How to Handle Relatives Who Get Drunk at Family Gatherings

Do your relatives drink too much and get intoxicated at family gatherings? These tips are long-term strategies for coping with addicted family members.

They’re inspired by a reader who is fed up with her alcoholic relatives…

“I have a few family members who are alcoholics but, none of them will admit it!” says J. on 6 Ways to Cope With Toxic Relatives. “Their father was an alcoholic, but because they are all functioning alcoholics they don’t think they have a problem. When we have family gatherings we always have wine or beer; if we did not supply it they would bring it. It never fails at every family gathering, at least one of them gets very intoxicated and becomes an obnoxious drunk. I do my best to forgive them, but it’s hard.”

If your family members have drug or alcohol addictions that are causing serious problems, you might consider an intervention. Read Love First: A Family’s Guide to Intervention for tips on how to handle a family intervention. Another popular, helpful book for families with alcoholic or addicted family members is Addict In The Family: Stories of Loss, Hope, and Recovery.

And here are a few ideas for handling family gatherings where too much wine, beer, or spirits have been imbibed…

How to Handle Relatives Who Get Drunk at Family Gatherings

Here’s the rest of my reader’s comment:

“My [drunk relatives] made a friend who was meeting my family for the first time uncomfortable, it was the final straw. I haven’t spoke to them about it and I am really not sure if I should? I feel if I let it go they will continue to do these things so, I need some advice as to what I should do.”

She’s absolutely right: if she keeps letting it go, they’ll keep getting drunk at family gatherings.

Trade short-term pain for long-term gain

I once read a true story about a guy, Mark, whose roommate and friend was a cocaine addict. Mark felt bad for him and didn’t want to rock the boat, be a “square”, or cause conflict in his roommate’s already tumultuous life. So he did and said nothing. He kept cleaning up after his friend, covering for him, and carrying the household bills and rent, over and over…until his friend almost died from an overdose. That’s when Mark kicked his friend out of the apartment and changed the locks. He said he couldn’t stand by and watch the addiction kill his friend.

Mark didn’t see or hear from his friend in two years. Then, his friend showed up at the door, completely clean, sober and healthy. His friend said that if Mark hadn’t kicked him out, he would never have taken the first steps to beating his addiction.

He said Mark saved his life by kicking him out of the house.

Mark’s short-term pain was standing up to his addicted friend, and taking an extreme measure to help him. Tough love! His long-term gain was a clean, sober, healthy friend.

Remember that not all stories have happy endings

Addiction is a disease, and it takes a lot of effort to overcome drug and alcohol cravings. It’s a physical addiction, not just an emotional crutch. Some stories of coping with addicted family members have happy endings…and others don’t.

If you’re tired of being at family gatherings with relatives who get intoxicated, you need to decide on a plan of action and stick to it. Stay focused on your end goal: happy, fun family gatherings that you’re proud to invite friends and neighbors to, and healthier relatives.

If your partner is struggling with alcoholism, read How to Love and Live With an Alcoholic Boyfriend.

Stop supplying the alcohol at family gatherings

I know they’ll bring it anyway – but why should you have to pay for their wine, beer, and spirits? You might consider having a “dry” party, at which there are no wine, beer, or alcohol beverages served at all.

Another option is to have family gatherings that only last a couple hours…or invite the relatives who tend to drink too much to the last half of the party (eg, for dessert).

Be honest with your drunk relatives – when they’re sober

Be honest about how embarrassed you are by their behavior when they’re drunk at a family gathering. If you can shoot a video of them being drunk, show it to them. Often, people don’t realize how their behavior affects others – or how they look – until they’re confronted with it.

If a face-to-face conversation feels awkward or uncomfortable, write a letter. Take a couple of days to write it; explain what exact words and behaviors embarrassed or upset you. Tell them you love them and want to keep seeing them at family gatherings – and having fun together – but that you can’t tolerate the behavior anymore.

Call your local Al-Anon chapter

The best place to get advice on handling drunk relatives at family gatherings is from the experts – Alcoholics Anonymous! Search the internet for an Al-Anon group close to you, and ask to speak to someone who has coped with intoxicated relatives at family gatherings.

For more tips on coping with addicted family members, read How to Help an Alcoholic Brother or Sister.

What do you think – what are your thoughts on handling intoxicated relatives at family gatherings? Comments welcome below…


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