What to do when a loved one is refusing help? And the drinking is now life threatening



What can you do when a sibling doesn’t want to stop drinking, even though he’s been told it can kill him, and doesn’t want help?


This is a really tough one because it makes us ask ourself what can we control and what can we not control. Unfortunately, you will not be able to control whether or not your sibling drinks. You won’t be able to be there with him/ her all the time. If they are forced into a rehab it may work for a time. Not sure if they have gone to one yet… but unfortunately if they do not want to stop for their own sake it will be a difficult battle for them. Like most of the post mention it’s all about the love. This you can control. You can show them how much you love them and spend time having fun together. Show him/her other ways of having fun without drinking. Maybe you can get to the bottom of why they feel such a need to drink in the first place. Hope this helps. Sending much love. :heart:


I can relate to this so much! It can be very hard to encourage a sibling to get help. I think communication in these scenarios is key. But if you fear that your loved one may be a danger themselves or others at any time, please call 911 or take them to the nearest emergency room - withdrawal from alcohol can be dangerous and should be medically monitored!
In terms of this situation I think it’s best to move forward with curiosity about what the substances did for your sibling, or what not being fully engaged does for them, in a non-judgemental compassionate and empathetic way. Let them know you want to have open dialogue and you’re there for them and want to understand what their journey has been like. This will allow them to let their defenses drop and engage more fully with you.
This is a good flow to follow when preparing for communication with your sibling:

  1. Ask permission to have a conversation: by doing this you allow them to invite you in rather than intrude, it allows them to be an active participant in the conversation (who has a voice that is heard) versus a passive recipient. By asking permission you increase the likelihood that they will listen to what you have to say and be open and receptive. If not to talking about their addiction, at least it will allow a place to engage in some conversation related to their life and making it more enjoyable.
  2. You can now provide them with information you may want to share: offer, don’t impose, provide options to achieve the goal (to stop drinking they can go to AA (you can go with them), go to a therapist, talk to her doctor, go to group therapy, etc), if there is disagreement flow with it so it reinforces that you want to be an ally in helping positive change for the both of you. In addition, like @carolzevallos mentioned, it may be helpful to offer activities that could be fun to engage in together! This reinforces the ability to enjoy life without substances.
  3. Check back in with them by asking “does that make sense to you”, or “I just want to check back in about…”

A few tips for when you engage in this communication:

  • Express empathy and acceptance toward their concerns.
  • Find a distinction between present moment behavior and the end result they actually want. (ex: if I know that the person I’m concerned about wants to feel connected (as we all do) and I speak to them in a way that divides us, I am actually reinforcing intoxication. This motivates me to find a different approach, regardless of prior dynamics of ways in which we communicated.)
  • Choose something other than arguing. No matter what. Confrontation forces a win/lose situation. A divide. A hierarchy, an inequality. Reinforcing intoxication. - ex: Basically if it gets too heated, take a deep breath and walk away.

I hope this helps, ultimately it really is about making a more meaningful connection.


THank you both for your thoughtful replies. A complication is that he does not live near family and his polio has weakened his mobility to the point that it’s difficult to bring him up to visit us.
We have been trying the love and compassion route but he does not want to seek any help. He is depressed and also won’t take any help. He’s isolated and doesn’t want to be social which compounds the depression and drinking. We’ve surfaced the idea of moving to more of a community, with physical therapy services and support but so far he’s declined.
We’ll just keep trying.


One idea is to write your brother a love letter - all the things you love about him, his unique qualities and strengths, and the happy memories you’ve shared with him. Wishing you happiness! It’s so tough to see a loved one struggle.


I wonder if there are times when he considers wanting to change? Those are the moments we want to seek out to wedge open the conversation a little bit more and question intentions and desires - getting their buy in to have this conversation helps, and leading with love and their best interests always.

We know ‘motivation to change’ can change day-to-day, hour-to-hour, minute-to-minute. It’s likely he does feel some downside to the drinking if it is negatively affecting him and may have some motivation to change in there. But there can also be a major sense of powerless over feeling able to change when addiction has set in.

Do you think he’d consider a few sessions with an addiction specialist / counselor / therapist to see if they could help?


Unfortunately, he really does not want to change. He has been in various stages of depression for decades; I brought him to a therapist years ago and his feedback was that he couldn’t help my brother if he didn’t want to be helped, which he didn’t. He is in denial that he is an alcoholic and he has only recently acknowledged the depression but he continually refuses any offer of help. He’s 69 so changing his habits and outlook at this stage is a major challenge.


Initially my thought is find another therapist that works with people who are ambivalent about change. A therapist who says something like “I can’t help him if he doesn’t want help” is not what anyone in this position should be looking for. Rather, looking for someone who is willing to get him to understand he needs help (Motivational Interviewing) would be better. The age does pose a challenge, but if he’s acknowledging the depression he’s acknowleging a need to better his life in some way. So if not an addiction counselor maybe a therapist who looks at the whole picture, addressing the depressoin first would be helpful.

I also wonder if they’ve heard anything from his doctor about his health? Liver concerns, etc…


Here’s a radical suggestion and please do what you wish with it - “How to Change Your Mind” by Michael Pollan talks about the research being done with psychedelics in controlled settings to treat depression and alcoholism.