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Drinking doesn’t make problems go away – it makes them worse.

For some guys, having a drink is their way to take the edge off stress, but drinking as a way to cope is destined to make things worse. Research has shown that both depression and alcohol abuse can increase the chances of developing each other. [1] Worse still is that alcohol abuse and binge drinking can increase the risk for suicide. [2]

If you’re worried about a guy in your life who seems to drink to cope, don’t stand by and wait for your friend to snap out of it on his own.

1. Know the signs

If you notice a few of the signs below, in combination with some symptoms for depression, then it’s time to stop watching from the sidelines and speak up.

  • Drinking much more, or more often
  • Becoming more withdrawn, and drinking alone
  • Making more rash or risky decisions when drinking

2. Let him know you’re there for him

Sometimes, we only reach out to a friend after he has hit rock bottom. But the earlier you speak up, the better. Try saying something like:

  • “I’ve noticed you look more tired and stressed these days. Is there anything I can help with?”
  • “You don’t seem yourself lately, what’s up?”
  • “The bottom of that bottle isn’t going to help you find solutions, talk to me, I’m happy to listen and maybe I can help.”
  • “I used to think having a drink would help me sleep better too, but I actually discovered the opposite.  I only started sleeping better once I stopped drinking.”

3. Encourage him to talk to a doctor or see a professional

As a friend, your role isn’t to diagnose or provide treatment. If your buddy hasn’t done so already, encourage him to consult a doctor and connect with local resources.

4. Help him reach out to other friends and family

Depending on how close your relationship is, you may not be the best person to provide ongoing support. Encourage your friend to talk to his partner, close friends, or family members.

If you know his other friends or family, it may be a good idea to mention to them that you are concerned about him, so they can take further action to ensure he’s getting the support he needs.

5. Let him know drinking won’t help him sleep

A lot of people think drinking can help them sleep, but drinking actually causes a lot of problems with sleep, as it significantly interferes with your sleep cycle. Drinking makes it harder to stay asleep and get the rest you need.

6. Suggest he cut back on his drinking

Help steer your friend away from having more than a drink or two. This is especially important if he’s already seeing a doctor and taking antidepressants or other medications that aren’t good to mix with alcohol – in these cases drinking can make symptoms worse and the effects of alcohol can be much stronger.

A caution though, if he is a heavy drinker he shouldn’t stop suddenly (this could cause nasty withdrawal symptoms). In this case, encourage him to talk to a doctor to create a plan to reduce his drinking more slowly.

7. Help him find healthier coping strategies

Getting more physical activity is a much healthier way to cope with stress or depression. Instead of drinking, try going for a hike or short walk together – depending on his energy levels. Any amount of physical activity can help.

Simply taking the initiative to help plan something can be very useful, as depression may be sapping his energy or motivation to do much more than open a bottle. More on Stress Management.

8. Stick with him and provide motivation

One of the hardest things about fighting depression is that it can take away your will to get better. Having available sources of support, who listen and lend a hand – even before a guy asks – can be the difference in his recovery.

Get more tips on how to provide support to a man fighting depression.


References

  1. Alcohol and Depression, Addiction, 2011
  2. Suicidal Behavior and Alcohol Abuse, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2010

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