The Christmas Holidays are here, and so are the get-togethers, potlucks, family festivities, and office parties. Yes, it is a season of joy for many people, but it can also be stressful with the financial pressures of gift-giving, additional chores and tasks, and conflicts that may arise around the holiday dinner table. With the added stresses of the season and the parties where alcohol is abundant, staying sober at Christmas time can be a challenge. Managing triggers and staying sober is possible with planning and preparation.
Increased Alcohol Consumption at Christmas and its Risks
- Rapid onset of effects: Impairment can occur quickly and sneak up on you. Critical decision-making can be affected before you even appear intoxicated.
- Continued Impairment: Even after you stop consuming it, the alcohol causes continued impairment in judgment and coordination long after you have had that last drink
- Risk of injury: With increased alcohol consumption, the risk of injuries increases due to impaired coordination and judgment and lowered inhibitions
- Increased risk of violence: Poor judgment caused by alcohol can lead to an increased risk of aggressive behavior and being involved in violence
In addition to the behavioral risks, increased alcohol consumption may cause the following bodily risks:
- Blackouts: If you drink enough, you may experience gaps in memory. This is because alcohol temporarily blocks the transfer of memories from short-term to long-term storage. Continuing to drink can lead to passing out.
- Aspiration: High levels of alcohol in the body can cause slowed reactions in the muscles that control the epiglottis. If you vomit at this time, some of the stomach contents can be inhaled back into the lungs. This can be especially life-threatening if you have passed out.
- Overdose: Although alcohol appears to act as a stimulant, making you feel upbeat, it is a depressant. In large enough quantities, alcohol can suppress respiratory centers in the brain and be lethal.
Holiday Triggers Can be Hanging Around Like Mistletoe
It’s Christmas, and everyone everywhere is happy, jolly, and bright, or so it seems. But, in truth, triggers for drinking are lurking around every corner like an elf on the shelf. Some of these include:
- Parties: During the Christmas season, it may seem like everyone has parties and the booze is freely flowing.
- Peer pressure: You may have friends and relatives who support your choice to abstain from alcohol use. On the other hand, you may be surrounded by people who do not understand or respect that choice. These individuals may offer you drinks and pressure you to partake.
- Grief: Grieving is difficult at any time of the year, but the expectation of being cheerful around the holidays can be almost unbearable. It can be tempting to try and numb those difficult feelings with alcohol.
On top of these stressors, you may struggle with problems outside of the holiday. The economy is in turmoil, and inflation is high right now. Many people are struggling to make ends meet. If you are just trying to get by, the added financial pressure of buying gifts can feel overwhelming.
You may also be expected to engage in strained family relationships. If your family has old resentments and unhealed hurts, this can be a time fraught with stress and anxiety. In recent years our nation has become increasingly divided around political ideology. If your family is sharply divided along political lines, this can increase tensions if not well managed.
Manage Those Triggers and Stay Sober at Christmas Time
Even though the Christmas season can be loaded with triggers to drink, it is possible to manage those triggers effectively and stay sober at Christmas. Strategies to manage triggers include:
Planning how you will respond to an innocent offer to have a drink to outright peer pressure ahead of time can help you say “no thanks” with confidence. If you can bring a plus one to parties, it does not have to be a romantic partner. Try bringing a supportive friend to cheer you on when temptation strikes.
Additionally, you should try to change your mindset. Focus on other aspects of the event. Is the food especially delicious? Indulge a little and savor each bite. If you love the music at the party, take time to listen and enjoy it. When you focus on the party itself and not the alcohol, it can distract you from wanting a drink. Instead of focusing on “I cannot drink,” try changing that mindset. You should try thinking about waking up hangover-free and not worrying about what you did or said at the party. This can be a game-changer!
Create an Emergency Backup Plan
In addition to these trigger management strategies, it’s wise to have a backup plan. Have your sponsor on speed dial. If you use a 12-step program, speak to your sponsor for extra support. You may also want to attend additional meetings. Make sure you have enough medications if you are on medication-assisted treatment (MAT) or psychotropic medications, as your provider’s office hours may be limited during the holiday.
Being able to stay sober at Christmas time is no small feat, but it is not impossible. Planning, preparation, and support can give you a merry and sober Christmas.
It’s that time of year again—Christmas! The Christmas holiday can be a joyful, sparkly time full of food, family, and fun. It can also be a time of stress, anxiety, and exhaustion. You may feel tempted to drink alcohol to escape some of those uncomfortable feelings. The staff at Sober Life understands this. We can empathize with your struggle during this time of year. We offer levels of care that conveniently allow you to receive treatment without an inpatient or residential stay. Getting sober can be the best Christmas gift you ever give yourself, and you deserve it. For more information about our programs and treatment, please call Sober Life today at (619) 542-9542.