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5 Tips to Support Someone Who Does Not Want to Change

Could I have done more? Was I too harsh? Too easy? An enabler? Should I have kicked him out to scare him straight? Or driven him to an A.A. meeting every night? Should I have told more people? If I had left, would he have stopped drinking? Why did I stay?”

Paula Ganzi Licata lost her husband to alcoholism after 23 years of marriage and six months of rapidly deteriorating behavior. Like many loved ones of people with alcohol use disorders, she tried her best to help. She tried to take him to doctor appointments and rehab centers, she tried to monitor his drinking habits, she tried to convince him to change. But, what do you do if the person doesn’t want to listen?

It’s important to recognize that major behavioral changes take time to achieve and often includes the person going through a number of stages, including precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance and even relapse.

Use these 5 tips to support someone who does not want to change their drinking behavior:

  1. Do not drink with the person.
  2. Do not try to control the person by bribing, nagging, threatening or crying.
  3. Do not make excuses for the person or cover up their drinking or behavior.
  4. Do not take on the person’s responsibilities, unless not doing so would cause harm to their own life or others.
  5. Do not feel guilty or responsible.

As a loved one of someone with alcohol use disorder, your role is to provide support and resources when possible. If the person is unwilling to seek help, you should set boundaries around what behavior you are willing and are not willing to accept from the person. There are also support groups available for family and friends of people with alcohol use disorder and health professionals who can help you think through your options.

You can also get trained in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) and learn how to identify early signs and symptoms of alcohol use disorder and how to respond in the most effective and safe way. The MHFA Action Plan – ALGEE – provides information on how to help someone in need while still protecting yourself. Get trained today and #BeTheDifference in the lives of your loved ones.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Call 911 if your loved one is experiencing an extreme level crisis, including alcohol poisoning, aggressive behavior, suicidal thoughts or non-suicidal self-injury.