By Melissa Preshaw — CRC Health Group Director of Community Relations

The other day I ran into an acquaintance. He greeted me with excitement, saying “I need your advice!”

He told me that his Dad, who recently moved in with him and wife, was an alcoholic — and, after doing a lot of online research, he was ready to confront him.

I asked him what made him think his Dad was an alcoholic.

Well, he said, the other day I noticed that he was stumbling when walking. And he drinks 2 glasses of wine every day. In fact, he can’t wait until 4pm to have his wine.

So I kindly suggested that maybe his Dad isn’t processing alcohol like he used to given that he is now in his 80s. And maybe, with the recent change in moving out of his familiar environment, that he is lonesome and hasn’t adjusted to the recent move which might account for eagerly awaiting his 4pm glass of wine.

I cautioned my acquaintance on being too eager to label someone an alcoholic. There are so many factors involved.

No, he said, I am sure. I read all about it online and tomorrow I am going to do an intervention. “An intervention?” I replied (while trying to hide my feeling of alarm).

So, what was my advice?

I said that he should first speak honestly with his Dad – speak from the heart.

I asked him how he felt when his Dad stumbled. “I was mad,” he said.

Why? “Well, I don’t want him to fall and hurt himself.”

So you were afraid? “Yes,” he admitted, “I guess so.”

At that point he visibly relaxed and wasn’t so sure he had it all figured out.  I told him that I didn’t know if his Dad did or did not have a problem with drinking. And one course of action would be to get professional help to determine the extent of the problem.  But if he insisted in confronting his Dad he should do so with an open mind, be gentle, speak from the heart, and ask his Dad what he felt and how they might come to a solution together.

I got an email the following day thanking me – his Dad was responsive to the conversation, and together they would work this out and he promised me he would seek help if things didn’t go well.

This is a great example of how information can be deceiving. Addiction is a powerful and baffling disease. There are professionals who have dedicated their lives to treating drug and alcohol abuse/addiction and Board Registered Interventionists who know how to safely intervene. There are instruments that professionals use to help determine whether someone has a problem and to figure out how severe the problem is. Those instruments are vital in determining best course of action.

It is dangerous to assume that you, as a lay person, can diagnosis alcoholism or drug addiction — and that you are prepared to stage an intervention. Leave that up to the professionals.

If you think someone has a problem make a call and ask for help. And remember: You are not alone.


For more information, the 4Therapy website has a wealth of information about interventions and professional interventionists, and the Alcohol Rehabilitation Center website has information about the warning signs of alcoholism.