5 Things To Say To Someone Struggling With Alcohol

April 5, 2024

Gone are the days when “tough love” was seen as the best approach to supporting someone struggling with alcohol. Based on my experience, I can testify that this method does not work. In fact, we know now that what truly makes a difference is compassion, understanding, and unwavering support, in other words, “LOVE.” When someone close to us struggles with alcohol, it is good to remember that our words and actions can make a difference in their journey. Offering support to someone with an Alcohol Use Disorder requires a delicate combination of empathy, patience, and encouragement. It’s not about fixing them but being a supportive presence, they can count on. Here are my five preferred statements to help someone feel seen, heard, and supported in their struggle.

1. “I’m here for you, no matter what.”

Commit to being there not just in words but in actions. Be the constant in their life that doesn’t fluctuate with their ups and downs. Offer to listen when they want to talk, accompany them to appointments if they seek professional help, or offer silence when words are too heavy. This constant presence reassures them they are not alone, fostering a sense of security and belonging in a non-judgmental approach.

2. “Your feelings are valid, and it’s okay to share them with me.”

When someone is navigating the challenges of alcohol dependence; they certainly carry a heavy

load of emotions like worthlessness and despair. It’s important to let them know that their feelings are important and acknowledged. Offer a non-judgmental space where they can express themselves freely. Sometimes, the most powerful thing you can do is to listen without trying to offer a solution. 

3. “Recovery is a journey, and it’s okay to take it one step at a time.”

I know it can sound “cliche,” but it takes time. Navigating recovery from alcohol is a personal journey and varies greatly from one individual to another. It’s marked by milestones that deserve to be acknowledged. Celebrating the victories, whether they’re big leaps or small steps, helps to build momentum and reinforce the effort they’re making every day.

4. “You’re not alone in this. Let’s look for help together.”

First, ask for permission and do not assume. Then, if appropriate, actively research and suggest resources, whether it’s finding a local support group, exploring treatment options, or just learning more about alcohol addiction together. Your proactive approach demonstrates your commitment to their recovery and can motivate them to take those initial steps toward seeking help. It’s a powerful reminder that they have an ally in their corner, ready to face challenges alongside them. Remember that you are not responsible for finding solutions. You are just offering help and support.

5. “I admire your courage for facing this challenge.” (my personal favourite)

This one is major! It shows that you understand the challenges they are facing. Try to regularly acknowledge their bravery and the hard work they put into their recovery journey. Recognize that it takes immense courage and strength every day from them to confront their struggles. This positive reinforcement can boost their self-esteem and motivate them to persevere.

Embracing the Journey Together

Supporting someone on their path to recovery is not always easy. It is, in fact, challenging. It requires patience, a deep well of empathy, and, above all, resilience. There will be moments of progress and moments of setbacks. During these times, it’s crucial for us, as supporters, to remember our own needs as well. Seeking support for ourselves, whether through community resources, therapy, or support groups, isn’t just beneficial—it’s necessary. This journey is as much about maintaining our own well-being as it is about supporting others. It’s about understanding that while we are committed to being there for someone else, we must also be there for ourselves. Acknowledging the weight of this task and the emotional toll it may take does not make us any less supportive. Instead, it reinforces our commitment to truly being there in a sustainable and healthy way for both us and the person we are supporting.

Beyond Words: A Compassionate Presence

Compassion is the gold standard in today’s understanding of addiction and recovery. It’s about creating a supportive environment. It’s about kindness. Understanding that individuals struggling with alcohol often know too well that they have a problem but are held back by shame or fear. Our role is not to remind them of what they already know but to help them feel less isolated in their journey. Approach these conversations to understand rather than to fix, offering a compassionate presence that encourages healing.

While the path to recovery is personal for the person who walks it, it also involves those who walk alongside. As a supporter, you are part of this journey—your role is pivotal, and your well-being is just as important. Remember, as you offer your support, you’re not walking this path alone either. Help is available for you too, and it’s okay to reach out when you need it. —Sophie Solmini founder Heal@Home


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