From Heartache to Hope

Life with the Alcoholic/Addict

You and the Alcoholic/Addict for the Holiday Dinner

It's hard to say no to alcohol in your home, but don't be afraid to do so

Every year at this particular time the media airwaves are flooded with STUFF! What to buy, what to wear, what to eat, what to, what to, what to. Phew…with being so bombarded from billboards to magazines to lunching with friends, I’m never surprised when so many people profess that they can’t wait until the holidays are over.

Frankly, I think Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah and all birthdays should be celebrated once every 3 years. But, unless we are headed to another planet, the holidays are here to stay and we are a participant even if we stay home alone watching Twilight Zone reruns.

I have been deluged with tons of questions about the holidays and how a family member should act or what they should or should not do regarding the holidays and their alcoholic/addict loved one. One I thought particularly interesting was from a hostess that once again was having Thanksgiving dinner at her house. She didn’t want to serve alcohol and didn’t know how to approach the subject or what to expect once she communicated it.

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One of the first things that are so important is to not do or participate in anything that one is not almost 100% comfortable in doing. If we feel forced into acquiescing to please another, then resentment can’t help but to simmer inside and maybe that night, days or months later that resentment bursts with anger and venom.

So, can our hostess bar alcohol from the family holiday meal? ABSOLUTELY! Had this been a normal family or friends meal sometime in mid March this question would not have arisen, but this person felt compelled to ponder it because it’s a festive time of year, and the serving of alcohol is a given in order to fully enjoy the dinner. HOG WASH.

Now that we have established that our hostess can put her non-alcoholic foot down how does she relay her desire to her friends or family without being looked upon as a two headed monster? Simple. A few days before the dinner, the hostess should inform all who are attending that it will be an alcohol free evening. She should be prepared for the moans and groans from some and of course the proverbial “why”?

Our hostess should not spend too much time on defending or justifying her position/decision, but here are some healthy responses that are honest and neutral.

• “I was not comfortable with the amount of alcohol that was consumed last year, so this year we are going to try something different."

• "(Whoever) is newly clean and sober will be attending and I think it would be good not to flaunt our ability to drink and he/she cannot."

• "Uncle Joe (or again whomever) always drinks too much and an altercation always ensues."

Once the hostesses mind is made up about a ban on alcohol for that day or evening, PLEASE, PLEASE stick to it. One will inevitably be told that the drinking will be kept under control or Uncle Joe promises to not drink as much, etc…In order for the words to be taken seriously, the hostess needs to go the extra distance with being able to say…”Hey, this is important to me and if it’s too unpleasant for some family members to not participate in drinking then please go ahead and have your dinner without me. I’m not trying to be vindictive, or a kill joy, but I have given this a lot of thought and this is where my comfort level is.”

We all have such a difficult time going against the grain. We are afraid that a family member will be angry with us or punishing. If that’s the case then so be it. I can almost guarantee that you will not be spending the evening alone and trust me, your boundaries will be more respected than ever before.

However, the most important concept I want to get across is that it’s YOUR HOLIDAY, TOO!! Don’t be a martyr for the sake of your kids, husband, sibling, or whomever, just because the date on the calendar says “Thanksgiving” or “Christmas.” It’s just another day and being surrounded by clean and sober individuals or setting a boundary that is important to you is the best holiday experience you can have…with or without stuffing.

If I can be of service, please visit my website www.familyrecoverysolutions.com and I invite you to explore my book Reclaim Your Life—You and the Alcoholic/Addict. It can be purchased through PayPal or at Amazon. In addition, my book is available as an audio through PayPal only.

Carole Bennett, M.A., is a family substance abuse counselor, lecturer, columnist and author based at her Family Recovery Solutions Counseling Center in Santa Barbara, CA.

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