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How to Break through
Someone's Denial about Alcohol?

by Brenda Wolfe, Ph.D.

How do you break someone out of a cycle of heavy drinking and denial of a problem? Everything I try seems to no avail. Any ideas?

Helping a problem drinker to "see the light" so to speak is never easy. In fact, most concerned friends and family find that the harder they try to convince the drinker he or she has a problem, the more the drinker denies the problem. However, if you take a more positive approach, researchers at the University of New Mexico's CASAA have shown that you can improve the chances of getting your drinker to agree to treatment.

Their method is built on the idea that if you make it more enjoyable to be sober than drunk, your drinker will gradually come to value not-drinking. Thus, your objective is to make it clear (in a pleasant way) that you love your drinker and enjoy his or her company but only under sober conditions. For example, you might say to your husband who shows up drunk for dinner, "Honey, I really enjoy having dinner together but love you too much to enjoy seeing you drunk. If you come home sober tomorrow, I will prepare your favorite meal but if you come home drunk, I will go to my sister's for dinner." Then, of course, you must follow through and make sure that dinner is pleasant if he comes home sober and you really do leave for the evening if he comes home drunk.

About the Author:

Robert J. Meyers and I wrote a self-help book for people who are concerned about their loved ones' drinking and need help getting them to give up their denial. The book is called "Get Your Loved One Sober: Alternatives to Nagging, Pleading, and Threatening (Paperback)".

Originally published 2/19/98
Revised 8/15/08 by Marlene M. Maheu, Ph.D.
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