How to support someone who has stopped drinking

Want to support a friend or loved one who has stopped drinking, but not sure where to start? Find out how you can help here.

Supporting someone else with challenges

Supporting someone who has stopped drinking is a great thing to do. Here are some things you can do to look after your friend or family member, and yourself.

When to speak to a professional

If someone is dependent on alcohol or thinks they might be, it's important they don’t stop drinking suddenly as this can be dangerous. Safely cutting down or stopping needs to be managed by a professional. Contact a local service or speak to your GP for support. 

If they have any of these symptoms, get medical help as soon as possible:

  • Shaking, trembling or seizures (fits)
  • Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there)
  • Confusion
  • Nausea (feeling sick) and vomiting
  • Racing pulse or heart rate

This could be physical alcohol withdrawal, which is a medical emergency. A doctor will be able to assess their risk and suggest treatments to keep them safe and help them feel better. If they are unwell then do not hesitate to call 999. 


Detoxing from alcohol can be dangerous - alcohol services can offer support (emotional and psychological) as well as medication that can reduce the risks of stopping drinking and also reduce the risks of relapsing after stopping drinking. Read more about alcohol withdrawal.

Help them to eat healthily

Someone who’s stopped drinking may not feel like eating and drinking.

Help them stay hydrated by offering them non-alcoholic drinks. Avoid coffee, energy drinks and anything else with caffeine, as these can make it harder to sleep.

You could also consider preparing healthy foods in advance, so there’s something ready for them when they do feel hungry.

People who have stopped drinking often crave sweet foods. Fresh fruit makes a healthy alternative to sugary snacks.

If your friend or family member is struggling with cravings for alcohol, see our advice on how to handle cravings.

Suggest ways to relax

Someone who has stopped drinking may feel stressed, tense or worried. Simple relaxation tools like breathing exercises could help them feel better.

You could also try listening to music, taking a walk in nature or doing something creative.

Set some healthy boundaries

When you’re focused on supporting someone else, it’s especially important that you also look after yourself.

Someone who’s trying to stop drinking might behave in ways that are harmful for them and for others, which is why it’s so important to set healthy boundaries.

These are the limits we have when it comes to other people’s behaviour. For example, you may draw the line at being lied to, being sworn at, or having alcohol in your home.

Keeping boundaries can be difficult. But in the end, they will protect both you and the person you care about.

Try to have calm, positive conversations

In difficult situations, it’s easy to start saying negative things or blaming each other.

To help, we’ve collected some simple communication tips to encourage calm and positive conversations.

These will help you:

  • know when it’s a good time to talk
  • encourage your friend or family member to open up and be honest
  • say how you feel without making the other person defensive

Help them through lapses and relapses

A lapse is when someone drinks after not drinking for a while. A relapse is when someone goes back to drinking regularly.

Lapses and relapses can be frustrating, but they’re a normal part of the process when someone has stopped drinking.

A single lapse doesn’t mean someone has failed. With support and encouragement, they can avoid a full relapse.

If someone does have a full relapse, it might make stopping more difficult - but if they have managed it once, they can do it again.

You won’t always be able to prevent lapses or relapses. But you can make them less likely by knowing a person's triggers: the situations that make them crave alcohol. Alcohol services can offer support in preventing relapses. This support can be psychological, emotional as well as medical (alcohol services can offer medication that reduces the risk of relapse).

Find professional support

You don’t have to go through this alone: we can help you find professional support. If the person you're concerned about is not already attending an alcohol service, we can help them.