How To Help When An Alcoholic Refuses Treatment

When an alcoholic refuses treatment for their addiction, it may seem like you’ve failed them. In reality, it can be hard for those struggling with an addiction to alcohol to hear that they have a problem. Oftentimes, alcoholics won’t find success in treatment unless they’ve realized and accepted that they have an addiction.

If there’s a loved one in your life who won’t act on their own, you may feel the need to step in. As this can be a delicate situation, it’s important to think about what to say and do before acting. Use these 10 steps to help navigate the situation at hand, helping your loved one get the treatment that they need.

Paid Advertising. We receive advertising fees from purchases through the BetterHelp links below.

Online Counseling for Alcohol Addiction

Online therapy can help you with long term addiction support. Start your therapy journey with BetterHelp.

Get Matched
Begin Therapy
  • Personalized Matching Process
  • Easy Online Scheduling
  • 20,000+ Licensed Therapists


1. Educate Yourself About Addiction

Before you speak to your loved one about their addiction, it’s important to be knowledgeable about alcoholism. When someone becomes physically dependent on alcohol, they develop an addiction. Those who are addicted to alcohol have an alcohol use disorder (AUD). This often manifests in ways that are visible to others, such as:

  • Being unable to limit the amount they drink.
  • Trying and failing to stop drinking on multiple occasions.
  • Spending a lot of time drinking, purchasing alcohol, or recovering from the use of alcohol.
  • Missing work or school frequently.

2. Understand What You Can And Can’t Do When An Alcoholic Refuses Treatment

When you decide to help someone with their addiction, it’s important to keep in mind what you can do for them and what you cannot. While you may feel the need to admit someone to a rehabilitation or treatment center, you may not be able to do against their will. Depending on the state you live in and the state of their addiction, you may or may not be able to admit them without their consent.

3. Set Up Healthy Boundaries

Deciding to help someone who’s addicted to alcohol can be a big decision, and it’s important to protect your own mental health in the process. Take care of yourself and only do what you’re capable of. Make sure to communicate your boundaries to your loved one and reinforce them. If they break a rule that you’ve established, make them aware that they’ve done so.

Here are some examples of healthy boundaries you may want to set:

  • No drugs or alcohol are allowed in your home or around your family.
  • If they’re arrested, you won’t pay for their lawyer or bail.
  • You won’t lie on their behalf to protect them.
  • You won’t sacrifice the safety of your loved ones or family members.

4. Don’t Enable Them

If you’re trying to help when an alcoholic refuses treatment, the first thing you should do is cut off any financial support or other enabling you’ve been giving them in the past. Don’t ask them to go out for drinks with you and avoid drinking around them.

Putting an end to enabling behaviors and establishing that you want to help them get sober, they’ll see you as a supportive figure instead of someone they can go to when they want to drink.

5. Establish Consequences For Their Actions

Once you’ve made it clear that you’re there to help them and you’ve established boundaries, you should establish consequences. These consequences may be seen as empty threats, so it’s important that you follow through on them.

Potential consequences include:

  • Revocation of financial assistance
  • Eviction
  • Moving out
  • Taking away internet or phone privileges (if you have the power to do so)

6. Encourage Communication Every Step Of The Way

You’ll find more success if you’re able to communicate easily with the person that you’re trying to help. Encourage them to talk to you about missteps they have and challenges they’re facing. It will make it much easier for you to support them throughout the process.

7. Educate Yourself On Different Treatment Options

There are many different treatment options out there for alcoholics, including inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, and sober living communities. Depending on how severe their addiction is, the type of treatment they’ll benefit from may vary.

Inpatient treatment is the best option for those who have severe addictions and require supervised detox. These programs allow patients to live in the treatment facility for a determined amount of time. Outpatient treatment is good for people who have more minor addictions or need to have flexibility so they can continue working or caring for their children.

If your loved one has gone through outpatient or inpatient treatment and they’re looking for a stable place to live, a sober living community may be beneficial. These communities are made to ensure that no alcohol or drugs are present on the premises. They also encourage the participation in programs like Alcoholics Anonymous.

Will My Insurance Cover Rehab?

Check My Coverage

Alcohol Rehab Guide is not affiliated with any insurance.

8. Prepare For Potential Fall Out After An Alcoholic Refuses Treatment

It’s not always easy to help someone get sober, especially if they don’t want to. If you must enforce consequences, you may experience a falling out between you and the person you’re trying to help. As alcoholism often comes with its own set of mental health and anger issues, you may have to step away if they get aggressive or are breaking too many of the rules you’ve put in place.

9. Consider Professional Intervention

There are two different types of intervention that can be attempted. You may attempt intervention with or without the help of a professional.

During an intervention you’ll provide the addict with clear steps, goal, and guidelines to help them get treatment. If you’re uncertain of performing an intervention on your own, you may want to seek professional help.

Need Addiction Support?

It’s time to reclaim your life from addiction. Call now to connect with a treatment provider and start your recovery journey.

- OR -

Enter your phone number to receive a call:

10. Reach Out For Help After An Alcoholic Refuses Treatment

Encouraging someone to get help can be an uphill battle. It’s important to keep resources in your back pocket for when your loved one decides they want to receive treatment.  It may take some time to encourage them, so be patient.

To help your loved one get the help that they need, contact a treatment provider today.

Get help for alcoholism today.

If you or a loved one is ready to overcome an alcohol addiction, reach out today. Treatment providers can connect you with programs that provide the tools to help you get and stay sober.