How To Handle An Inebriated Family Member at A Holiday Gathering

candles burning in church

Contributor: Scott H. Silverman, CEO of Confidential Recovery

An inebriated guest can not only put a damper on your celebration, but it can be cause for concern. Here are some ways in which to deal with these delicate and concerning situations, as well as resources for you and the person you’re trying to help.

Dial 911

Young man looking into skyIf you become aware of someone intoxicated at your event, you should first determine if they are causing harm to themselves or others. If so, then you should immediately call 911 and keep all parties calm while waiting for their arrival.

If there is no safety concern and the individual is not causing a disturbance you’re best strategy is to wait until after meal time, or better yet, the next day. The person will be more coherent and more responsive with a clear head.

Have Two People

If you decide that the situation needs to be taken care of immediately, make sure you don’t do it alone. Have at least two others with you. If you know someone who’s had experience with substance abuse and knows what steps to take to help, ask them to assist as well.

Try to encourage the inebriated person to step away from the crowd and into a quiet area to talk, making sure everything you do and say appears non-confrontational.

Remain Calm

The first thing to think about when attempting to confront someone under the influence is your own attitude and demeanor. Someone under the influence will most likely not be responsive to yelling, judgements, or threats. You need to remain calm and present yourself as a caring friend.

Avoid saying things like, “I think you have a drinking problem.” This will only put them on the defensive and possibly hurt their feelings. Your strategy should be: Ask permission. Get permission. Share from the heart. Try something like, “Watching you potentially hurt yourself scares me. I care about you. Can we talk?” Also, try to avoid labels during your discussion.

Who is the Best Person

person leaning on wallAnother thing to consider, is who is the best person to broach the subject with the person you are trying to help.

If you feel you are too close or the individual won’t be receptive to you, check with others and see who would be willing and who has a good relationship with them.

Ultimately, the best person is the one who will make them feel most comfortable and less critical. That could mean a sibling, parent, spouse, or good friend.

Once the decision is made, don’t be afraid to seek professional advice before attempting a discussion. Talk to someone about your plans and see if they can offer other options.

Once you’ve had the discussion with your family member, and you determine their level of acceptance, you can suggest some resources for questions and for help with next steps. You could suggest they reach out to someone close to them before they make any decisions.

That could be another family member, family doctor, someone at a local substance abuse program, a faith-based leader, a rehab hotline, or even do someone obtained from research on the Internet. They may not be convinced they have a problem and would like to make their own determination before seeking any counseling.

Remember: there are many resources on the Internet for both you and the person you are trying to help. You should be able to find information about addiction, treatment, and how to get help.

No “Family Secrets”

feeling-compassion-for-othersAnd finally, don’t let this type of situation be the “family secret.” If this has become a pattern and no one has brought it up, don’t be afraid to step forward with your concerns.

Others are likely concerned as well and hoping to find a solution. Together you could be proactive and come up with a plan before the situation arises.

In addition, other family members may have important information about this person that could help you decide whether they have a serious problem or not.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

If you are in recovery for addiction, did you have a friend or loved one approach you to discuss their concerns? What affect did this have on your seeking help for your addiction? Are you the friend or loved one of someone suffering from addiction? What steps have you taken to discuss your concerns with regarding their addiction?

Scott SilvermanAbout the author: Scott H. Silverman, CEO of Confidential Recovery, a CNN Hero Award recipient nationally known for leading successful recovery programs, including his own 30 years of continuous sobriety serves as CEO.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on December 14, 2015
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