How to Help an Alcoholic Uncle

How Can You Tell If Someone Has A Drinking Problem?

Family InterventionIt’s sometimes difficult to tell whether someone has a drinking problem or whether they’re simply a social drinker who occasionally over-indulges.
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It can be difficult to figure out how to help an alcoholic uncle. Even though you see your uncle's destructive behavior, he might not see it for himself, and he won't be willing to get help until he's ready to admit that he has a problem. The good news is that you can get help for yourself rather than getting lost in your uncle's addiction. Consider calling 800-861-9454 or filling out a quick contact form to get the help you need. By focusing on yourself, you'll make it easier for your uncle to see he needs help too, so getting help will ultimately benefit you both.

What To Do When My Uncle Drinks Too Much

If your uncle drinks too much, you might feel responsible. Since you love him, you want him to stop drinking. You can't directly stop him - he has to decide for himself what, if anything, to do about his drinking - but some of the following behaviors can help him get ready to stop drinking:

  • Stop making excuses for your uncle's drinking or hiding the fact that he drinks. If you're close to your uncle, people might say something to you if he drinks too much. It's natural to want to defend him or excuse his behavior, but doing that doesn't help him because it allows him to avoid the consequences of his drinking. Instead of making excuses, tell people to talk to your uncle about his drinking if they have concerns. In addition, don't avoid family parties or other social events because of your uncle's drinking. You can tell people the truth if they ask why he isn't at a party; this might also help him realize that he has a drinking problem because it's out in the open where everyone can see it.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA, the 12-Step Program)

    Inpatient Alcohol Treatment Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a group support program for recovering alcoholics. It is accepted worldwide as one of the most popular self-help vehicles for people fighting alcohol dependence and addiction.Read More

    Talk to your uncle about his drinking when he's sober and you're calm. Once your uncle's started drinking, talking to him about it is pointless. He can't think clearly when there's alcohol in his system, and talking about it might make him defensive or cause him to lie about how much he's already drank. Instead, wait until he's sober and then bring up the issue calmly. Try to focus on how much you love him and are concerned about him; if he feels you're accusing him of something or are angry at him, he won't be able to listen to you. For example, it's easier for an alcoholic to hear, "I'm concerned about how much you drank last night. Are you okay?" than, "You got drunk again, didn't you? You need help."

  • Decide what behaviors you can't put up with and what you're going to do when they occur. You must set limits on your uncle's behavior for your own protection. The purpose of setting these limits isn't to punish him for bad behavior, but to deal with his behavior in a productive way that benefits you instead of harming you. For example, if you can't stand talking to your uncle when he's drunk, you can tell him, "I can tell you've been drinking. We'll talk when you're sober." when he drunk-dials you and then hang up the phone. Setting limits can test your patience because your uncle may call over and over or react angrily to your new behavior, but if you refuse to give in you can really help him. The more you set these types of boundaries, the more your uncle is forced to face the consequences of his actions, which can motivate him to admit he needs help.
  • Don't shield your uncle from the consequences of his actions. Alcohol abuse can cause people to suffer all sorts of negative consequences - everything from the loss of their relationships to time in jail. Since you love your uncle, it's hard not to step in to help him when something negative happens as a result of his drinking. However, this kind of help enables him to keep drinking without consequence. If your uncle is ever to recover from alcoholism, he must face the consequences of his actions. For example, if he's arrested for drunken behavior, don't bail him out of jail - let him sit there and learn his lesson. It takes a lot of strength to do this and it can be painful for you at times, but this type of "tough love" can help him see what he's doing to himself and motivate him to want to stop.
  • Consider getting help for yourself. It's easy to get lost inside your uncle's alcohol problem. If you're not careful, your life can become centered around whether or not he's drinking. Therapy or counseling can help you learn to put the focus back on yourself rather than on what he is or is not doing. In addition, you may find Al-Anon meetings helpful. Al-Anon is a 12-step program for the friends and families of alcoholics.Some people find it helpful to get support from others who are dealing with alcoholic relatives while they go through the process of detaching from the alcoholic's behavior.  It may also help your uncle for you to get help because over-focusing on him instead of you can interfere with him facing the consequences of his behavior.

If My Uncle is an Alcoholic, Where Do I Get Help?

Regardless of where your uncle is in his struggle with alcohol, help is available both for you and for him. Consider calling 800-861-9454 or filling out a quick contact form. Alcoholism can destroy lives, but it doesn't have to destroy yours. Call today and get in touch with a counselor that can help you see how to help your alcoholic uncle by helping yourself.

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