The holiday season can be a difficult time for many people – especially for the 18 million Americans who have an alcohol use disorder as holiday celebrations often center around alcohol. The CDC has found that the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day sees a dramatic increase in DUI offenses and other alcohol-related issues. Seventy percent of people report higher alcohol use during the last two weeks of December.
People drink for many reasons. They may drink to feel relaxed, because they enjoy the taste, or because they feel pressured to drink socially. And some people may choose to use these celebrations as an excuse to drink more than usual.
If you think alcohol is problematic for you, want to avoid drinking too much during the holidays, or just aren’t the biggest drinker, here are some strategies for navigating holiday celebrations.
Skip the risky parties
If an event is going to be a cocktail party or it’s at a bar, try to avoid it. If you choose to go, most bartenders have great recipes for mocktails. It’s important not to isolate yourself because that can lead to depression, which might tempt you to drink. Be selective about which holiday gatherings you attend. If you know a certain party has the potential to get out of control, it’s probably best to avoid it.
Drink something fun
There are many festive alcohol-free mocktails to choose from. It can feel awkward if you are the only one at a party without a drink in hand. Come up with a favorite non-alcoholic beverage to order or bring your own sparkling water to enjoy.
Learn how to say no and stick to it. Some people find that having a phrase that doesn’t allow further conversation is helpful. These could include, “I’m trying to get healthy” or “I’m the designated driver.”
Make sure you have social support
Let your family and friends know about your plans to avoid alcohol. Support is crucial for maintaining sobriety. Think about attending extra therapy sessions or group meetings during the holiday season. You can visit the Alcoholics Anonymous to find a meeting near you.
Watch out for stressful moments
Family events can be very stressful. This can cause people to drink when they don’t plan to. Be aware and prepare for these situations.
Suggest different activities
Instead of going to holiday parties invite your friends to something you can enjoy that doesn’t involve alcohol. These can be things like dinner, movies, or ice-skating.
Care for yourself
Keep your normal routines during the holidays. Be sure to get enough sleep and exercise to keep the holiday blues from sneaking up on you.
Don’t forget to keep others safe this season. If you think a friend or family member may have had too much to drink and plans to drive home, don’t be afraid to tell them that you are concerned for their safety and the safety of others.
About the Author: Ashley Rock is the program coordinator for the Single County Authority at DBHIDS and an advocate for all paths to recovery in her personal and professional life.