Guest blog: How to talk to loved ones about their drinking

Date Published

30th November 2023

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Angie

Have you had a conversation with someone about their or your drinking, how did it go?

I have had a couple of conversations with more than one person about their drinking. I've always made it clear that friends can discuss their drinking with me if they think it’s becoming an issue, and they would be brave to do so. It can be hard for some people to establish whether their loved ones have a problem because, for some people, a few glasses of wine a night is manageable, but for others, it could become a problem. I've known it was the right time to open this conversation when I've seen changes in someone’s character, which is not the norm in relation to their drinking. After we spoke about it, we discussed it more going forward and they acknowledged their drinking was an issue. 

What lessons have you learned from having these conversations? 

It's important not to make it an intense situation. If you are good friends, you can just sit down with them in a space that's comfortable for them and have a normal conversation - like you would any other day. The important thing is to make sure they understand why you are bringing it up and ensure awareness is there initially. A good technique is to just listen. If they want to get things off their chest, or they feel they've got some concerns, it’s good to sit, listen and be as supportive as you can.

Do you think the UK should be more open about conversations about alcohol?

Alcohol should be discussed more fluently and with less judgment. I think there's an idea that if you drink too much, you're dependent on alcohol - which makes people scared to talk about it for fear of having a label put on them. As a society, we need to change the stigma a little around it.

Angie looking into the camera.

Leon

Have you had a conversation with someone about their or your drinking, how did it go?

It's tough because you're trying to tell someone, ‘I think you've got a bit of a problem’. On one occasion, I tried to have a conversation with someone, but they weren't receptive and denied having a problem, when they clearly did.

You can also start doubting yourself and think; ‘Am I going over the top by wanting to open that conversation? Am I right that my friend has a problem with their drinking?’ But, by having that discussion, you'll make that person more self-aware of their drinking habits and problems. If we can be open and feel comfortable talking about drinking, these conversations will become easier.

What lessons have you learned from having these conversations? 

If you’re worried about someone, sit them down and explain how you’re feeling. Let them know that you’re talking to them because you care, and you can see that what’s happening isn’t good. If a loved one goes over the top with drinking one night, it’s still important to check in with them. But, if you think it’s a bigger problem, and nothing changes, you should speak to them again in a nonjudgmental way. You may get accused of nagging, and you may not get the response you hoped for, but it’s important to plant the seed.

Do you think the UK should be more open about conversations about alcohol?

If struggling with alcohol is something that people aren't talking about, it will become a bigger issue. Talking more openly about it on both a societal and personal level, bringing these conversations out into the open will make people reflect on themselves. As a society, we also need to talk a lot more about the consequences of alcohol abuse and what it can do. I don't think there's enough conversation about that.

A photo of Leon looking into the camera.

Nick

Have you had a conversation with someone about their or your drinking, how did it go?

I've had those talks with others, and they've come my way too. The whole stigma around drinking and the fact that I don't drink myself makes me cautious not to push my thoughts onto people or have them think I'm coming from an entitled place. But chatting with someone could seriously help and might nip a problem in the bud before it becomes a bigger issue further down the line.

What lessons have you learned from having these conversations? 

I’ve learnt that sometimes you can’t sugarcoat it, and you just have to say how it is. Someone might be annoyed at you for raising concern, but if it makes them think about their drinking and challenges their relationship with alcohol, then it was a conversation well worth having. Be mindful that the person who's going through a tough time with alcohol might really want to stop, but they can’t. Or they might want to moderate their drinking, but they're struggling, and they don't know where to start. You could recommend podcasts, quit-lit, suggest following certain social media accounts or look on the Drinkaware website or download their app.

Do you think the UK should be more open about conversations about alcohol?

Drinking in the UK has been normalised, and it's almost like a rite of passage. It's so ingrained into UK culture that it's hard not to get sucked in that weekend binge drinking culture, especially for young males who just want to fit in. I hope that one day, the old age question of ‘Why aren’t you drinking?’ will be a thing of the past, and people won’t be made to feel weird about opting for an alcohol-free beer or soft drink. But the only way we are going to get there is by talking about it more.

Nick looking into the camera.

 

You could also complete the Drinkaware Drinking Check and use your results to open up a conversation with a loved one about their drinking. Take the quick and easy Drinking Check on our website, click here. 

Find out more 

Worried about someone else's drinking

How to help someone who has drunk too much

Help for someone else

Support services