unsure about how to initiate the conversation without alienating them, there are resources to help you navigate those challenging conversations.
The more you know about alcohol use, what to say and what resources are available, the better prepared you can be to have that conversation. Here are some useful steps to consider:
- You are not expected to “fix” or "save" this person.
- Educate yourself about alcohol use and resources* available for support.
- Choose a location and time where you can speak in private, and be sure the person is sober prior to talking with them.
- Approach the person in a caring way, express concern and mention behaviors you have noticed. If needed, share how or why you think this is impacting them, you or others
- Be prepared for a negative response (anger, denial, defensiveness, blaming). Try to remain calm and objective, and do not take the comments personally.
- Whether or not he/she responds positively, offer help with resources.
- Follow up with the person later. If you are significantly impacted by his/her drinking, you may need to set boundaries if behaviors don’t change. For example, “I enjoy your company when you are sober, but I no longer agree to spend time with you while you’re drinking.” Do not establish a boundary or set an ultimatum that you’re unable to maintain.
- If you need emotional support before or after speaking with the individual, contact FSAP at 404-727-WELL (9355) or attend a local Al-Anon group meeting. Accepting support from professionals or others who have been in your shoes can make a positive impact.
- Emory Faculty Staff Assistance Program (FSAP): www.fsap.emory.edu; 404-727-WELL (9355)
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)’s website, “Rethinking Drinking.”
- Aetna Behavioral Health: http://www.aetna.com/dse/search?site_id=emory; 1-800-847-9026
- Alcoholics Anonymous: https://www.aa.org/; Local 24-Hour Hotline: (404)525-3178
- National Treatment Locator & Helpline: http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/; 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
- April is Alcohol Awareness Month. Take a free, anonymous Alcohol Use Screening.