My friend is drinking too much. How can I help her?

Psychologies' agony aunt Mary Fenwick offers some words of wisdom on helping a friend

By

My friend is drinking too much. How can I help her?

I think my friend has a drink problem – she can easily down two bottles of wine in an evening. When we go out, I suspect she also drinks before she leaves her house. She’s now in the process of splitting up with her husband and I’m worried that she’s drinking even more.

I don’t want to judge my friend, but I do want to support her. However, I don’t know how to approach it. If I’ve even hinted at her drinking before, she just snaps at me. I’m beginning to dread seeing her and coping with her drunken behaviour. Do I say something? Or do I let the friendship drift away? But then I feel like a terrible friend. Help! Name supplied

This concern is bigger than both of us, and no-one has found the magic wand to solve it yet. Let’s start by putting the concept of a terrible friend to one side. You are being a friend by caring enough to ask these questions.

This is my question though: 'you can see what the drinking is doing to your friend, but can you see what it is doing to you?' These feelings of worry, dread and fear (of being judgemental or judged), are not friendship. I know it’s hard to follow, but I’d advise you to set limits on your involvement in this drama. Try half an hour of listening, once a week, or send a card to say you’re thinking of her.

Check out the Al-Anon website, where I found the question quoted above. I called the helpline to check that it offers support to friends as well as family.

You are probably not the only one agonising about your friend, and she will not be alone when she seeks help, but you cannot fix this on your own.

Mary Fenwick is a business coach, journalist, fundraiser, mother, divorcée and widow. Got a question for Mary? Email mary@psychologies.co.uk, with ‘MARY’ in the subject line

Photograph: Corbis