When I was growing up my dad would often get drunk at the holiday family gatherings. Dad was a happy drunk, but would on occasion become loud and belligerent. On these occasions the night would end up with my mom crying, my grandmother yelling at my dad, and all of the kids heading outside to play in the snow. Good times had by all.
Years later now that I am an adult, things have not gotten any better. When we all show up at mom and dad’s place for Christmas Eve it’s the same drill. Dad greets us at the door with a slight “glow” and a cheerful smile and asks each of us if we want anything to drink. If the answer is “No” you are instantly met with a steely gaze and question . . . “What? Are you too good to have a drink with your old man?” It isn’t long after dinner is over and the dishes are cleared that dad’s behavior begins to deteriorate. Except now there is no grandmother to yell, and instead of the kids rushing out the door to play, we all head to our cars. All that is left is mom crying at the front door as she watches us drive away and dad passed out on the couch.
I know that this can’t go on, but I am at a loss as to what to do. I’m very concerned about mom and dad seems to be completely oblivious to the situation. Do you have any ideas?
– Frustrated in Pennsylvania
I’m sorry to hear this is happening. There are multiple options available to you. First and foremost, I am going to presume that mom is physically safe. If not, your actions need to first be focused on protecting her. This is a tricky business because your mom has been enabling your dad’s behavior for some time. She may very well not tell you the truth regarding her safety.
You do not want to overreact, but you also don’t want to underreact. In situations like this, I always seek the guidance of a professional who can help me develop a protocol for how to proceed.
If possible, bring a supportive sibling with you to see a qualified counselor and develop a strategy together. Click on this link to take you to a trusted site that can help you locate a counselor or therapist to assist you. Next, go to the Resource page to find other agencies that might be of assistance if necessary. Look specifically under the Aging and Mental Health sections.
As part of all this, you are going to need to learn to recognize where to redraw the lines in your family relationships that have been blurred for years. This is vitally important for your own mental health and to avoid becoming burnt out, anxious, and/or depressed.
In the Library of this site, you are going to find a number of books listed under Boundaries. Either “Where to Draw the Line” or “Boundaries” will be of great assistance. Read the descriptions, check out the author pages and choose which is the best fit for you. You should also consider working at least initially with your own counselor to provide you with some backup as you begin to develop and put those boundaries into place.
My thoughts and prayers are with you as you walk this path with your family.
All the Best,