How to cope when your Holiday Guest is an Alcoholic

The holidays are upon us, and with them come the stress of making holiday gatherings with friends and family go as planned. Having a friend or loved one that struggles with alcoholism and addiction at your get-togethers can quickly escalate into a nightmarish situation. Indulgence in too much alcohol or dabbling in illicit drugs can cause one to behave quite inappropriately, if not downright violently.

As a host, what can you do in this situation? What options do you have if you find yourself hosting someone for several holiday celebrations? When can you step in, and what is considered appropriate for drawing the line for the sake of everyone else at your gathering?

Potentially challenging season
Anyone who has a friend or family member that struggles with addiction can experience anxiety and stress at holiday time. With nearly one in ten Americans struggling with some sort of substance abuse and addiction problem, it is easy to conceptualize having to deal with incidents of binge drinking and drug use during celebrations.

Look at it this way, dear host—you have a responsibility to help protect others at your gathering this holiday; whether it’s an isolated celebration or a family event that lasts several days, here are some things you can proactively do to manage your loved ones this holiday season:

1. Set your expectations before your event
You are in charge, you are the host/hostess, and you are the ultimate authority for what happens in your house. Do not concede that authority to any guest while you are celebrating. Be specific when setting your expectations for guests, including your policies on drug/alcohol use, arrival time, and decorum when in your home. If they can’t abide by those rules, they are not welcome at your celebration.

2. Stress safety
If you find that despite your best efforts, your wayward guest has overindulged and is not able to care for him/herself, don’t under any circumstances allow them to leave your residence. If necessary, call the authorities to help reinforce safety measures, and do what you can to keep the situation from escalating in view of other guests. While it might not be your desired thing to do at your gathering, it is your responsibility to keep yourself and others safe from harm.

3. Consider hosting an alcohol-free celebration
It is difficult to binge drink or use drugs if your home is a substance-free zone. Consider storing your liquor at the home of a trusted friend and lock up all prescription and over the counter medications to make abuse challenging to do. State your expectations for all your guests in attendance so no one is tempted to bring items with them that could be used and abused. The harder it is for your guest to get his hands on alcohol and drugs, the less likely he will be to use.

4. Limit cocktail hour
If you know that you will have a guest in attendance who regularly over drinks, consider limiting cocktail hour to just thirty minutes before dinner. Offering non-alcoholic beverages and snacks during this time as healthier options will also help people stay in control.

5. Move the celebration to a public place
Some people prefer to host gatherings in public places like restaurants for the holidays. In doing so, you take some of the pressure of portion control off yourself, and restaurant staff will be able to assist you in making sure no one is over-served. After all, no one wants a drunken debacle or lawsuit on their hands; your chosen place of celebration will have people to help you keep your party within acceptable boundaries.

6. If needed, encourage your friend or loved one to seek help
When all else fails, and you find yourself in the middle of uncomfortable situations once more, you may have to draw the line and ask your friend or loved one to seek the help that they need. Drawing those boundaries for yourself is not only healthy for you, but it lets them know that their behavior will no longer be tolerated around you and that something must be done. Let them know that you care and that you are there for help and assistance, but you can no longer condone their behavior.

Addiction does not take a holiday; sometimes an intervention during the holiday season is the best time to do so, for loved ones and family members are present, and they can all communicate messages of hope, love, and support. Provide resources for finding a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility, and let them know that there will be quality life after recovery. Doing what you can to provide safe and happy celebrations for you and your family is a healthy step in the right direction for everyone at your gatherings. Happy Holidays!