How to Combat the Pressure of Holiday Drinking

For many, the holiday season is about gathering with friends and family to share a meal and of course…drink booze. It has become a common belief that alcohol is vital for a celebration and the added stress of the holiday season can lead to overconsumption. The American Psychological Association found that 38% of people stated their stress increases during the holidays. The increased stress of the holidays can pile up for someone currently in recovery from alcohol or drug addiction, making it a more difficult time to stay sober, along with the majority of individuals normalizing and partaking in overconsumption during these times.

Holidays Most Associated With Drinking

Celebrations for certain holidays come with more consumption of alcohol than others. For example, Father’s Day is not your typical boozy holiday when compared to St. Patrick’s Day. However, almost every holiday has a higher-than-average drinking amount. Here is a list of the 7 holidays with the most drinking:

  1. New Years: New Year’s Eve is considered the “drunkest holiday” of American Holidays. It is also one of the most dangerous nights of the year due to the number of drunk driving and alcohol-related deaths. According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, it was reported that alcohol-related emergency room visits more than double on New Year’s Day compared to what is typically observed. Over-consumption of alcohol on New Year’s can lead to personal injury, harmful consequences, or even death. 
  2. St. Patrick’s Day: St. Patrick’s Day first began to honor Saint Patrick on the anniversary of his death but quickly became a day full of wearing green and binge drinking to excess. Binge drinking has its own set of deadly risks and on St. Patrick’s day every 46 minutes an alcohol-related accident claims a life. 
  3. Fourth of July: The Fourth of July is a day dedicated to celebrating our nation’s independence, but like the other holidays discussed it is also one of the deadliest holidays of the year. The increase in deaths from drunk driving during the Fourth of July timeframe is dangerous and 100 percent preventable. You can still enjoy Fourth of July celebrations while staying sober to mitigate potential risks. 
  4. Halloween: Halloween can be seen as a carefree day to dress up in costumes and indulge in sweet treats, but like many other holidays there is a dark side associated with excessive drinking. More adults have started celebrating Halloween in recent years now more than ever with 65 percent of U.S. adults celebrating Halloween in 2021 compared to just 59 percent in 2007. Many adults do not just consume one or two drinks but spend the night of Halloween binge drinking. There are many risks associated with binge drinking other than causing deadly car accidents. Alcohol poisoning, sexual assault, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), violent encounters, and alcohol dependence are all serious risks that are common with binge drinking. Choosing to drink responsibly can mitigate many of these risks but to have a truly safe Halloween that you can remember celebrating, it is best to skip the alcohol altogether. 
  5. Cinco De Mayo: Cinco De Mayo is commonly mistaken for Mexican Independence day, but the fifth day of May is the Anniversary of the Battle of Puebla. Enthusiasm for this holiday became prevalent when it became associated with the promotion of Mexican alcoholic beverages such as Margaritas and Cervezas. Alcohol companies started sponsoring Cinco de Mayo events to bring in revenue and thus began an increase in American celebrations and consumption of alcohol. Cinco de Mayo can be just as much fun without alcoholic drinks, Mexican food is always a delicious and fun way to celebrate. 
  6. Thanksgiving: Many people look forward to the delicious food cooked on Thanksgiving, while others are focused on drinking red wine before noon. The consumption of alcohol has increased so much on the night before Thanksgiving that it is now called Blackout Wednesday. Binge drinking is particularly popular on Thanksgiving with 18.9% of women and 37.9% of men saying that they have 4 or more alcoholic beverages. The consumption of alcohol is Thanksgiving consistently ranks among the days with the highest alcohol-related traffic fatalities. More than 800 people died in alcohol-related car accidents during the Thanksgiving holiday from 2012 to 2016. Plan your Thanksgiving ahead of time so that you can stay sober and enjoy the holiday.
  7. Christmas: Christmas parties and holiday parties in general usually revolve around booze. Americans have admitted that they drink 27 percent more during the festive season compared to the rest of the year. This can be difficult for someone newly sober, as being surrounded by people drunk and binge drinking is easily triggering. Christmas is just another day and it is important to plan for it just like any other event: know your triggers, have an escape plan, and keep up with your regular sober routine and you will get through the holiday season! 

Impact on Relapse Potential

The impact on relapse potential is particularly high during the holiday season for many reasons. For some, it is the stress of being around family or friends that one hasn’t seen in some time. Or in another example,  an individual whose family traditions consist of normalized alcohol consumption can make it hard for individuals who are focusing on sobriety. The hard truth is that alcohol consumption rises during the holidays and when any individual is focusing on sobriety it can be hard to be around such fragrant use. But during these testing times, it is important to stay honest and focused on your goals.

Sober Celebrations: Separating Drinking from Celebrating 

  • Start a new tradition: When traditions revolve around alcohol, it can be hard to break old habits. Start a new tradition by doing something completely different from your usual holiday celebrations. Experiencing the holidays in a new setting to celebrate will help you feel excited about something new instead of reminiscing about the past. 
  • Use the Buddy System: During the holiday season, it can be a good idea to make an effort to make traditions to spend holiday time with friends that you’ve met on your road to sobriety. Having a buddy, sponsor, or trusted friend that can hold you accountable and you can be totally honest and open with, is a great way to take away some of the stress or temptation an individual may be experiencing. 
  • Pre-Party Strategies: It is always good to be prepared for the company you will be around and know the environment you will be attending. This situation could be very different if you met with a larger, more rowdy group. In such events, prior planning can provide relief. It may be in your best interest to advise the host or family members that you are refraining from alcohol consumption. 
  • Come Prepared: With close family at a smaller gathering, it may be easier to avoid alcohol when the majority isn’t binge drinking and ripping shots. It is a good idea to bring your own drinks or mocktails so that you can have a drink in your hand. 
  • Have an Exit Plan: It is good to have an exit plan if good or bad circumstances arise knowing how or who to communicate with that you are leaving instead of the ole Irish goodbye is generally received as more polite. 

Reach Out for Help

You can still have a great time each time a holiday comes around while maintaining your sobriety. But if you are finding it hard or impossible to celebrate the holidays without alcohol, or consume more than intended, you may have an alcohol problem. At Transcendence Treatment Center, our multifaceted programs help heal unresolved trauma and substance use disorders by addressing the mind, body, and spirit. For help getting started on your individual recovery journey, reach out to us today at 854-222-3773. 

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