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The Huge Challenge of the Holidays

Man on soft, head in hand (Thanksgiving piece)

As the holidays approach, many families and Loved Ones begin to anticipate complicated feelings and situations. As Thanksgiving approaches, Mostlysunny wonders what the CRAFT angle would be for how to best deal with her 24-yr-old son who suffers from depression and is in a period of heavy drinking…

"This is a question regarding the Thanksgiving holiday and how to handle it with my 24 year old son who has an alcohol substance use disorder and currently is drinking heavily. I am concerned about him being alone on the holiday. His Dad and I are divorced and there will be separate gatherings with his father's family and my family. My son has removed himself from most involvement with extended family on both sides and has had negative interactions with some that makes him fearful of family events. He is not interested in attending family gatherings, holiday or not. Just this month he got his own apartment after moving out of his father's house. While recognizing he is making a big effort at accountability, I am worried about him isolating in his new living arrangement. His depression and anxiety add to my concern of leaving him alone on Thanksgiving. On the holiday, if it is like a weekend day, he might likely be sober through the morning, though becomes agitated by early afternoon before drinking. What would CRAFT suggest?"

The holidays are a huge challenge for families. Thank you for writing in. Annie and Laurie are also working on a podcast on this topic so stay tuned.

The question you raise is a difficult one since CRAFT would suggest you wait for the day to arrive and gauge your son’s behavior in the moment. CRAFT would ask that you stay flexible. If you see your son has been drinking, you take him back to his place or cut things short if that is possible. If he is home isolating and drinking, you leave him be. If you are concerned that his anxiety could become dangerous, you call for a police wellness check.

Here are a couple suggestions that might make the day more successful. Can you schedule Thanksgiving dinner earlier in the day than you normally would, at a time your son is more likely not to have started to drink? Can you enjoy Thanksgiving without alcohol at the table? Can you write up a list of AA/Smart Recovery/etc. or other meetings in the area or online meetings? He should have that at-the-ready, along with some local help lines if he chooses not to come to dinner or needs to leave.

Invite your son early to choose where he would like to go for Thanksgiving. Ask him to make a plan. You would come pick him up. (Since I happen to know your situation…how about asking your other son to offer to pick him up?) If he says he doesn’t want to come to either of your houses, accept his answer but remind him that you (or your other son) will check in with him the morning of Thanksgiving, should he change his mind. You would need him to be sober and would be glad to take him home early if he became uncomfortable at the dinner.

Even check in twice the morning of Thanksgiving, prior to the time you suspect he will start to drink. Then, just leave it. Enjoy your Thanksgiving knowing you will have done what you can. Again, if you get concerned, call the police. This is better than you or another family member going over to his apartment later in the day to check on him. A police wellness check would signal the seriousness of your concern and your unwillingness to disrupt your own Thanksgiving plans.

It's wonderful you wrote in with this question, as I am sure many other families are asking themselves similar questions with the approach of the holidays.



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)