Alcohol Consumption Over The Holidays
One of the most powerful moments in my last year as a therapist was when a client told me that she realized her sobriety is a superpower. Though I would like to trademark that phrase, I can’t because it belongs to her. But the motto on my photo gives my personal spin on her profound insight.
If you are of the mindset that binge drinking doesn’t hurt anything…please, scroll on. If you’d like to review tips about how to limit your drinking, drink safely, or completely abstain, this one is for you.
It’s that time of year. You indulge more than usual. You eat out more often, go to more social gatherings, and fill your plate with more of the good stuff. Eating more calories and sugary treats is generally considered to be a normal part of holiday celebrations. What about drinking? It’s just part of what we do, right? This post is written to encourage you to pause and think on, even plan on, what you will do about your drinking for what’s left of 2018.
It’s not just in the US where alcohol is synonymous with a ‘good time’ over the holidays. Across the world, people are expected to drink more around Christmastime than any other holiday. If you usually skate through the holiday season drinking a few more martinis than usual and make safe decisions about where and how you do it, but not truly experience any negative effects, good for you! Are you sensible or just lucky? The statistics are chilling and tell a story of binge drinking with consequences.
The few days before Christmas right up until New Years Day account for the highest amount of binge drinking days in America. We can expect anywhere from 10-20 fatal motor vehicle accidents in the state of Michigan alone and hundreds of DUI’s. It’s not just the people that are driving impaired that get hurt. Innocent sober drivers, passengers, and pedestrians are among the fatalities. There’s more bad news: sexual assault, incidents of harassment, and domestic violence increase incrementally as the holiday season reaches full swing. Our usual common sense, our social norms, and the ‘pump the brakes’ method (symbolically speaking) don’t apply. Drinking drastically reduces impulse control. What about depression for those already struggling with their mood? Chemically, alcohol is a depressant, despite what you might think as you throw caution to the wind, chase that buzz, and dance the night away at the Christmas party. Many turn to alcohol as a stress reliever. After all, it’s not always easy when the kids come home or you have to go spend a week on your mother’s couch. While some people can partake in drinking and easily back out, many people get stuck in a cycle of use with devastating consequences.
95 million people in America will travel by car to see family over the holidays. Close to 30,000 of them will be seriously injured during their trip. 42% of these traffic crashes will involve alcohol. Imagine the risk here in Michigan, then, when the roads are icy and visibility is poor.
Before you reach for that eggnog or holiday punch, make space for awareness. Is it safe for you to drink at all? Does this drink obliterate the abstinence plan you’ve been doing so well with and seeing the benefits of? If you are employing a harm reduction plan, which means making concerted efforts to cut back, are you going to be able to stick to that in this particular situation with this particular crowd?
What about how this is going to look if you’re usually the one knocking ‘em back and lining up the shots for your friends? My tips will help you figure this out. If anyone thinks you’re not ‘cool’ because you can’t ‘let loose’, know that you’ll be the one who looks cool when you’re up and at ‘em for your morning routine and they are still colorless with their head in the toilet bowl. (Possibly the best case scenario for them given what could have happened after having way too many and gripping the steering wheel all the way home.)
12 TIPS TO MANAGE YOUR DRINKING
- What do you plan on drinking? If you plan on social drinking, what is your limit of alcoholic drinks? Be specific, set an intention. If you plan on abstaining completely write this down also.
- Plan a refusal skill. This means plan on what to say or do when someone offers you a drink or puts one in your hand. Again, write out what you will say and do.
- Write out a comeback. What will you say or do when you experience peer pressure to drink? For example: being ridiculed for being sober, being told you are a square, being told you can’t handle it, being called a ‘pussy’. How will you handle these insults?
- If utilizing a harm reduction plan, which means managing your drinking, make sure you have food before you drink and/or while you are drinking your specified amount of drinks.
- Alternate your drinks with water or pop.
- Write down thoughts you anticipate having if you plan on abstaining or cutting back. Common thoughts are “I’m missing out” and “I look weird not drinking”. Try to write down a reframe that rings true.
- Know what your triggers are over the holiday season that have you reaching for a drink. (Stress, loneliness, needing to feel more relaxed in social situations, boredom.) Address each trigger with a plan that doesn’t include dousing your body with alcohol.
- Never, ever take your vehicle if you plan on drinking or think you might. You may have been drinking and driving for years, but don’t become a part of those DUI and death statistics. Save extra money for an Uber, walk, or tag along with a sober friend.
- List the consequences you have experienced so far because of drinking. List consequences you worry about in the future. Is it worth it?
- Make a list of ways your life will improve overall if you manage your alcohol use. If this is only a problem for you this holiday, list what you will miss out on this holiday because of binge drinking.
- When you look at #9 (consequences for drinking) and #10 (advantages of managing this), what would you tell your best friend to do?
- Plan ahead – cope ahead. Stock up on sensational, sensory treats that don’t include alcohol. Make sure they are available at gatherings and take them with you if it’s a BYOB party. Mix cherry juice, cranberry juice, or pomegranate juice with soda water, and add maraschino cherries. Serve it to yourself in a fabulous glass. Add oranges, lemons, and limes to your favorite soda. Serve over lots of ice. Drink NA beer.
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