How to talk to a loved one while they are drunk?



What is the best way to handle talking to your loved one while they are drunk? My mom often calls me when she is drunk and in a panic and she always seems to try and make all these big decisions when she’s drunk, like asking me for money or asking if she can come live with me until she gets a job.


I imagine talking to someone high is the same. I try to just use comments like “I’m really sorry you’re feeling this way “ “Why do you think you feel this way” Comments to show I’m listening and care but vague enough not to commit it promise anything. Other times I make up an excuse of why I have to go and can’t talk . In my experience talking to someone drunk or high is pointless and they usually don’t even remember the conversation.


This is a tough one! Different kind of high but I can relate in fielding cocaine-paranoia-driven conversations with my husband (they are etched in my memory) - they would go something like this…

Me “are you using?”
Him “no” 3mins later, insert paranoia driven questions.

My aim would be to use conversation to calm him and bring him back to sanity. But frustratingly, over time, I grew to know these conversations all too well. And that despite my best efforts in conversation-kung-fu there wasn’t too much I could do outside of just being there.

Over time I learned for my own sake, that as soon as I recognized he was high I would go into a mode of weathering the storm - because it is hard on me. And I think the best I could do in the situation was to try to draw the connection between paranoia (irrational behavior) and the drug use (cause) to reduce harm in the moment. Maybe defer ‘let’s talk about this when you’re not using.’ And when he was sober later, I may go back to it and point out the thematic behavior over time so that next time he was high we’d had a rational agreement of this happening so when I was in the situation again I might be able to get through to him better.

These conversations are the worst. I feel ya!


It can be very difficult to talk to a loved one when they are under the influence, and despite the substance they are using, in most cases it can seem like talking to a brick wall or to a robot that doesn’t know how to communicate, like Siri.
Me to Siri: Hey Siri, what’s the weather today?
Siri: I’m not sure I understood the question, here are links for water nearby.

When my brother (opiate user) would call me while under the influence I knew immediately from the tone of his voice. I believe having the ability to know off the bat what headspace they’re in can be helpful to us so we can prepare for how we’ll respond to them. In my case, my brother would either fall asleep on the phone from nodding off, and I’d find myself yelling “HELLO” over and over again, or he would want to talk about big issues he was having related to low self worth. For a while I did my best to try and talk him back into a good headspace where he maybe felt more positive about himself, but over time I learned that he never remembered what went on in these calls, and I was in a cycle of trying to engage with someone who was so disconnected, which in turn made me feel angry, frustrated, and resentful. All not good!

Over time, I learned that when I heard that familiar voice on the other line, I would try to not engage in any meaningful conversation, and instead listen to him for just a few minutes, and then let him know I loved him and had to go. For example: “Hey bro, woah sounds like things are nuts right now! I definitely want to chat about this but I’m slammed at work/with a group of friends/about to get on the subway, so let’s touch base later this week. I love you so much!” Then when we would touch base we would either return to the topic or not, it all depended on the situation.

If your loved one is threatening harm to themselves or others while talking to you under the influence, try and find them to make sure they’re okay. If you can’t then try reaching out to whoever they may be with, and worst case you can always call local authorities to go check on your loved one - better safe than sorry.

A note from the Village :love_letter:: Our Coaches are CRAFT certified and uniquely expert in training families to face addiction and get through recovery together. If you are interested in additional support, check out our online CRAFT programs at


Great question @carolzevallos. Similar to some of the answers here - I am more familiar with talking to someone who is high.

Two things I do when my dad calls and doesn’t seem sober:

  1. Give the conversation a time limit. “I only have 10 minutes to talk right now.”
  2. Write down the weird/silly/paranoid things he says, so I have something to remind me if I second guess myself later for having laid clear boundaries or having been a little short with him.


Great examples here from Villagers on how to set boundaries during conversations when their loved one is drunk or high. Thanks all for sharing your experience.