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Christian Living

TheRelationshipCafe 11/27/07

Alcohol and the Holidays

As I enter the shopping mall, lights twinkle in the store windows and Christmas music announces the upcoming holidays. I’m receiving emails of from friends and family as plans for getting together are well underway.

Anticipation mounts as we prepare for the festivities--and many are getting anxious.

Much of the anxiety concerns the use of alcohol at family gatherings.

What’s the big deal about alcohol? We’re preparing to carve the turkey, deck the halls and wish everyone peace on Earth. Why must we talk about alcohol? Because many family reunions will be sullied with alcohol abuse.

I received this email from a woman preparing for the holidays:

Dear Dr. David. I get frightened and sickened when I think about the holidays. At a time when I should be joyous, I dread what might happen when our family gets together. My dad has been an alcoholic for years, and whenever we get together for the holidays, he has to have a drink in his hands. While he’s friendly most of the time, when he gets drunk he starts repeating himself, gets overly friendly, and acts obnoxious. It reminds me of my childhood where I have terrible memories of his excessive alcohol use. My problem is that I don’t want to subject myself to his behavior any more, yet he isn’t going to change. My siblings all put up with his behavior, and in fact some of them drink as much as he does. What can I do to enjoy my extended family during the holidays, but not tolerate his drinking?

You are facing a problem that many will face this holiday season. Many family gatherings are ruined by alcohol. Someone will drink too much and become too loud, too chatty, too touchy-feely, too angry—or a combination of the above.

You must remember that the only one you can control is you. While it may be tempting to feel small, and perhaps even young, you are no longer small, or young. While you had few choices when younger, you now have many options.

Here are a few:

• Talk to your father ahead of time, letting him know your feelings;
• Firmly tell your father to stop talking about certain uncomfortable topics;
• Limit your length of stay at the gathering;
• If the gathering is in your home, make it clear that the alcohol use will be limited;
• Spend the majority of your time interacting with other family members;
• Discuss the situation as a family/ group ahead of time to see if others feel the same way you do. If so, are they willing to take a stand on how much alcohol will be tolerated at a gathering;
• If these gatherings are too uncomfortable, choose not to go. 

As you can see, there are no easy answers, but you are in control of you. However, with alcohol, as with any addiction, a family can have a powerful impact on either enabling a destructive process, or intervening with them. Your choice not to participate in family gatherings which turn into alcohol parties will serve as a powerful indicator of what you will and won’t tolerate in your life.

Might you receive some flak for your choices? Yes. But, you will also be sending a strong message that just might influence others.

What are some strategies others have used with alcohol and the holidays? What limits have you set and how have they worked with you? What are some positive and negative experiences you’ve had? .... Dr.David

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