How to Tell Someone You're An Alcoholic | Alcohol Abuse & Recovery

An American Psychological Association survey found that 23% of U.S. adults are drinking more alcohol than pre-pandemic. A report by NBC News found that larger U.S. hospitals had a 50% increase in alcohol-related liver disease since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. Alcohol remains the second most abused substance in the country, with one in eight Americans (12.7% of the total population) meeting the diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder (AUD). 

Considering how to tell someone you’re an alcoholic can feel impossible. It means admitting to battling with dependency. Many fear judgment, ridicule, and stigma associated with alcoholism or AUD. And one of the scariest parts of recovery is anticipating the reaction from family or friends. 

If you’re ready to make a change, now is the time. Our recovery center provides support for individuals working toward sobriety. We also offer family programs that offer loved ones clarity on this debilitating disease and how they can support you in your sobriety. Contact us directly to learn more at (855) 281-5588.

How To Tell Someone You're An Alcoholic

Realities of Alcohol Abuse

Most Americans suffering from problematic drinking will never seek treatment. In fact, in 2019,, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA) reported that only about 10% of those with alcohol use disorder (AUD) entered into a rehab program. There are many reasons individuals deny help, including:

  1. Denial of substance abuse
  2. Fear of recovery failure
  3. Unsure of what to expect from treatment
  4. Feel undeserving of help
  5. Long-standing stigmas
  6. Cost of treatment

In addition, many fear what family members might say. One study on AUDs estimated that about 20% of people who meet the diagnostic criteria for an alcohol use disorder outwardly appear to be highly functioning people. High functioning can be defined as successfully completing educational programs, maintaining steady employment, and balancing personal commitments. 

High functioning individuals with AUD often hide their drinking habits. Secretive behavior is often a tell-tale sign of unaddressed issues but doesn’t clarify how to tell someone you’re an alcoholic. The problem is, not many know what to do or how to approach these difficult situations. 

Why is High Functioning Alcoholism a Bad Thing?

For one, if a person is high functioning and alcohol isn’t interfering with day-to-day living, it’s easy to reason that treatment is not necessary. 

High-functioning alcoholism is not often viewed as “regular” alcoholism either by family members, society, or even by themselves. High-functioning alcoholics do not fit the typical stereotypes such as being unemployed or homeless. Since high-functioning alcoholics can seemingly perform well, their alcohol use does not appear to be problematic. Many with undiagnosed AUD will reason that protecting family members from the truth is the best policy.  

On the other hand, statistically speaking, those labeled as high-functioning are less likely to seek treatment. Given that AUD is a progressive disease, it’s crucial to note that while symptoms of alcoholism may be subtle or even nonexistent, it doesn’t mean that it won’t change over time. As AUD progresses, individuals are more likely to display erratic behavior or even show signs of health deterioration. 

The best policy is to be honest about problematic drinking and seek recovery sooner. 

Telling Someone You're An Alcoholic

Prevalence of Alcoholism in Colorado

If you are concerned that you may have a drinking problem, you are not alone. A CPR report notes that Colorado has one of the highest rates of alcohol-related deaths. It is estimated that alcoholism costs Colorado residents over five billion dollars a year or over a thousand dollars per person.

According to a 2020 America’s Health Rankings report, alcohol is the third-leading preventable cause of death in America. A comparison prepared by Vinepair staff ranks Colorado as the state with the tenth highest number of those with a significant alcohol problem.

How to Explain Alcohol Addiction to Friends and Family

Broaching the subject of alcohol abuse or dependency is an overwhelming feat. Figuring out the best approach to telling someone you’re an alcoholic is nerve-racking, scary, and can elicit emotions like shame, disgust, and regret. However, it’s a necessary first step and a monumental achievement as you work toward your own recovery. 

It’s not easy to tell someone you have an alcohol addiction. It’s one reason most with AUD spend a lot of energy hiding the fact that there even is a problem. 

Why is it difficult to tell loved ones about alcohol abuse?

Family and friends offer unconditional love. So why is it difficult to reveal personal issues with alcohol? 

The short answer is it varies from person to person. Alcohol abuse has the potential to destroy a marriage or other personal relationships, especially if alcohol has contributed to other issues like emotional abuse, lying, stealing, or keeping secrets. Alcohol is toxic for the body, mind, and relationships. It impairs health and happiness and, over time, loved ones can build up resentment. 

First Steps: How to Tell Someone You’re An Alcoholic

Being honest about the extent of the drinking problem is the first step to recovery.

The people you love deserve to know the truth. This can often be hard for a person who has gone to great lengths to hide their drinking. Here are some initial steps to consider when addressing how to tell someone you’re an alcoholic:

  • Be honest with yourself and those you love. If you’re lost, confused, or even unsure what to do next, tell your family and friends that. 
  • Explain how you’re feeling and what’s led you to seek alcohol for comfort. Being vulnerable in these situations makes it easier to stick to the honesty approach.
  • Help those close to you to see what you’ve been going through. 
  • Ask for help or advice. Tell them the plan of action you’d like to take and be clear about what you need help with to achieve those next steps. 
  • Explain what prompted you to ask for help. If you’ve started to attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings, for example, let them know. Aim for total transparency. 
  • Be prepared for disbelief, shock, disgust, anger, or resentment. Remain calm, as this type of news can come as a shock and many are unsure of how to respond initially. 
  • Give yourself time and give your family time. The truth can be heavy, but once it’s in the open and people have had time to process, it makes it easier to understand the best course of action for everyone involved.

Finally, it’s important to feel accomplished when telling someone you have a problem with alcohol. It’s, by no means, easy. However, it can offer a freeing feeling that allows you to move on to the actual recovery process knowing that you’re ready to find sobriety. 

Explaining You're An Alcoholic

Resources for Family and Friends

By being honest with yourself and others, you face your mistakes and shortcomings. With this comes acceptance and the commitment to do better. One of the best ways to prepare yourself for revealing truths to your family and friends is to bring resources. The unfortunate reality is that there’s still ambiguity around alcohol abuse and substance abuse, in general. Many may not be familiar with the disease and might resort to common myths they’ve heard in passing. 

One of the best resources for families of those struggling with any addiction, including alcohol, is The National Institute on Drug Abuse. Here they can find information on:

  1. How to Find Help
  2. Treatment programs and what to expect
  3. Support group information

Looking for more Colorado addiction and alcohol abuse resources? Visit us here.  

AspenRidge Alcohol Addiction Treatment

AspenRidge provides recovery options for Coloradans suffering from alcohol abuse and alcohol use disorder. We provide a continuum of care that addresses substance abuse as well as family issues that arise from alcohol. Our experienced and certified staff takes a phase-oriented approach to long-term recovery with thorough assessments to determine the best level of care for you and your particular situation.

Recently, AspenRidge addiction treatment centers expanded access and programs to focus on family therapy while simultaneously addressing alcohol abuse and recovery. We offer inclusive support for residents throughout the state of Colorado. Our programs include:

Please contact AspenRidge Recovery Centers at 855-281-5588 to schedule an assessment.