Confronting an alcoholic and getting them to take action is not an easy thing to do. In most cases the effort will prove to be futile but it can still be an important and even necessary step on their journey towards recovery. We do not always know what impact our actions will have and this is especially true when we are dealing with relationships and addictions. Confronting a struggling alcoholic might be one part of a long process that eventually gets them to examine their life and decide to make a change. So the question is not “can I confront an alcoholic and get them to take immediate action?” Instead, the wiser question is to say “How can I confront the alcoholic in a way that will eventually lead them to sobriety?” Part of the problem is our own expectation that we can change the other person simply by talking with them. We might be able to influence them but to change them overnight with one lecture is not realistic. We can still confront the alcoholic and know that we are doing our part without expecting an instant miracle.
There are basically 2 schools of thought when it comes to confrontations such as this. The old school of thought is that you get in their face a bit and try to get them to straighten up and fly right. You try to intimidate, you try to scare them into realizing that their life is screwed up and they are headed down the wrong path, and you basically use an accusatory stance to try and get them to own their disease and hopefully take action to fix it. This approach is an attempt to pierce through the normally thick layers of denial that the alcoholic will typically have.
Now this approach does not work so great and so over time the treatment experts crafted a new approach for interventions. The new technique is to approach the alcoholic from a very loving and caring standpoint in trying to convince them to take action and fix their problem. The idea is not to be accusatory but instead to be loving and supportive. But guess what? This stuff doesn’t really work either.
Now that is not to say that confronting someone will never work, or that it will never help, or that it will never produce the desired results. What I am saying here is that there are no magic bullets and no matter how you confront them, you are not going to get instant results. Go into the confrontation with the knowledge that this is one step along the path. You are doing your part to show support, and one day that might make a difference in getting the alcoholic to change.
Just probably not today. But it is still worth doing.
If you have tried everything else and nothing has worked, you might consider some sort of formal intervention. Just realize that it is not a magic bullet, and it is very likely in fact that it will not produce the instant results that you are hoping for.