How Should I Deal with My Drunk Mom at Christmas?

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Question: How Should I Deal with My Drunk Mom at Christmas?

"Every Christmas, my mom gets really drunk. I found it funny when I was younger, but now it just seems pathetic. I've tried to get her help, but she doesn't see anything wrong with it. How should I deal with it?"


Christmas is often portrayed as family time. With the relationship between mother and child being perhaps the closest family bond there is, it can be heart-breaking for you to refuse to spend Christmas with your mom.

But if she is a heavy drinker who ruins every Christmas by getting drunk, you owe it to yourself to set some limits on her drinking and her behavior.

Here are some suggestions for dealing with your drunk mother on Christmas:

Limit Her Drinking

The best way to limit drinking is through the drinker controlling her own alcohol consumption. However, you said that your mom doesn't see it as a problem, so you could take steps to control the amount of alcohol she consumes. Your mother may simply refuse to avoid alcohol altogether at Christmas; in fact, if she regularly drinks large amounts of alcohol, it may not be safe for her to quit cold turkey.

Try to keep track of how much she is drinking by knowing her blood alcohol content.

You will find it easier to control her alcohol intake if you host Christmas at your house. This will allow you to choose both the drinks served and their serving sizes. This article may help:

Tips for Serving Alcohol without Your Guests Getting Drunk

Make sure that any alcohol served is well spaced between drinks, ideally with food or a non-alcoholic drink consumed in between. This will slow down the absorption of alcohol and the rate at which your mom becomes intoxicated.

Choose Appropriate Gifts

People often inadvertently reinforce drinking by giving gifts that send the wrong message.

Choose gifts that deflect away from your mom's drinking, rather than focus attention on it and even encourage it. The following articles will help you choose the right gift and avoid the wrong one.

Quickly End Any Bad Behavior

You are probably all too aware of how your mom's behavior can change when she is drunk. She may become inappropriate, emotionally abusive or even physically abusive, or she may simply ruin the atmosphere by becoming overly emotional, for example.

How you respond will depend very much on your mother's behavior, but you should be prepared ahead of time to quickly change the subject. Have a change of activity planned, such as a game. Choose something that can be played during or after eating, such as a guessing game, or a neutral topic to discuss that she will surely have an opinion on. Have an exit strategy planned, whether you prepare to give her a ride home - which means no drinking for you - or call a cab for her.

In more extreme cases, if there is a possibility she will become physically violent, have your local police station's number on hand, so you don't have to use the 911 service.

Protect Anyone Who Is Vulnerable

If you have children, your mom may feel entitled to see them and say whatever she wants to them. But abuse can have lasting damage on children, so don't tolerate her making any hurtful comments to your kids. Defend them if necessary. If things escalate, bring the party to a close. Afterward, you can make it clear that she is not welcome to spend time with your children if she treats them thoughtlessly.

The same goes for your partner and anyone else who might be present. The fact that she is your mother does not give her the right to hurt others or cause problems in your relationships.

Will She Stop Drinking?

You mentioned that your mom doesn't think there is anything wrong with her drinking. In addiction treatment circles, this is known as precontemplation. The good news is that your mother could potentially move to the contemplation stage with more information. But keep in mind that precontemplators typically don't react the way you would like by being lectured about their drinking.

A better way to encourage your mom to change is to set clear, simple boundaries. You can say, "After your behavior this Christmas, the children and I will not be spending time with you when you are drinking." Make sure you follow through on this 100 percent. That way, whether her drinking changes or not, you won't have to deal with her when she is drunk.

These articles may help:

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