I was having dinner with a friend last weekend and he asked me, “What’s the best way to get a person to stop drinking?” I think we all know someone who is teetering on the edge of alcoholism. I get people asking for advice often – telling me they have a friend who is behaving dangerously, asking what they can do to broach the subject.
I have done a lot of research over the past two years, and I am sober – I know what worked for me, but I’m not sure I have the answer, or that there’s a universal solution to my friend’s question. Everyone is different and like the old Paul Simon song, there must be at least 50 Ways to Leave Your… Drinking Problem. I didn’t ask for any details, and he is not the kind of person who uses “friend” when he means “me,” so I knew it wasn’t an immediate issue. I just asked if this friend were aware they were drinking too much and he said, “Yes.”
I’ve thought about this conversation for a week now. First, we were catching up on a lot of things and I didn’t give the question the attention it deserved. Second, I threw out an answer that was one of many options and I want to add to it and answer this question the way I should have taken the time to answer it in the first place (had my mouth not been full of potstickers…).
You’ve heard of “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” this is 10 Ways to Help a Friend to Quit Drinking:
- I do not think you ask how to help a friend, unless you think the friend is in trouble. The first thing to do is address the problem. Sometimes it feels awkward, but honesty is always best, even when met with denial or anger. Say, “I’m worried about you. You seem to be drinking more than you should.”
- Tell your friend to try moderation – that doesn’t work in bad romances (I’ve tried) and I am an all or nothing kind of gal myself, but I know many people who have gotten great results trying moderation. The best part about curtailing your drinking is that it makes you think about your drinking habits. Sometimes that is enough to put up a red flag.
- After addressing the problem head on, suggest that your friend not drink for just one day. This is what I suggested at dinner, by the way, and it has worked for me and for a few others I have suggested it to. The thing about the one day test is this: if you do it, you feel so great the next morning you might try day two and if you don’t get through just one day, when you are actually trying, then you know you need help…
- Get thee to an AA meeting. Just walking through the door of a 12 step meeting will give your friend the feeling they are not alone – it is an epiphany when you are at wit’s end.
- Tell this friend to talk to a professional. I still remember the first time I spoke to a psychologist about my drinking. He’s the one who gave me the best definition of alcoholism I have heard and although I did not quit for eight years after I spoke to him, I still quote his meaningful words, “An alcoholic is someone who always drinks until they get drunk. Even if it’s once a year, they do not stop until they are drunk. Try going for a week, waiting till 5 o’clock and having one glass of wine. See if you can do it. If you can’t, we should talk about your problem.”
- I used to go to Canyon Ranch, but you could take your friend on a hiking/camping trip or a mission get away. Or you could go to a spa close to home. Tell them to get away on a retreat somewhere without alcohol. If they sneak little bottles of booze in their sock-balls or eye the mouthwash, everyone will know this is more than a foolish concern.
- Help them get a personal trainer, or a tutor or someone else who will hold them accountable, early in the morning or late in the afternoon. You really can’t cross train with a hangover or learn French after a 5 martini lunch…
- There is so much information on the internet and in bookstores, and so much non-threatening help. Tell your friend to read, reflect, meditate or pray for guidance. Google “sobriety” or “alcoholism” or “Waking Up the Ghost” and your pal will get an education in their options.
- Suggest they go to treatment – and if it is BAD ENOUGH get their family and friends and a professional together for an intervention. If you love this person, get them help. Do not let them ruin their life because you are polite or embarrassed or unsure of yourself…
- Drop off the key Lee, and get yourself free… Ask your friend this question, “Aren’t you tired of this? Aren’t you exhausted by the lies and the sneaking around and the headaches and memory loss? Don’t you want some relief?”
Then say this my friends, just say this: “PLEASE. LET ME HELP YOU.”