The Mindful Drinking Blog

How to Talk to Your Loved Ones About Their Drinking

How to Talk to Your Loved Ones About Their Drinking


Last Updated on February 5, 2024

It’s late Friday night and you’ve made plans with your loved one, but they seem to have forgotten. And it’s not the first time it’s happened, either. 

Lately, you’ve been feeling like all their promises are empty. Maybe they’ve been avoiding their responsibilities, too. They might be withdrawing from everyone and everything they used to love. You’ve noticed they’re drinking more, and you’re starting to get worried. 

Maybe you’ve tried to bring it up before, but they get defensive or change the subject. You know you need to talk to them about it, but you’re not sure how to approach the subject without causing an argument.

What’s Leading Them to Drink More?

The thing is, whenever unhealthy drinking habits take over, it’s usually a sign of a deeper issue. It’s no coincidence that over 60% of people with alcoholism tend to suffer from depression. So bringing it up usually pokes at a very sensitive point of pain they’re feeling deep down — one that they may not be ready to confront or feel safe expressing to you.  

If you’re not sure how to bring up the topic or how severe the root issue is, read on to learn some signs to look out for that it’s time for a talk. As well as how to plan for a healthy conversation that can help both of you move forward. 

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Some Signs That Your Partner or Loved One Drinks Too Much

Sometimes, we know when someone is drinking too much, but we ignore the signs that we need to do something about it to avoid confrontation and fights. Here are some subtle signs to look out for that it’s time for a well-thought-out conversation: 

  • You worry about their safety when they drink. 
  • They prioritize alcohol over spending time with you. 
  • You make plans together but they don’t follow through on them.
  • They become argumentative, defensive, or aggressive when they drink. 
  • It often feels like you’re walking on eggshells around them, and you try hard not to trigger them so they don’t need a drink.
  • Your mental health is suffering because of their drinking habits. x
  • You struggle with trusting them when they drink. 

Even if you can’t get someone else to change, you can at least set your own boundaries and take steps to reduce your own mental health from suffering. 

The Main Goal

Dealing with a friend, family member, or partner who drinks too much can easily feel overwhelming. But one of the best ways to approach the topic is to look deeply into why they’re drinking and come from a place of love, support, empathy, and understanding.

With that in mind, you can begin to focus on helping them to see everything they can gain from drinking less, rather than what they might be worrying about missing out on.  

Preparing ahead of time with their struggles in mind, along with your boundaries, can help open a more honest and calm conversation. So here are some tips to help you think about what you’d like to say for a smoother talk with your loved one about their drinking habits. 

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Five Steps To Talk To Your Loved One

1) Prepare Your Points

We usually start by thinking about what’s affecting us the most, but if you put what they’re going through first, you might be able to completely change how the conversation goes. Remember, severe anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders are more likely in people who drink heavily. 

So before bringing up the topic, grab a notebook and take a few minutes to think about some talking points. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What’s going on in their lives that’s leading them to drink more? 
  2. How can you offer more emotional support for whatever they’re going through? 
    Try to think of at least one thing you can help them with so they feel seen, heard, and understood. For example;
    – Can you offer to spend quality time together and just listen to them a few times a week, without judgment or criticism? 
    – Can you help them find resources that might help with the issue they’re facing? (for example; group, online, or in-person therapy or support groups for depression or alcoholism).  
    – Can you offer to go with them to important events, such as therapy, doctor visits, or personal functions?
  3. What’s a shared goal you can work on together to bring each other closer? 

Next, focus on you: 

  1. What’s bothering you the most and how can you work on it together? For example,
  2. What’s one reasonable thing you can change together to reduce your stress? 
  3. Do you need to set boundaries? If so, make sure they’re clear and specific, and that you’ll follow through. 

Finally, think about the best time and place to bring this conversation up. You want to approach them when they’re calm and in a quiet environment where you both can be relaxed and open with each other. 

2) Gently Open the Conversation

Once you’ve decided it’s time to talk, be ready to listen openly and avoid judgment, lecturing, or moralizing. Anyone who’s struggling with their drinking might also suffer from depression or anxiety, so keep empathy at the top of your mind. 

Try to keep the conversation brief, focus on how you’re willing to help, and any boundaries you need to set — in a gentle and caring tone. 

Finally, if you don’t get the response you’re looking for, shelve the conversation for another time and place. Even with the best intentions, things don’t always go according to plan. We can’t always know what’s going on in someone else’s mind and how ready they are to hear what we have to say. Try to make a point of being empathetic and supportive so that they might be more willing to talk to you in the future. 

3) Offer Your Support 

Make the main theme of the conversation one of encouragement and companionship. If you come from this side, they might feel more understood, making them less defensive. After all, anyone can react badly when they feel criticized, blamed, overwhelmed, and all alone in their struggles. 

Of course, you can also make sure they know your boundaries, and that as long as they’re respected, you will be there for them whenever they’re ready to take any next steps. 

4) Create a Goal

Another way to bring yourselves closer together instead of farther apart is by creating a shared goal you can work on together. Ask some open-ended questions so it feels like a team effort instead of a chore, for example; 

  • “I wish you’d stop drinking” — “What do you think about trying a few alcohol-free nights a week with me?”
  • “You never spend any time with me/your family” — “What do you think about planning a day together this weekend? We can go to that place you always wanted…”
  • “You seem so lost” — “Do you want to try something new and fun? What about taking up an art or boxing or martial arts class to get creative or release some pent-up tension?” 

Try to come to a definite summary and goal that suits you both. Get creative — because the more fun or personalized it is, the more likely they can dive in and perhaps find a hobby that gives them a safe space to healthily release their emotions. They might even find new friends that offer some much-needed alcohol-free social support. 

5) Practice Self-Care

Managing stressful situations takes its toll, so make sure you’re giving yourself non-negotiable self-care time for your energy levels. Choose one or two things you can do to help increase your energy levels, like

  • Going to bed 30 minutes earlier
  • Meditating for 5 minutes every morning or night
  • Exercising for 10 minutes before work every day 
  • Seeing friends for fun social time at least once a week
  • Going for a calming walk in a park every evening or lunch break
  • Trying something new and fun, like a dance, photography, art, or pottery class
  • Adding some nutrient-dense foods to your day, like extra veggies and fruit for dessert

Also, consider seeing a therapist or support group for friends and family members of people with drinking difficulties to get the extra care and support you need. Remember, you’re not alone — around 17% of all U.S. adults binge drink, which is about 43,900,000 million American adults, to put it in perspective. 

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How Sunnyside Can Help

If the moment comes up and they’re open to it, let your loved one know about different resources that can help them stay mindful of their drinking habits. 

Sunnyside can be a safe and private space where your loved one finds a supportive community or even one-to-one coaching. They can track their drinking habits, without any judgment or stress about having to cut back.

They might even meet others in the community and create relationships that help to build up their confidence and self-esteem. 

We aim to offer a place of safety and security free from judgment, where people can learn healthier habits and grow together. You can take the quiz and give the free trial a spin to see if it works for you and your loved one. 

Finally, no matter how hard the situation is, know that there are always resources available to you, whether it’s in-person support groups, therapy, or online apps and chat rooms. Don’t be afraid to reach out and get all the help you need. 

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