We all have at least one crazy friend: the friend that gets too drunk at a party, dances wildly on the bar every weekend, and goes home with someone different every other night.
But when does this type of behavior become an issue? How do you tell the difference between a party and a problem? If you think your friend might have a drinking or drug problem, it can be difficult to approach them or the situation. It’s awkward to bring it up and talking about it can be really difficult.
Your friend may become defensive or claim he/she doesn’t have a problem, so it’s important to recognize the signs before approaching your friend.
Does your friend…
- Party/get drunk several nights a week as well as every weekend? Drink alone frequently?
- Stay out late (or not come home at all) several times a week?
- Drink excessive amounts of alcohol and still remain in control?
- Talk about drinking/partying all the time, even during the week?
- Come home in the wee-hours of the morning only to still seem totally awake and ready to party?
- Have horrible hangovers and stay in bed all day until it’s time to party again at night?
- Ever come close to getting alcohol poisoning or become non-responsive after a night of drinking?
- Complain about getting sick all the time due to excessive drinking and/or drug use?
- Often skip class because he/she is too hungover to attend? Have to leave class due to a hangover or illness related to drinking and/or drug use?
- Try to get out of exams/quizzes/assignments due to partying or a hangover?
- Drink during class in order to “pre-game” on Thursdays or Fridays?
- Often try and convince you to party with him/her during the week even when he/she has work to do?
- Steal or “borrow” money without paying it back in order to buy alcohol, drugs or go to the bar?
If any of these signs sound like your friend, your buddy may have a serious drinking or drug problem.
So what happens next? If you think your friend has a problem, you need to approach him/her about it. Instead of attacking your friend, you need to approach him/her in a supportive, non-threatening way that won’t cause a rift in your friendship.
Approach the topic sensitively
Bring it up on a day when your friend has a particularly bad hangover or was extremely sick from drinking. You could even bring it up when your friend tries to get you to go out on a week day when either you or your friend should be studying for a big exam.
Mention that getting that sick is not normal and that it isn’t the first time it has happened. Suggest taking a night off from partying because he/she may have a problem. Gauge your friend’s reaction and go from there.
Your friend will most likely deny having a problem, but this is where you can prepare. Put together a list (mental or written) of all the times he/she has gotten extremely sick from drinking, done things that have ended badly or with regret, and any other problems that have arisen due to your friend’s drinking.
Never blame your friend for what has been happening; blame the ALCOHOL. Tell your friend he/she is a different person when he/she DRINKS. Explain how much you love your friend sober and that alcohol is really getting in the way of your friendship.
You need to let your friend know that his/her drinking is not only affecting him/herself, but also you and the rest of your friends.
Discuss a Plan
If your friend is agreeing with you and wants to get help, you have to be prepared to be there for him/her and show your support.
Offer to stay home on the weekends with him/her (at least at first) so your friend can begin associating the weekends with something else other than drinking. Take your friend to see a movie, order food in, go out shopping, cook a meal together or do something together that doesn’t involve partying.
Offer your ear to your friend. If your friend wants to talk about the situation, then let them talk away. It’s your job as the concerned (and supportive) friend to give them all the care he/she needs.
Be the distraction your friend needs right now to make it through the weekends. If your friends wants/tries to drink, make sure to remind your friend of all the reasons why he/she wants to/should stop.