What To Do If Loved Ones Are Concerned About Your Drinking

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Maybe you’ve recently found that more and more people are commenting on your drinking, or you’ve even been subject to an intervention by your friends and loved ones. Regardless of your personal circumstances, it’s understandable to feel intimidated and overwhelmed at the prospect of cutting back on your alcohol use. 

How can you know if people’s comments and concerns are valid? What if they’re overreacting or blowing things out of proportion? And even if you realize that you do need to cut back, how can you know which steps are the right ones to take?

In this article, we’ll give you an overview of how you can assess your alcohol use and make an informed decision about cutting back or stopping drinking altogether. We’ll also share some important resources where you can find support.

Assessing Your Alcohol Use

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Your loved ones have expressed concern about your drinking, but how can you tell if they’re right and you actually need to cut back? 

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) exists on a spectrum and can be mild, moderate, or severe. Even if you only have 2-3 signs of problematic drinking, this can be a sign of mild AUD that merits a behavioral change or intervention.

If you’re not sure if your loved ones are being overly critical or if their comments are right, look out for these potential warning signs of AUD:

  • Increased tolerance
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Consuming more alcohol, or drinking for longer, than originally intended
  • Unsuccessful attempts to reduce or stop drinking
  • Spending a lot of time using alcohol and recovering from use
  • Having strong cravings for alcohol
  • Alcohol use interferes with work, school, and/or relationships
  • Alcohol use leads to risky behavior, sometimes causing physical harm1

If you recognize a few of these signs in yourself, it might be time to cut back on your drinking.

Another way to assess your drinking is by using an alcohol use assessment tool, which can give you a neutral perspective on your drinking habits. 

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Communicating With Your Loved Ones

If you feel intimidated or defensive when loved ones talk about your drinking, know that your feelings are completely normal. Conversations around addiction can be highly charged and very emotional, for both you and your loved ones.

One way to ensure that conversations stay productive is to be clear about expectations, needs, and boundaries.2 If you’d like your loved ones’ support in cutting back on your drinking, be explicit with what you’d like them to do. For example, “I’m feeling a strong urge to drink this week. Can we meet up at a coffee shop or somewhere that doesn’t serve alcohol?”

You can also set clear boundaries with your loved ones. If their comments make you feel ashamed or guilty, say as much and ask them to stop speaking to you in that way. You can also set boundaries in conversations by saying things like “I’d like to tell you about how I’m cutting back on my drinking, but I’m not looking for criticism or feedback. Please give me space to try this out in the way that works for me.”

How To Decide on Your Goals

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Your family might be correct that it’s time for a change, but you still get to decide which path and which goals are best for you. 

Identifying an issue with your drinking doesn’t mean that you need to stop drinking altogether. Taking a harm reduction perspective can mean finding ways to reduce some of the negative consequences that drinking has on your life, without cutting it out completely.3

One of the best ways to take action to curb your drinking is to select goals that make the most sense for you and your life. Here are some ways you can identify the best goals for you:

  • Consider how alcohol impacts your life: Does drinking make it harder to get up in the morning? Try setting a goal to stop drinking on nights when you have work or school the next day.
  • Examine your relationships: If you have a loved one who is particularly bothered or impacted by your drinking, set a goal to avoid consuming alcohol when spending time with that person.
  • Prioritize safety: Protect the safety of yourself and others by setting a goal that you won’t drive if you’ve been drinking at all.  
  • Talk it out: Spend time talking with your loved ones, a therapist, your doctor, or a recovery coach to identify the best goals for you.

How To Research and Find Support

Twelve-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous aren’t the only form of support for alcohol use anymore. With the advent of telehealth, recovery coaching, apps, and medication, there are a massive number of sources of support available to you.

Some options for support include:

When you’re evaluating these different options, consider the goals you set for yourself and how these different resources can help you meet those goals. It might also be helpful to ask a friend or family member for support in finding the best resources and programs for you.

How Will Your Life Change?

When you recognize that your drinking is a problem and you decide to cut back, your life can change in many different ways. 

Cutting back on alcohol will change your life for the better in the long term, but you might experience some negative consequences at first. You might feel some withdrawal symptoms or some changes to your social relationships, especially those relationships that involve drinking. You might also experience some judgment or confusion from people in your life, especially if they didn’t know you had a drinking problem.

In the long run, cutting back on alcohol will have a positive impact on your life. You’ll see improvements in your physical and mental health, you’ll have more energy, and you’ll sleep better. You’ll also save money and will probably improve your relationships with the loved ones who were concerned about your drinking in the first place.

That said, making a change is often a long journey, and you have every right to contemplate it on your own terms before diving in. When you’re ready to get started, we’re always here to help. Our program is private, judgment-free, and you don’t even need to consider yourself an alcoholic to join. Learn more about how Ria Health works.

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Written By:
Chelsea Hetherington, Ph.D., ACC
Dr. Chelsea Hetherington is a developmental psychologist, freelance writer, coach, and consultant.
Reviewed By:
Evan O'Donnell
NYC-based content strategist with over 3 years editing and writing in the recovery space. Strong believer in accessible, empathic, and fact-based communication.
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