Motivating alcoholics

Excessive drinking has long been seen as an irreversible, deep-rooted disease or condition. Addiction problems are still deeply rooted, but people no longer speak of a disease or condition but of a bad habit.

Lack of motivation

Lack of motivation is often assumed in problem drinkers, and this is said to manifest itself in denial and resistance . However, this is not a useful approach, because you immediately label the problem drinker and view the person through colored glasses. The denial and resistance probably stem more from an inner conflict between wanting to be helped and the desire for drink. Alcohol also has positive and attractive sides, it is not all bad and devilish.


Is abstinence a condition for a good chance of reducing excessive drinking? Well, no, there is also a gray area between white abstinence and black drinking excessively. If you only say that abstinence is the right way, you will fail completely if you relapse. It is important to be able to distinguish between a relapse and a misstep .

Stages of change

According to Prochaska and DiClimente, there are five stages involved in the process of quitting drinking, the process of change.

  1. The preview stage, people are not yet inclined to stop and sometimes even deny the problems
  2. The stage of contemplation, the consideration of quitting, one has not yet made a decision
  3. The decision stage, one decides whether or not to stop
  4. Active change is initiated
  5. Integrating change into all aspects of life. At this stage one can also relapse and have to start over again

In many cases, problem drinkers do turn to an institution or friend for help, but not all of them have reached the point where they have made the decision to quit. Often a severe emotional event (divorce, death, marriage, pregnancy) precedes the decision to stop or at least reduce excessive drinking. One can help by focusing on these factors and highlighting positive or negative events from all sides as a possible new start or wise life lesson.
To sustain the behavior, it is important to quantify and track steps of change . One learns tactics to deal with temptation and must learn to plan for the long term . These long-term goals should mainly be set up in smaller, achievable sub-goals .


The problem drinker himself will first have to make the decision before you can actually support and motivate him or her properly. Try not to act moralizing and to focus motivation mainly on the self-reliance and independence of the problem drinker. It is his own responsibility . You can help someone set up an efficient system to monitor and register progress and formulate (sub)goals.


  1. Give the problem drinker clear and concrete feedback about the behavior and situation
  2. Try to formulate and present choices and options
  3. Stay in touch with the problem drinker
  4. Try to reduce the attractiveness of the problem behavior



Also visit my Alcohol and Addiction special for more information.
Also visit my Solving Alcohol Problem special for more information.

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