Binge drinking is a widespread problem in the U.S. Data shows that one in six Americans tends to binge drink from time to time – with 25% of them doing it on a weekly basis. Binge drinking can not only affect a person’s health but can also have social and economic consequences. People who binge drink are at a higher risk of being involved in accidents, having marital troubles, engaging in domestic violence, and contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
If your friend or family member has a binge drinking problem, it is important for you to talk to them and make sure they get the help they need to stop binge drinking. Given below are six things you need to know about talking to a friend or family member about their binge drinking problem.
First a Word of Caution: Domestic Violence
If you’ve experienced domestic violence by your heavy drinking or drug using partner we strongly urge you to get professional help to guide you in this process. You may contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 to speak with trained advocates who can help you. Using these strategies here could put you at increased risk for your loved one becoming violent again.
The best time to talk to someone about their binge drinking problem is when they are sober and relaxed, and not when they are drinking alcohol. Avoid bringing up the subject when they are drunk, angry, upset, or sad.
Make sure you talk to them in a quiet, private place. You can make your point about the harmful effects of binge drinking more convincingly when the other person trusts you for respecting their privacy. Focus on the binge drinking facts to make your points more convincing.
Do not tell them straight away that they have a binge drinking problem. That’s likely to lead to the other person becoming defensive. Instead, put a positive spin on how much you enjoy being with them and doing things when the person is sober. And the flip side is your reaction to them when they’ve been drinking. Always phrase your reactions though as how you feel or react rather than putting the blame on the person.
Your goal is to convey how much you prefer them sober and won’t want to be with them when he/she is drinking.
People who drink excessively can be very defensive about their drinking habits. So, you can expect your friend or family member to take the other side of the “coin” and insist that they are completely fine. They might even get upset or angry with you for bringing up this topic.
If they do, be patient with them and help them understand that you are not trying to judge them. Tell them that you love them and have nothing but their best interests at heart.
You are unlikely to get through to them on your first effort. So, be prepared to talk to them as many times as you need to in order to help them understand that they need to make changes in their drinking. Highlight the concerns you have about how their drinking is negatively impacting your relationship, your children, and other family members.
Watch Your Words
Avoid words like alcoholic, alcohol abuse, substance abuse, or addiction. Maintain a high sense of empathy and compassion with someone when you are attempting to discuss the concept of excessive alcohol consumption.
Similarly, do not assume that they might be suffering from alcohol use disorder. Many people with a binge-drinking habit may not suffer from alcohol dependence or alcohol use disorder, although they are at higher risk compared to moderate drinkers. There is no need for you to treat them like a patient.
A Valuable Self-Help Manual for You
Some colleagues of ours, Drs. Robert Meyers and Jane Smith have developed and evaluated a protocol to help family members and concerned others address heavy drinkers and get them motivated to change their drinking (or drug use). It’s Getting Your Loved One Sober: Alternatives to Pleading, Nagging, and Threatening. This $10 book is invaluable and we highly recommend it.
At CheckUp & Choices, we offer a scientifically designed program that can help binge drinkers and people struggling with other kinds of drinking problems moderate their drinking habit or quit drinking for good. Our methods have been evaluated through randomized clinical trials and have been proven to work effectively.
If your friend or family member is battling an alcohol or substance use problem, introducing them to CheckUp & Choices might be the best thing you can do for them.