Alcoholic best friend

Dear Clover,124 years ago

My husband has had the same best friend for over 10 years. He is a wonderful person, loving, caring, and a successful doctor. By many measures he appears to "have it all together". However, we have come to realize that his drinking habit has likely crossed the line to alcoholism and are unsure how to help. Because he has so much to lose and doesn't like letting anyone down, he gets defensive whenever the topic is broached. We need to find a way to reach through to him and encourage him to get help. But we also know that pushing too hard will only turn him off and drive him away. How can we create a supportive and non-judgmental environment that, nonetheless, effectively encourages him to get the help he needs?

Frustrated friend

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Advice

Dear Frustrated friend,124 years ago

The first step towards dealing with an alcohol problem is recognizing there is one. If he doesn't admit to there being a problem then it might be hard to help him at this stage. Have there been any negative incidents with his family or work that you are aware of? If so maybe you can talk with his family to come together and point out specific incidents where this is affecting his ability to be a good doctor, family member, friend and hope he sees the issue is serious and that he is need of help.

starfish

Dear Frustrated friend,124 years ago

Alcoholism is a multi-dimensional disease that is very difficult to understand. Making one wrong move could prove to be devastating which is why I suggest you do nothing more at this point. Unless you are willing to put the time and effort into researching and comprehending working alcoholics, back off and let things be what they are.

For instance, I doubt you know what his company policy is regarding alcohol. Since he is a doctor, they most likely have zero tolerance regulations whereas other occupations often have guidelines that are more lenient. He has managed to remain a successful doctor thus far, and given his field, his colleagues are far more qualified to determine if there is indeed a problem with alcoholism. So please stop speculating and keep your assumptions to yourself lest you put his job and reputation in jeopardy.

You are putting your friend in an awkward position by inferring he needs help, and you can expect him to be defensive when “the topic is broached”. It is no different than approaching an obese person to ask why they eat so much. From that perspective, I hope you can see the best thing to do as a friend is waiting until he figures things out for himself and comes to you for help. Until then, don’t encourage drinking by making alcohol available or plan activities where it is served. That is truly the best support a friend can offer.

***I do not condone the abuse of alcohol or drug addiction in any way shape or form.

Aunt_Lucy