Healthy Living

Alcohol Use: Conversation Starters

Two young women walk and talk together.

It takes courage to talk to a family member or friend about a drinking problem. These tips can help.

Be prepared.

  • Before you talk, take some time to accept your own feelings. It’s normal to feel nervous or upset, but try to be calm when you talk with your loved one.
  • Practice what you’ll say. Try writing a script or roleplaying the conversation with a friend ahead of time.
  • Plan to keep it brief. Try focusing on just 1 change that could help your loved one.
  • Find a good time and place to talk. Wait until you’re both feeling calm and you can focus on the conversation without distractions.

Keep it positive.

  • Use positive language. Instead of “I wish you wouldn’t drink every night,” try “How about trying a few alcohol-free nights each week?”
  • Focus on the benefits of making a change. You can ask, “Wouldn’t it be great to spend more time together as a family?”
  • Emphasize that quitting drinking or drinking less is possible. You can say, “Lots of people have struggled with alcohol. You’re not alone, and it can get better.”

Get specific.

  • Give specific reasons for your concerns based on what you see and feel. You can say, “I’m worried about your drinking because I’ve noticed you’ve been missing work.”
  • Make specific suggestions. Try saying, “Let’s do things that don’t involve drinking. How about seeing a movie?”

Offer support.

  • Show that you understand. Say, “I know that drinking less is hard for you. How can I support you?”
  • Be available for your loved one. You can say, “Talk to me when you want a drink. Whenever you feel the urge to drink, you can call or text me instead.”

Make a plan together.

  • Work together to make a list of goals. Choose 1 goal as a first step — like taking 2 nights off from drinking each week. Make sure it’s something you can measure easily.
  • Set a date to talk again and see how it’s going. Offer encouragement if it’s going well, and set different goals if it’s not working.

Get help.

Content last updated August 17, 2023

Reviewer Information

This information on alcohol use was adapted from materials from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Reviewed by:
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

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