If someone you love is struggling with alcohol use but refuses to get help, it is important to be patient, remain compassionate and avoid arguing or blaming.

More often than not, alcoholics aren’t ready to get help when it is offered to them. With patience and persistence from people who care, however, a person can eventually realize it’s time to get help for their alcohol use.

Even when you help a loved one make the decision to begin recovery, it doesn’t mean the struggle is over. There are still many weeks and months of difficulty and frustration to come. Fortunately, if you remain supportive, patient and compassionate, you can help them regain a life that’s happier, healthier and free from alcohol.

If someone in your life is refusing help, don’t take it personally — but more importantly, don’t give up on them. There are many ways you can help them begin the recovery journey.

Tips for When an Alcoholic Won’t Get Help

There are some general guidelines you can follow when trying to help someone realize they have an alcohol addiction.

Educate Yourself

If you seem like you don’t understand what you’re talking about, it’ll be hard for your addicted loved one to take you seriously or take what you say to heart. To get through to a person with addiction, start by utilizing resources to educate yourself about what they may be going through. The internet has plenty of helpful information related to addiction, and there are many resources you can contact if your questions are not answered.

Be Patient

It may be difficult, but it’s necessary to remain patient. An addicted person will likely never respond well to someone who loses their temper or seems impatient. However, being patient does not mean you should enable a person’s alcohol-related behavior. Know when to remain calm versus when to walk away and draw the line.

Related Topic: Signs of Alcoholism

Remain Compassionate and Empathetic

For people who don’t have an addiction, this may be the hardest part about trying to get through to someone who struggles with substance abuse. Without going through addiction yourself, it’s incredibly difficult to understand the grip that substances can have on a person’s life. As a result, it will be harder to put yourself in their shoes, and you may find yourself wondering why they can’t just stop using alcohol. Remind yourself that it’s never that simple.

Remember to Care For Yourself First

If you do not focus on your wellbeing first and foremost, your efforts to foster recovery likely won’t work. It’s important to establish healthy boundaries. When an addicted person’s behaviors and lifestyle are having a negative impact on your emotional wellbeing, it’s okay to take a step back. Your responsibility to yourself should come first.

In the end, helping an addicted person can be a long and tricky process. If you remain steadfast in adhering to these guidelines, though, you can have a greater chance of helping your loved one recover.

What To Avoid When Talking to a Loved One About Alcoholism

Just as there are guidelines to follow when talking to a loved one about alcohol abuse, there are some strategies you should make sure to avoid.

Do Not Lecture

Lecturing an addicted person about their negative behavior or the consequences of their actions is unlikely to be effective. After all, one of the telltale symptoms of an alcohol use disorder is continuing to drink despite significant consequences like difficulty at work, worsened health and damaged relationships.

You may be tempted to lecture, but the reality is that if someone is unable to stop using alcohol, they are already struggling. If they still drink despite negative consequences, a lecture will do little to change their behavior.

Avoid Blaming the Alcoholic or Making Accusations

If you’re interacting with someone who struggles with alcohol use, chances are that you are feeling frustrated. Your loved one may have neglected family duties or engaged in violent or abusive behavior while drinking. No matter how frustrated you are, placing blame on them or making accusations is likely to make them defensive. If this happens, they won’t be willing to listen to what you have to say.

Do Not Argue With Your Loved One

Alcohol has negative effects on the brain and can lead to irrational or impulsive behavior. This means that when you talk with someone with an alcohol use disorder, they may argue with you, deny that there is a problem or make irrational statements in response to your concern. Avoid the temptation to argue with your addicted loved one — it is not productive.

Can You Force Someone To Go to Rehab?

If someone in your life is clearly in need of alcohol addiction treatment but refuses to go, you may be wondering if you can force them to enter rehab. In extreme cases, family members may have the option to seek civil commitment. To start the civil commitment process, loved ones ask the court to mandate that a person attends substance abuse treatment.

Thirty-five states and Washington, D.C. allow for civil commitment. However, civil commitment laws vary significantly from state to state. For instance, some states only allow a person to be civilly committed for a maximum of a month; others allow for civil commitment that lasts a year or longer.

These laws also state that people who are civilly committed for addiction treatment must meet certain criteria, which may include:

  • Having a grave disability
  • Being dangerous to themselves or others
  • Showing incapacity to make decisions
  • Being unable to take care of their own needs and affairs

Several states have laws that indicate a person must present an immediate danger to themselves or others to be committed. Regardless, it can be difficult to force someone to attend rehab via these methods.

Some people may refuse to enter inpatient rehab because they are worried about giving up their entire lives and leaving behind work and family to enter treatment. If this is the case for your loved one, you may have better luck convincing them to enter outpatient services. This allows them to continue with their usual routine while attending treatment at a clinic during the day. If they’re opposed to residential treatment, they may also be willing to attend support group meetings as a first step.

If you or someone you love needs treatment for alcohol abuse or addiction, The Recovery Village can help. With facilities located throughout the country, we’re able to provide a full continuum of care that addresses both addiction and any co-occurring mental health disorders. Contact us today to learn more about programs that can work well for your needs.

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Editor – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor's in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Jenni Jacobsen, LSW
Dr. Jenni Jacobsen is a licensed social worker through the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker and Marriage and Family Therapist Board. She has over seven years working in the social work field, working with clients with addiction-related and mental health diagnoses. Read more

Asensio, Samuel; et al. “Magnetic resonance imaging structural alterations in brain of alcohol abusers and its association with impulsivity.” Addiction Biology, July 2016. Accessed September 11, 2021.

Jain, Abhishek; et al. “Civil Commitment for Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders: Does It Work?” Psychiatric Services, April 2, 2018. Accessed September 11, 2021.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder.” April 2021. Accessed September 11, 2021.

National Judicial Opioid Task Force. “Involuntary Commitment and Guardianship […]stance Use Disorder.” Accessed September 11, 2021.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.