Connecting Matters. Where do you draw the line?

Expressing your concerns to someone about their alcohol use is not easy, particularly if they have not acknowledged the problem. However, you can play a critical role in encouraging someone to seek help.

Here are some tips to consider before having this conversation:

  • Make time for a private conversation. Find a time to talk to the person when they are sober. Ensure you have their full attention and the time to listen to what they have to say.

  • Plan what to say. Think about what you want to convey to them, and how they might respond. You may want to rehearse with another friend or seek advice from a trusted professional.

  • Listen. Allow your friend to speak candidly and respond without judgment.

  • Avoid accusation. To do so, try to use "I"-statements. Point to a specific behavior that affects you and with which your friend cannot argue. For example, rather than "You drink too much," you could try framing it as "When I saw you throwing up again last night, I was concerned."

  • Anticipate denial. They will likely react defensively. While their behavior might not change immediately, it is still important that you reached out to them. Change is a process, not an event, and expressing your concern helps to move your friend toward less risky behavior.

  • Meet with a counselor to discuss your concerns. This can help you to better understand their struggle and to brainstorm ways to engage with them. All students can call CPS at (609) 258-3285 to schedule an appointment.

It may help to have a script to follow when preparing to talk with someone. Below are some ideas of what you can say.

  • "When you got really drunk this weekend, you got angry and I was hurt by some of the things you said. I value our friendship and I feel sad when I see how alcohol changes your personality."
  • To help your friend figure out how to seek help, you might say “Can we discuss some ideas? There are a lot of resources available on campus.”
  • If they say they want to seek help, offer support: “We can practice what you’ll say to the counselor.” or “If you want, I can be there with you when you set up an appointment.”