Tough Talk: How To Deal with a Drunk Family Member Over the Holidays

The holiday season is when most people make an effort to bring some cheer to the darkest, dreariest days of the year. It’s a pretty good deal, overall. The days are short and usually cold and dark. But the people you meet are generally full of holiday spirit. Until the family gets together. Then the darkness can surface and if you don’t know how to deal with a drunk family member at a gathering things can get awkward.

All of the holiday cheer in the world can’t undo the heartache of watching a loved one who is battling addiction. One of the most significant stressors during the holidays is figuring out how to deal with a drunk family member in a loving way.

Somehow it seems the holidays bring out this behavior the most. If you or a loved one has an addiction or substance abuse problem, reach out to the team at Fair Park Counseling for help.

What Makes the Holidays So Difficult?

The holiday season creates a perfect storm for those who drink too much. It seems that everywhere you turn, alcohol is available. And when you add in Forced Family Fun in the form of holiday dinners, outings, and parties, a lot of emotions can surface. When highly-charged situations have alcohol included, it can be a recipe for overindulgence and drama.

Counselors and therapists across the nation see an uptick in scheduling during the holiday season. So you are not alone if you feel stressed during these months. For some people, it is not the most wonderful time of the year.

Five Tips for How to Deal With a Drunk Family Member

So how do you handle this situation during the holidays? Do you cancel Christmas or not invite the person in question? While both of these choices would allow you to avoid an uncomfortable scene, you don’t have to go all Scrooge.

There are plenty of options for you to deal with a drunk family member. And most of them have to do with planning and prevention. If you can avoid having someone become inebriated in the first place, you will enjoy a more peaceful gathering.

1. Keep It Dry

No law says that a holiday family gathering needs alcohol. There is a good chance that emotions can survive intact if there are no adult beverages available at all.

So many people equate parties with drinking that it can be difficult to imagine a sober holiday event. But if alcohol continually creates problems for someone in your family, keep it out of the equation when possible. If your family is serious about helping the person who is struggling with substance abuse, then this is the first step.

In addition to supporting the person who has an addiction, a dry gathering also ensures the children and young adults in attendance see that events can be fun and joyful without alcohol. This is an important lesson to teach.

2. Keep Everyone Full and Hydrated

If you are going to be serving alcohol at a family dinner or gathering, then make sure you provide plenty of food and non-alcoholic drinks, too. Party guests with a full stomach tend to drink less because they feel full. Snacks and water will also help people metabolize alcohol more safely so that someone doesn’t go from sober to out-of-control drunk in a matter of moments. If you don’t want to have to deal with a drunk family member, keep the cheese dip and little smokies coming.

3. Have the Party During the Day

Nighttime seems to be the right time for most people to indulge too much. If you have ever been to an afternoon wedding that ends before dinner time, you likely noted a stark contrast to weddings that last into the evening. The difference is in how many drunk people are in attendance.

This is not a coincidence. Most people don’t get rip-roaring drunk at three in the afternoon. Are you dreading the family holiday party because you don’t know how to handle the heavy drinkers? Consider having the event in the afternoon and ending it before dinner. This simple change can keep things running smoothly and allow all of your guests to have a good time.

4. Introduce Something Different

If you feel that a dry holiday event simply won’t work for your family, try something completely different this holiday season. Instead of the same old party, with the same people and the same problems, consider a change of scenery. If the weather allows, try getting outside for a family hike or game of football. Sunshine and fresh air do wonders for the body and mind. Learning how to deal with a drunk family member might take some creativity but it’s well worth it.

If the weather keeps you inside, consider doing something fun, like roller skating or going to the movies. If old traditions create unhealthy situations for someone in the family, then it may be time to start new ones instead.

5. Avoid Political Talk

No matter the administration, politics, and family gatherings never mix successfully. Highly-charged topics like money, religion, and politics are almost guaranteed to create friction and conflict among friends and family. And if alcohol is in the mix too, the outcome is probably going to be toxic. Keep the small talk light and away from heavy topics.

6. Have a Conversation

Nothing can replace open communication as a healthy tool to support a struggling loved one. As you prepare for the holidays and how to deal with a drunk family member, it may be time to have a heart-to-heart with them. You can clarify your hopes and expectations for them during upcoming events.

This can be an excellent opportunity to talk about a serious subject with planning and compassion. It may even provide a chance to discuss treatment for addiction and substance abuse.

Fair Park Counseling Can Get You Through the Holidays

This holiday season, choose to offer a gathering that is festive and merry for all. Plan and prepare with care so that you can enjoy a peaceful time with your family without worrying about how to deal with a drunk guest. If you do have to deal with a drunk family member and need help, contact our counselors today.

And when it’s time for those tough conversations, remember that Fair Park Counseling is just a phone call away. Our team of therapists offers help for substance abuse and addiction and is here to help.

Schedule Your Appointment Today

If you are suffering from mental-health issues, you are not alone. Our evidenced-based outpatient counseling programs can help you feel better.

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