Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility Advocating for yourself – Help With Drinking

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Advocating for yourself

Getting help for a drinking problem can bring up a lot of scary and uncomfortable feelings. This is normal, and there is support available for you to make the process easier. If you decide that you want to get treatment for alcohol use, there are some things you can do to prepare for your visit with a health care provider and make it more likely that you will get what you need out of the appointment.

Getting ready for your appointment

Here are some tips that can make it easier for you to communicate with a health care provider. If you have a friend or family member supporting you and going with you to some of your appointments, it can be useful for them to read this checklist too.


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Get informed

Understanding how alcohol can impact your health and well-being can help you make more informed decisions when talking to a health care provider. Before your appointment, read up about alcohol use and its impact on health and well-being.

Think about what you want

Take some time to think about what you want to achieve. It could be cutting back on alcohol, quitting completely or improving your overall well-being. When you have a clear idea of your goals, it can make it easier to communicate them to others.

Write things down

Before reaching out for help, write down any questions or worries you may have. When you meet with your doctor or nurse, you can look at your notes to make sure you don’t forget to bring up any important points.

Be honest

When talking to health care professionals, it’s important to be open and honest about your alcohol use. Most providers want to help you, and if you tell them the truth, they’ll be able to give you care that is best suited to you and your situation.

Seek non-judgmental environments

Try to find organizations or treatment centres that have a non-judgmental and supportive atmosphere. This will make it easier for you to feel comfortable and understood. If that’s not possible, try to find support from resources online.

Involve someone you trust

If you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed, consider asking for help from a trusted friend, family member or other support person. They can go with you to appointments, help you ask questions and take notes. They can also offer emotional support and help you navigate the process.

Find support networks

Look for people or groups of people who have gone through some of the same struggles as you. They can be a source of support, understanding and inspiration on your journey to wellness. They can help you stick to your treatment plan and stay focused on your goals. Plus, they can check up on you regularly to see how you’re doing.

Setting boundaries

The health care system can be confusing and overwhelming, and unfortunately some health care providers hold negative attitudes, stereotypes and judgments towards people who have struggled with alcohol and other substance use. This can make it hard to reach out for the support you need, and even more so if you have experienced judgment before.


If you feel judged or discriminated against by a health care provider who should be treating and supporting you, remember that it’s not your fault, and you deserve to be treated with respect and empathy. It might be hard to say that you don’t like the way they are treating you, especially if you live in an area where you don’t have many health care providers to choose from, but you have the right to express your needs and expectations.

Here are some tips that can help you handle a negative situation with a health care provider:

Say something

If you’re comfortable doing it, calmly tell the health care provider that their approach is upsetting you or intimidating you. Sometimes calling out the negative behaviour can be enough to make the person stop it.

Bring a trusted support person

If you feel like you don’t have the ability to advocate for yourself, it can be helpful to bring a friend or family member who is comfortable asking questions and speaking up for you when necessary.

Report your concerns

If the situation doesn’t improve, and you think the negative behaviour from the health care provider is intentional, you may want to report it to another staff member at the clinic. If it’s a private clinic and reporting the behaviour to other staff is not an option, you may want to contact the licensing body for health care providers in your province or territory and make a complaint.

Change health care providers

If you report your concerns and things don’t seem to be improving, you might want to look into seeing another health care provider at the same clinic, or changing clinics. If that’s not an option, you might want to look at virtual care, where you can connect with a doctor or nurse practitioner by phone, video conferencing, email or chat.