NEW CANAAN, Conn. – The holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day can be a difficult time for those with alcohol addiction and their families.
Parties, family events, shopping, fatigue and poor nutrition can trigger a downward spiral into embarrassing or dangerous behavior. Co-occurring psychiatric conditions such as depression, anxiety or social phobia make coping that much more difficult.
“It’s estimated 18 million Americans have existing alcohol use disorder and more than 38 million binge drink, which for men is five or more drinks in two hours and four for women. The holiday season, with all of its stresses, can be especially daunting,” said Dr. Eric D. Collins, an addiction psychiatrist and physician-in-chief at Silver Hill Hospital.
“Celebrating with alcohol is an acceptable social activity and a time-honored holiday tradition. For a person struggling with alcohol dependency or one who may binge drink to overcome anxiety, it is a confusing message.”
Collins offers tips for navigating through the holiday season sober:
- Socialize wisely: It’s important not to become isolated because that can lead to depression, which might tempt one to drink. However, be selective about which holiday gatherings to attend. If a certain party has the potential to get out of control by the end of the evening, it’s probably best to avoid it.
- Plan ahead: It’s hard not to feel awkward if you are the only one standing around a party without a drink in hand. Come up with a favorite nonalcoholic beverage to hold while mingling with the crowd. Have a few different reasons for not drinking if people ask, such as, “I’m the designated driver tonight” or “I’m taking medication.”
- Keep busy: Plan time to have fun. When you are engaged in activities that you enjoy, chances are you won’t be focusing on alcohol. Whether it’s a winter sport or volunteer work, keeping your mind engaged is key.
- Build a support system: Support is crucial for maintaining sobriety. Think about attending extra therapy sessions or group meetings during the holiday season. Silver Hill offers a number of support groups that are open to the public or visit the Alcoholics Anonymous website to find a meeting nearby. Lean on friends and family for their support as well.
- Care for yourself: Don’t lose sight of your normal routines during the holidays. Be sure to get enough sleep and exercise to keep the holiday blues from sneaking up on you.
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