How To Support A Friend Who Is An Alcoholic

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Have you ever noticed all those wine memes that are targeted to moms? I have. In fact, I’ve made a bunch of them and shared them with friends, while thinking about how funny and clever I was. However, while giggling at these funny, shareable messages of drunken wit, I hadn’t considered that for some women the message that these memes send — that you’re a mother and you need to drink in order to get through your day — is dangerous and perpetuates a serious hidden problem.

Then, one day I shared a rather sassy meme equating a peaceful bedtime routine with being inebriated and it hit a little too close to home. For months I had been going to bed only after plying myself with Pinot. And those morning headaches? Those were hangovers.

In fact, in the last two years, I have learned that I need to have rules about alcohol in my life. For example, I can only have a box of wine in my house if I have friends coming over or I’m hosting out of town guests. Otherwise, I will drink it by myself in two days. That equals two bottles of wine a day. I can, however, buy a nice bottle once a week and measure out the acceptable 5-ounce glass and enjoy that with dinner.

And here’s the thing: I’ve realized that I’m not the only one who’s had to come to terms with an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. Some of my mom friends have struggled like I have, and they’ve had to get honest about their drinking and set limits. Other friends are alcoholics and have experienced their worlds flipped around violently as they try to cope with the reality of living dry.

Having watched women who I admire greatly struggle with dependencies on booze and also having had a rather slippery relationship with the bottle myself, I’ve learned there are a lot of ways to support a friend who is trying to get sober. Read on…

1. Remember that you don’t have all the answers. Not even if you Google “how to get sober.” Unless you’re an addiction specialist, your role is purely a supportive one. Don’t forget that.

2. Listen to your friend, without judgment. This will let her know that you’re there for her, no matter what. Ask questions such as, “How are you feeling right now?” and, “What do you NEED in this moment?”

3. Recognize when an intervention is in order. If you think your friend is ignoring you so that she can drink without you knowing about it then call her, text her, and even show up at her house if you need to. She might get upset in the moment, but she’ll thank you later.

4. Don’t make your friendship all about her addiction. There’s more to your friend than her alcoholism. Make sure that the thing that you two loved to do, whether it was shopping or reading books and discussing them for hours, still exists and that it can be untarnished by her journey to sobriety.

5. If the thing you did together was drink, do something else. Yep, you gotta think outside the box and find some new special thing that you can relish without worry of needing booze to fill the void and provide the fun.

6. Help your friend find resources that fit her situation.  If your friend is open to this kind of help, reach out to organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous, as well as local therapists specializing in addiction, and share what you discover; being armed with that information can help her feel empowered to make the first step.

While there may be plenty of taboo about women not being able to handle her drink, there is absolutely no shame in admitting when alcohol has become a problem and that help may be required.

All those wine memes? They should come with a warning that “surviving on coffee by day and wine by night” can lead to addiction. And even though we collectively think it is funny to box mothers into a definition of harried wine guzzling two-dimensional characters, the truth is that we have to work together to make sure that our mom friends are healthy and that when they need help they can get it with genuine support and no judgment.

Photo: Getty