The holidays are upon us, and soon we’ll be surrounded by relatives and friends, and raising a glass to celebrate the New Year. The champagne is uncorked, the wine flows, and the beer is on ice. To say that holidays are a time of over indulging can be an understatement.
In recent years, Time Magazine ranked the top 10 drinking holidays of the year which included the 4th of July, Cinco de Mayo, Halloween, and New Year’s Eve. Also included on the list was Thanksgiving Eve, which is now referred to as “Blackout Wednesday.” The multi-billion dollar distilled spirits industry makes more than 25% of its profits during the holiday season, which is also the same time period when more people die in alcohol-related traffic accidents (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism).
It is not uncommon for people to overindulge during holidays and one can find themselves having one, two, or three drinks in a short space of time and thus putting themselves in a troubling situation if not careful. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 or above. This typically happens when men consume five or more drinks, and when women consume four or more drinks in about two hours.
It is important to understand that critical decision making skills and driving abilities are diminished long before a person shows physical signs of intoxication. Alcohol can initially act as a stimulant, causing a person to feel upbeat and excited. With increased drinking alcohol acts as a depressant, causing the drinker to become sleepy and perhap s pass out. At high levels of drinking, alcohol can cause blackouts, which are periods of amnesia when a person does not remember what happened while they were intoxicated. At very high levels of alcohol use, drinkers are in danger of life threatening alcohol poisoning due to the suppression of vital life functions.
This holiday season, it would be wise not to underestimate the effects of alcohol. Here are a few things to consider if you choose to drink:
• Pace yourself. Know what constitutes a standard drink and have no more than one per hour, and no more than 4 drinks per day for men and 3 drinks per day for women.
• Make every other drink a non-alcoholic one.
• Make plans to get home safely. A designated driver is someone who has not had any alcohol, not the one in your group who drank the least.
The holidays can be a stressful time for those who are recovering alcoholics/ addicts. There is high potential for relapse, and having people offering drinks during holiday parties can be stressful.
It is possible, however, to be engaged in these holiday events without drinking by learning coping skills to set limits in social situations.
• Have an exit strategy in place, like bringing your own vehicle so you can leave early if you feel uncomfortable.
• Attend an AA meeting before the event to get support.
• Have a sober support person on Stand By to check in with for additional support during these events.
• Find a non-alcoholic beverage that you like that will give you something to hold and may prevent people from offering you an alcoholic drink.
• Have a standard response as to why you are not drinking depending on the type of event and if you want people in attendance to know you are in recovery: “I am not drinking tonight,” “I am the designated driver tonight,” “I don’t drink anymore.”
Finding new holiday activities that do not involve drinking alcohol can be fun. Keep in mind that it is okay to be choosy about which holiday events to attend, and it is okay to say no if you don’t want to attend. Try to be honest with loved ones if you are having a hard time and let them know how to support you. Attend extra self help meetings if needed. Above all, put your sobriety first. Others may not realize what this entails, but it is your number one priority.
For more information, please call TARP at 1-800-522-8277 or TAP at 1-800-253-8326.
Call TARP (Teamsters Alcohol/Drug Rehabilitation Program) at (800) 522-8277 or TAP (Teamsters Assistance Program) at (800) 253-8326 if you or a loved one would like more information on this subject or our services.