It’s true that an alcoholic is very difficult to reason with. You cannot simply just sit down on a fancy couch and have an intervention chat with an alcoholic loved one and expect that person to change for the better the next day. In fact, talking to an alcoholic is never the answer. You can spend years talking to the person, but you won’t see him change just because of the numerous chats you had. The change is still up to the person, not you. So while it’s true that talking isn’t gonna solve the problem, talking does help in the process. And the long-term results can be very rewarding. Here are the crucial steps to having a meaningful conversation with an alcoholic:
Feed yourself with as much information about alcoholism as you can | You’ve probably been a drinker once, or maybe you’ve never had a drop of alcohol in your life. Either way, you will never understand what it’s really like to be an alcoholic. Reading books and articles, watching interviews and documentaries and listening to audio books on alcohol addiction and dependence will give you a solid grasp on how to approach an alcoholic. Compassion is key, and an informed empathy is the driving force for compassion.
The gathering | There is indeed strength in numbers. Think of all the other people that your alcoholic loved one holds dear to his/her heart and let them know the gravity of the situation. It could be the person’s bestfriend, parents, siblings or other close relatives. Discuss with these people important things that you have gathered from your research; they also need to know the right ways to approach an alcoholic. Most importantly, encourage everyone to approach the person without judgments or any forms of attacking – let them know to focus on the specific events that they have been affected or hurt by the alcoholic in some ways. It is important to not make the person feel like he is being ganged up on solely because of his drinking.
The rehearsal | When it comes to having a conversation with someone who is an alcoholic, it is essential to literally rehearse what you are gonna say and how you’re gonna say it. Just like normal people, an alcoholic can get ceaselessly defensive when confronted about something that he does. This is why you should actually rehearse what you’re gonna say. Yes, an actual rehearsal with one other person would be great, but if you don’t have the time to do so or if you’re just not used to rehearsing lines out loud, simply try rehearsing them inside your head. The thing is that people can sound very attacking and offensive without them even noticing it. So rehearse.
The Conversation | The hardest and also the easiest part of the process – when you actually are face-to-face with your alcoholic loved one and are about to talk. Pick a quiet, private setting that is not too confined and too suffocating. Breathe in, breathe out, and begin your piece. Remember: it doesn’t have to be a work of genius – it just has to be real and straight from the heart. You care about this person. And you’ve done the preparation process for this conversation. Breathe, and the words will flow. And no matter how the conversation goes, the most important thing is…you tried.