It's a too-common scene. Many families walk on egg shells before Christmas Eve dinner or Christmas morning celebrations. We're not talking about your aunt drinking a little too much egg nog once a year and giggling half the night. Someone in the family has a drinking or substance abuse problem, and no one is certain what their behavior is going to look like when the family gets together. Will they show up high or drink continuously while they are at the party? Will they simply "fall asleep" early on the couch, much to everyone's relief, or will they become animated, even dangerous? Do you say something? Do you ban your loved one from coming over? How do you manage this holiday quagmire? Here are four things you can consider doing to prevent addiction from destroying your holiday celebration.
1. Only extend invitations to those you actually want to attend. It may not be popular with your enabling mother who bankrolls your alcoholic sibling, but you're an adult, and if you are the host/hostess, it is your right to invite or not invite whomever you choose. If your loved one is known regularly to become belligerent, abusive and/or violent, don't invite them over. Keep your family safe and the focus on the meaning of the holiday for you.
2. Pre-plan an intervention. Another alternative to keeping your holiday safe, if you know that your loved one has a substance abuse problem, is to call a treatment center and gather the family together for an intervention. This can be an especially good idea if the individuals your loved one respects and listens to will be in town for the holiday. That's the key to intervention success -- having the people the addict most loves and respects in the room during the intervention. Treatment centers are busy with people who come in over the Christmas and New Year period, so be sure the treatment center of your choice has a bed available and have them help you with the intervention.
3. Go to church. Those who are drunk or high, or know they soon will be, don't generally want to accompany you to church. It's awkward. If you center your holiday around religious observance, your inebriated loved one might back out. This won't help your loved one, but it may take the pressure off the family.
4. Don't tolerate intolerable behavior. Maybe you want to give your loved one the benefit of the doubt and welcome them with open arms. However, if your loved one becomes angry, verbally abusive, or violent, call him/her a cab and send them on their way. If they are too belligerent for a taxi, call the cops. It's unpleasant, but you have to keep your family safe.
Sometimes, we don't know our loved ones are struggling. If during your holiday celebration, you notice for the first time, or in a deep conversation you have an initial glimpse into your loved one's substance abuse problem, do your best to find out the scope of their issue and offer help. The tips above are not meant to put a damper on your celebration, but to recognize that clear boundaries must be set and maintained for your loved one to get help and for the family to remain safe. Christmas is a joyful time of year. Don't let substance abuse or addiction destroy your holiday.
Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.