Caring for someone with alcohol problems

Helping to support someone with an alcohol problem is very stressful. As a carer the worry of what could happen can be overwhelming at times. However, there is support and advice available.

Advice from Derbyshire Recovery Partnership (Alcohol Advice Service

When someone you are close to has an alcohol problem you might think that there is nothing you can do to change them, but in fact many people find that if they do or say things in a slightly different way, slowly change can happen.

You may be the person who knows most about the person who is drinking, you know what the triggers are and you will also probably be unfairly blamed for the drinking leading you to feel angry, resentful and let down. You must remember that you are NOT responsible for someone else’s drinking!

You may find yourself unknowingly colluding with them and compensating for them, swinging between being nice to them to keep them happy or getting very angry, issuing threats and saying hurtful things that you don’t mean because you are frustrated. These ways of dealing with the problem can actually give the person who is drinking excuses to carry on drinking and to carry on blaming you!

So don’t let that happen, take control of your situation and put in some clear boundaries. It might help to talk to a counsellor about how to put these in place and then how to maintain them. You can also practice what to say differently to the person who is drinking to help bring about change.

Some basic examples are:

  • Don’t issue threats you are not intending to carry out
  • Try not to label the person who is drinking, terms like alcoholic can push them further into denial
  • Don’t alter plans or cover up for the person who is drinking
  • Don’t challenge them when they have been drinking, choose your time to talk to them calmly
  • Be clear about what you find acceptable and unacceptable
  • Outline the possible benefits for them, yourself, your relationship/ the family/children if they agree to have a go at cutting down their drinking
  • Provide positive feedback if you feel they have done well, avoided alcohol, or cut down
  • Acknowledge how difficult it must be for them
  • Outline the benefits you have seen if they have put efforts into making changes
  • If they slip don’t see this as failure instead continue to encourage them to move forward
  • Tell them about how a counsellor can support you together to work through this difficult time
  • Look after yourself and don’t keep the drinking a secret with those who are close, they can support you
  • Talk to others who have been in similar situations and who have found a way forward
  • Stay positive and encouraging rather than negative and defeatist (even though this can be very hard!)

Derbyshire Recovery Partnership

There is a new service in Derbyshire called the Derbyshire Recovery Partnership. The service is a combined drug and alcohol service (including Derbyshire Alcohol Advice Service) and provides a variety of services including:

  • advice to drug/alcohol users and/or their carers/family members
  • medical prescribing and detoxification
  • a counselling service
  • group based treatment
  • employment support services
  • recovery programmes

You can contact the service on tel: 01246 206514 or 0845 3084010

Derbyshire Carers Association

Derbyshire Carers Association (DCA) offer a support service for carers who look after someone with an addiction. They can also offer a carers asessment for those looking after someone with a drug or alcohol addiction. The assessment will look at the impact that your caring role has on you and will look for support to make things easier for you. You can contact DCA on tel: 01773 833833.

Al-Anon Family Groups

Al-Anon Family Groups provide support to anyone whose life is, or has been, affected by someone else’s drinking, regardless of whether that person is still drinking or not. For some of their members, the wounds still run deep, even if their loved one may no longer be a part of their lives or have died. There are groups running in Chesterfield, Glossop and Derby - you can find the details on the al-anon website

Other helpful websites

This information was last updated on 25/04/2019

Search the Carers Directory

Look for services and groups in Derbyshire to help support you in your caring role


Signup for updates


Get our carers newsletter and blog posts delivered to your inbox