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Are Drinkers Ruining Your Holiday Party?

QUESTION: We have a yearly holiday party at our home. Each year some people we invite drink too much and the party becomes very uncomfortable for me and others attending. What can we do this year to deal with this problem?

ANSWER: One symptom of alcoholism is that it interferes with functioning in one or more areas of a person's life. Clearly, the people you are concerned about ruining your party have created a problem in their social sphere. It may be time to gently but firmly let them know about it.

Like any negative behavior, unless the person gets feedback, he or she may miss an opportunity to address the problem before they alienate others. Consider that you are doing them, as well as yourself, a favor by giving them feedback that their behavior was out of line at last year's party. Although it may be uncomfortable to do so, you may be surprised to find that your honesty is appreciated, particularly if you let them know that you would very much like them to be present this year, but that you do not want their behavior to make others uncomfortable.

If talking with any of these people seems inappropriate to you, consider the possibility of asking someone close to them to give them feedback. If neither of these approaches are acceptable to you, contemplate not inviting those people whose behavior is disruptive to your party.

Your other alternative is to be willing to pull people gently aside who become problematic, before they create high levels of discomfort during the party itself. Simply ask them to refrain from further drinking and call their attention to behavior that is making others uncomfortable. Consider arranging for a safe taxi ride home if they are unable to comply with your request.

Do not be shy to take charge of creating the kind of holiday atmosphere you want at your party. After all, you are the host. It is your responsibility to take the lead in setting the guidelines for a safe and enjoyable holiday!


Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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