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Mom Drinks Too Much at Holiday Parties



"My mother is in her 80s and loves to tie one on at holiday parties. She even drives home after doing so! The interesting thing is that she almost never drinks at other times during the year. There’s no evidence of a drinking problem overall. I’m over at her house frequently, and she doesn’t even have much liquor in the house. The bottle she does have seems to be as old as I am. It’s dusty and looks like it needs to be tossed.

We siblings cannot figure out why our mother gets so drunk at holiday parties. It’s quite out of character, and really, we’re worried about it. Do you have any suggestions on how to handle the situation?"



Oh my, Mom is the drinker we have to worry about driving home. It’s usually parents worried about their teens and young adults drinking and driving. In all seriousness, anyone—young or old--who thinks they can drive drunk needs to be addressed.

As I see it, you have two choices: deal with Mom sober, or when she’s inebriated.

If you talk to her when she’s sober, you can ask her to drink a bit less than she has in the past. Let her know you have a considerable fear that she will harm herself or possibly someone else when she drives drunk. It’s very likely she will deny drinking too much. Most who binge drink like your mom won’t listen. What’s important is that you put it out there. Let your mother know that you will not let her drive home from your house drunk, and what arrangements you will make to transport her. 

Mom may pout, threaten to stay home, or attempt to blame you in some way. Don’t assign emotion to her drinking. It’s not your fault she drinks, regardless of what she may say. Be there to support her, or help her seek counseling if needed, while trying your very best to be clear, concise, and firm. 

Drunks are not the most rational individuals, so if you wait until mother is drunk at your holiday party, plan to intervene by taking away her keys and sending her in a taxi or other rideshare situation. Letting someone drive home drunk is risking living the rest of your life with regret. It is not worth the aggravation. 

This situation is uncomfortable for everyone involved. Most of us enjoy the high from a drink or two. None of us enjoy dealing with a drunk though. Unfortunately, your mom is crossing the line. There are many reasons why people drink too much at parties--too many to get into here. If it truly is a minor problem, addressing it with your mother may have some impact. If not, she should seek professional help. 

Dealing with those who drink too much is difficult, and even more so when it’s a family member. You are right to preemptively address the issue, and establish a back- up plan.

I share your concern, and I hope it all works out well for you.