Confronting an Alcoholic: Signs, How To Get Help

Written by Jonathan Strum

& Medically Reviewed by Jenni Jacobsen, LSW

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Last Updated - 2/17/2023

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Updated 02/17/2023

Alcohol consumption is common in the United States. According to a report from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 69.5% of American adults drink within a given year, and 54.9% report drinking within the past month. For some people, however, alcohol consumption can become a problem

Signs It’s Time To Intervene 

Occasional or moderate alcohol consumption is typically safe and does not lead to adverse outcomes. However, when someone develops an alcohol use disorder (AUD), they are living with a legitimate medical condition that creates changes in the brain and makes it difficult to stop drinking, even in the face of serious consequences. If a loved one develops an AUD, it is likely time to intervene, especially if symptoms are severe.

There are common signs that point to an alcohol use disorder and suggest that someone is in need of intervention. These include:

  • Being unable to stop drinking, even if they want to
  • Having strong alcohol cravings (for example, wanting a drink first thing in the morning)
  • Drinking larger quantities of alcohol than intended (for example, they state they are only having a few drinks but then drink to the point of intoxication)
  • Continuing to drink even when it causes problems fulfilling duties at work or home
  • Drinking despite relationship problems arising from drinking
  • Developing a high tolerance for alcohol, so they do not appear intoxicated even when drinking a seemingly large quantity 
  • Showing withdrawal symptoms like tremors, headache, sweating or anxiety when not drinking
  • Continuing to abuse alcohol even when it causes or makes a health problem worse
  • Consuming alcohol in dangerous situations, such as drinking and driving 
  • Giving up other hobbies and interests in favor of alcohol abuse 

These signs suggest that someone has lost control of their drinking and is continuing to abuse alcohol even when it creates serious consequences. Someone who is unable to quit alcohol despite it causing serious problems in their life is likely in need of help to stop drinking. 

We offer physician-led treatment for drug and alcohol addiction in Ohio. Call us today to speak with a Recovery Advocate for free about how we can help your loved one.

How To Help an Alcoholic Spouse, Parent or Loved One

If a spouse, parent or other loved one in your life shows signs of alcoholism, guiding them toward treatment can help them to overcome the effects of alcohol addiction. In a treatment program, they will receive medical support and intervention as they undergo alcohol withdrawal. They will also participate in services like counseling and support groups, which help them to address the underlying issues that led to alcoholism.

How to Talk to an Alcoholic 

When you’re ready to talk to an alcoholic spouse or loved one about your concerns, it’s important to set yourself up for success. These tips can help you to have a more effective conversation:

  • Have the conversation at a time when they will be able to hear what you’re saying — not when they’re under the influence. 
  • Take some time to plan what you will say so you are calmer when having the conversation.
  • Remain as positive as possible, and encourage them that change is possible.
  • State specific concerns, such as, “I am worried because you have been missing work on days that you have been drinking.” 
  • Communicate to them that they have your support and you’re willing to work with them to get into treatment. 

7 Myths About Alcohol Rehab

These seven myths about alcohol rehab may come up during your conversation about treatment. Be ready to debunk them and get your loved one the help they need.

Things To Avoid When Confronting an Alcoholic

When you’re talking to someone about their drinking, there are also some things you should avoid doing. You may be feeling angry or frustrated, but it’s important to stay calm and approach them from a place of care and concern. This means you should avoid:

  • Name-calling or blaming
  • Making vague statements like, “I’m so sick of your drinking!”
  • Trying to convince them to seek help when they are intoxicated
  • Arguing with them

Hosting an Intervention for Alcoholism 

Sometimes, it may be helpful to host an intervention for a loved one who has alcoholism. An intervention is a process in which family and loved ones come together to confront a person about their alcohol abuse. During an intervention, loved ones tell a person with alcoholism about their concerns and encourage the person to seek treatment.

Often, families work with a professional to help them carry out the intervention process. They begin by making a plan for the intervention, including what they will say. Members of the intervention team often write a letter or prepare a script detailing the ways their loved one’s alcohol addiction has impacted them negatively. 

After solidifying the plan, an intervention is held, typically with a professional leading the conversation. Family members and friends come together, and they take turns expressing their concerns and asking their loved one to accept help. Usually, the family has made arrangements for their loved one to immediately enter a treatment program after the intervention, if they agree to do so.

One particular intervention model that has been found to be effective is the CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training) modality. Compared to other programs and intervention models, CRAFT has been found to be more effective for getting treatment-resistant individuals to engage in a rehab program. What is unique about the CRAFT model is that it not only helps a family encourage their loved one to get treatment — it also provides training to family members so they can change behaviors that may be enabling the loved one’s addiction. 

How To Get an Alcoholic Help 

Ideally, concerned family members will be able to figure out how to help an alcoholic and get them to agree to seek treatment. In some instances, however, the alcoholic will continue to refuse treatment, which may necessitate involuntary routes of treatment entry. 

Involuntary Commitment For Alcoholism

Whether you can have someone involuntarily committed for alcoholism depends on where you live and the seriousness of their addiction. Currently, 35 states and the District of Columbia have involuntary commitment laws, including Ohio. These state that someone can be committed against their will for a substance use disorder or addiction if they meet certain criteria, such as: 

  • Having a serious disability
  • Presenting an immediate danger to themselves or others
  • Being unable to care for themselves or make decisions

Civil Commitment in Ohio

Ohio law allows for someone to be civilly committed for treatment if there is proof that they have a mental illness such as alcoholism. They must also meet other criteria, such as presenting a risk of harm to self or others, being unable to care for themselves or requiring treatment to protect the rights of themselves or others. For your loved one to be civilly committed, you must file a petition with the court and be prepared to provide evidence that civil commitment is needed. 

Ohio’s Pink Slip Law

Ohio has a “Pink Slip Law” that states that certain professionals, such as police officers, physicians or psychologists, can take someone to a hospital against their will for emergency treatment. Once at the hospital, a physician provides an examination within 24 hours to determine whether the person requires ongoing care. A person can remain in the hospital against their will for three business days, but after that time, the hospital must petition the court for civil commitment to keep a person in care. 

How To Support a Recovering Alcoholic

If a loved one has entered treatment and is in recovery from alcoholism, it’s important that you provide support and encouragement. Strategies for helping support a recovering alcoholic include: 

  • Be willing to talk with them when they are experiencing stress or struggling with triggers or cravings for alcohol. 
  • Understand that they probably will not be able to be around alcohol or people who are drinking, so inviting them out to drink or drinking around them is not appropriate. 
  • Learn about alcohol use disorder so you have a better understanding of your loved one’s addiction and what they are experiencing. 

Finding Alcohol Addiction Treatment in Ohio

If you’re seeking alcohol addiction treatment for a loved one in the state of Ohio, The Recovery Village Columbus is centrally located and offers comprehensive alcohol addiction treatment servicesOur services include medical detox, inpatient and outpatient rehabpartial hospitalization programming and aftercare support

Our inpatient rehab offers numerous amenities, including two gyms, an art studio, a computer lab and a recreation room. We also employ licensed and credentialed medical and clinical staff who are compassionate about providing patients with the highest quality of care possible. 

View Sources

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Alcohol Use in the United States.” March 2022. Accessed May 21, 2022.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder.” April 2021. Accessed May 21, 2022.

Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. “Alcohol Use: Conversation Starters.” December 2, 2021. Accessed May 21, 2022.

Roozen, Hendrick G.; De Waart, Ranne; Van Der Kroft, Petra. “Community reinforcement and family train[…]iduals in treatment.” Addiction, October 2010. May 21, 2022.

Lee, Katherine. “An underappreciated intervention.” American Psychological Association, December 2017. Accessed May 21, 2022.

National Judicial Opioid Task Force. “Involuntary Commitment and Guardianship Laws for Persons with a Substance Use Disorder.” Accessed May 21, 2022.

Disability Rights Ohio. “Civil Commitment: Understanding Your Rights.” April 2016. Accessed May 21, 2022.


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