How to Help an Alcoholic in Denial

Written by Chloe Nicosia

Wondering how to help an alcoholic in denial? Learn some tips from

Trying to cope with a loved one’s drinking problem can be overwhelming, and you may be at your wit’s end. You may have tried everything you know to do but your loved one is still drinking and does not think he has a problem. He is in denial and no matter what you say, he is not convinced. Where can you turn and what can you do? Here are some tips on how to help an alcoholic in denial get the professional help he needs.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) the clinical alcohol dependence definition, or alcohol use disorder, is a physical or psychological dependence on drinking alcohol. To make a correct diagnosis of alcohol dependence there are seven factors to consider, and if your loved one manifests three of these factors for a period of one year they are considered an alcoholic.

The seven factors are:

  • Your loved one has built up a tolerance to alcohol and has to drug more to get the same effects as before.
  • Your loved one exhibits alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
  • Your loved one is drinking alcohol in larger amounts and for longer periods of time.
  • Your loved one is unable to reduce or stop his intake of alcohol.
  • Your loved one spends most of his time getting, drinking and recovering from alcohol.
  • Your loved one had given up social, occupational and recreational pursuits to drink alcohol.
  • Your loved one continues to drink alcohol regardless of its negative affects.

If your loved one exhibits three or more of the factors, he needs professional help to stop drinking. Alcohol creates many adverse effects in the brain and body, and the sooner your loved one gets help the better off he will be. Alcoholism symptoms include:

  • Communication impairment, mental and behavioral changes
  • Cardiomyopathy, stroke, arrhythmias, high blood pressure
  • Liver disease, pancreatitis
  • Cancer of the mouth, throat, liver, esophagus or breast
  • A compromised immune system

This is how to help an alcoholic in denial:

  1. The first thing that your must do is stop all enabling behaviors that are allowing your loved one to keep drinking. Do not give him money, or bail him out of jail. Don’t pay his bills, house, clothe or feed him. It sounds cruel, but tough love forces him to use some of his money to provide for himself leaving less money for alcohol.
  2. If you and other family members have tried talking to him and he is still in denial about his drinking problem, then you will need outside help. You can call an addiction interventionist and plan to have an intervention with your loved one, with the sole purpose of getting him into an alcohol rehab center for treatment. Have his bags packed and ready to go, so you can escort to the rehab right after the intervention. The interventionist will know how to lead the intervention and everyone in attendance must follow his lead.
  3. You can accompany your loved one to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, and have some of the recovering alcoholics speak with him. They may even come to your loved one’s house to speak with him if you ask. The 12-Step program is very effective and beneficial to your loved one, so try to get him to go to a meeting.
  4. There are some don’t to be aware of also. Don’t:
  • Blame yourself for the addiction.
  • Believe everything your loved one says; alcoholics know how to lie and manipulate others.
  • Don’t believe any promises your loved one makes.
  • Don’t preach to your loved one; he won’t buy it.
  1. Try to keep your distance and don’t become too emotionally involved with your loved one’s addiction. As hard as that seems, it is for your benefit not to become emotionally sick because of the addiction. You have to stay strong and begin to take care of yourself. Your loved one will get the message that you are not going to be available at his every beck and call.
  2. Go to Al-Anon meetings to get support and good advice from other people who are facing the same challenges as you.

The best thing you can do for your loved one suffering from alcoholism is to not give up. If the first intervention does not work, schedule another. Keep inviting members of Alcoholic Anonymous to speak with your loved one. And as soon as he is ready to admit he has a problem and needs help, scoop him up and bring him to the rehab center. Let him remain in the rehab for at least ninety days or more, so he has time to heal and receives the education and tools he will need to remain sober when he comes home.