Sharing concerns about your drinking is an important step in getting the support you deserve.

Experts agree the benefits of having these conversations far outweigh any fears, particularly because isolation is a major trigger in all types of substance abuse.

“The minute you think you might have a problem, it’s a good time to talk to someone about it,” says Abe Malkin, MD, MBA, founder and medical director of Concierge MD LA a home-based concierge medical practice, and Elite Home Detox, an in-home substance use detox service.

Most people do not know they have an issue until sometimes it is too late, says Malkin, and this is in part because of the normalization of drinking in our culture.

Asking for help is essential.

“Addiction is a disease like high cholesterol and high blood pressure, and it does require a team effort to battle it,” he said.

“The best people to assist in that regard are of course our loved ones who can be trusted to intervene in a non-judgmental way,” he said. “But the first step is having an open discussion about it.”

Preparing yourself and knowing how to navigate the topic with loved ones can help ensure the process is empowering for everyone involved.

Here is what experts have to say about approaching the topic with your loved ones.

Treat the talk like an instant win


“Every case is different, and there isn’t one generalized rule or method for talking to your loved ones about your drinking,” says Patrick Cooke, a conscious sobriety coach who works with artists and creatives to change their relationship with alcohol.

However, having a support network you feel comfortable talking to in the first place is a massive win, he says.

Your support network can encourage you and provide moral support, join you on your sober journey, or help in other ways like driving you to your first appointment or meeting.

“There’s a lot of fear and the like around being labeled as an alcoholic, or uneasiness and paranoia about disappointing your family and being seen as a failure, and all these things can stop us from reaching out,” says Cooke.

But he encourages people to change their mindset about this important conversation.

“It takes a lot of compassion and awareness in order to have the conversation,” he says.

Acknowledging the conversation as a step towards taking personal responsibility is an empowering approach to what can be an uncomfortable topic to discuss.

“So if you have the courage to recognize a problem and get over those fears and actually seek support from your family members, that’s incredible – and highly recommended,” he added.

With this, remember that it matters less about the outcome of a  single conversation and more about being open and honest with your loved ones.

Manage your expectations

Consider your audience and ask yourself whether these people have the perspective to fully understand that you are struggling.

Malkin suggests tempering expectations and recognizing it may take several conversations to get your concerns across. 

“Don’t feel like a failure if your first attempt is met with resistance,” he says.

“Oftentimes, it takes family members time to really understand the struggle that addicts go through before fully accepting them for who they are and then giving them the care that they need,” says Malkin.

He says offering educational materials and inviting them into group settings where they can see how others interact with loved ones who are struggling with substance use can help.

However, you can still get help and change your life even if your immediate family never fully accepts your journey.

Mike Diamond is a former reality TV star, motivational speaker/author, and certified interventionist who is also certified in Neuro Linguistic Programming. 

He has been sober for over 14 years.

He says no one told him to stop drinking or doing drugs, and to this day, his family still does not understand his addiction or his life choices.

In his work as a celebrity interventionist, he sees resistance from family or loved ones as common and attributes it to the environment in which an addiction is created and sustained.

“There has to be some level of dysfunction and trauma for the addiction to be flared,” he says. “You don’t make a disempowering choice if everything is okay.”

This still doesn’t mean you should avoid these conversations with loved ones, though.

Diamond says he advises people with addictions to be honest about their struggles, but expect nothing.

 “What I don’t do is take it personally because that would get me stuck in using,” says Diamond.

“So if it’s the wrong audience, move on,” he says. “The most important thing is to be around people with the same values and rules that you have, otherwise you can’t stay sober.”

Are you ready to talk? If you or a loved one is struggling, call us on 1-844-289-0879 for access to private, confidential 24/7 support.

You can also try some of the following addiction hotline numbers:

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
  • National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) – 1-800-NCA-CALL (622-2255)
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) – 1-301-443-1124
  • The Partnership at Drugfree.org – 1-855-DRUG-FREE (378-4373)
  • National Association for Children of Alcoholics – 1-888-554-COAS (2627)
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255
  • National Institute of Mental Health Information – 1-866-615-6464
  • Alcoholics Anonymous Number – 1-212-870-3400

Last updated: August 19, 2020

About the author

Michelle Pugle
Michelle Pugle

Michelle Pugle is a freelance health journalist who writes for Healthline and a range of other publications. She brings the latest research and expert opinions to her audience in an engaging and accessible manner. Her areas of focus include recovery, addiction, mental health and chronic illness.

Michelle has a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and English from Thompson Rivers University, and a Master’s Degree in Women’s Studies and Feminist Research from Western University. Michelle is the author of Ana, Mia & Me: An Eating Disorder Recovery Memoir.