Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Why some families dread Christmas:

Many families face Christmas with dread because of a family member with a drinking problem says an addiction specialist.
By Motherpedia
Date: December 19 2013
Editor Rating:

A Sydney specialist in alcohol and drug addictions has said that while families around the country prepare to go away for the summer holidays or for a Christmas day feast, many are bracing themselves for the family disputes and embarrassments from family members who will drink too much.

Professor John Saunders from the Wesley Hospital Kogarah said that with the incidence of alcohol related injuries, disputes and police call-outs increasing at Christmas, many families will be coming to terms that one of them has a serious drinking problem.

“The key concerns for families are whether the family member with the drinking problem will be injured in an alcohol-related car accident and / or having police called to the house,” Professor Saunders said.

Ahead of the summer season, the Foundation for Alcohol & Research Education (FARE) estimated alcohol-related harms would again hit hard with statistics pointing to more than 300 alcohol-related deaths, and more than 12,000 hospitalisations attributable to alcohol over the three months of summer.

The key signs that someone has a drinking problem are:

  • drinking at odd times of the day
  • little or no memory of drinking the previous evening
  • responding aggressively when people comment on their drinking
  • continuing to drink despite problems
  • ignoring responsibilities in favour of drinking, and / or 
  • development of tremors and sweating in the morning.

Professor Saunders suggested not approaching family members about the problem when they are intoxicated or suffering from the after effects such as a bad hangover. 

“It is preferable to use other opportunities to discuss the problem,” he said.

“For example, if they comment on the effects of their drinking or how they felt last night or that morning.

“If there is any objective evidence of harm caused by the person's drinking, such as an injury, damaged furniture or concern expressed by others, it can be helpful to point this out to them.   They may respond to the suggestion by going to see their general practitioner.” 

* * *

Live, online alcohol counselling is available during the holiday break at They also have a free, confidential telephone counselling service on 1800 888 236.

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