The Holiday Spirit Of Indulgence
It’s challenging to drink responsibly during the holidays. Did you know that Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve has over 16 billion in alcohol sales? On average, both holidays account for over 7 drinks per consumer per drinking session. According to Statista, 47% of men and 40% of women who drink are likely to binge drink during the holidays.
With alcohol flowing like a river, it’s easy to end up overindulging, even if you’ve promised yourself you wouldn’t. And if you’ve been trying to taper off alcohol or treat alcohol use disorder, this period can be especially stressful. Ironically, stress impacts the prefrontal cortex resulting in higher impulsivity and increasing the chance of relapsing or binging during this celebratory season.
There are a few more reasons you’ll want to drink responsibly over the holidays:
- There is increased hospitalization due to alcohol-fueled violence, alcohol poisoning, or Holiday Heart Syndrome.
- Laws still apply. About 63% of Americans do not know the legal blood alcohol limit (BAC). As a result, there are increased accidents or fatalities related to holiday drinking.
- Drinking alcohol if tapering off or undergoing detox can undo your hard work.
- Drinking can lead to embarrassing behavior, including verbal or physical abuse, that we regret later.
- You get to start the next week or the New Year with no hangovers, healthier, and happier.
Excessive drinking has too many consequences that it’s not worth the effort. However, if you must, drinking responsibly during the holidays should be non-negotiable. You must prepare yourself in advance, especially if your alcohol use has affected your relationships or health. Here are 5 ways to have festive fun with responsible drinking.
1. Know your limits
The CDC recommends 2 drinks daily for men and 1 drink for women. Binging is considered 5 or more drinks for men and 4 or more for women. However, our tolerance levels may vary if we metabolize alcohol differently. If you know you feel the effects after a certain quantity or type of drink, set your limits beforehand, and stick to them. Remind yourself of the possible drawbacks of playing a bit too hard, and try not to overdo it.
Don’t negotiate with yourself. Something as simple as a bad phone call or an annoying work email can make you want to let loose. Stick to your limits and don’t compromise, even for yourself. Most of all, don’t be afraid to share your convictions with other partygoers. About 35% of people who overindulged said they felt pressured by peers.
2. Eat up
Before you clink glasses with your family, colleagues, or friends, ensuring your stomach is taken care of is a good idea. Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Snacking throughout the party on appetizers or having a full meal is best. Your body absorbs and reacts to alcohol differently without food. Food slows alcohol from being absorbed by your body and lowers the likelihood of getting a hangover. Consuming alcohol also affects your appetite. Therefore the best option is to eat something nutritious but filling before you drink. When you have a full meal, you’ll drink a bit less.
3. Avoid practices that lead to binging
Sometimes, it’s not just about knowing your limits. You can go into the holidays with a clear plan, but how you drink can throw the plan out of the window.
- Watch out for mixed drinks such as cocktails or specialty beverages. These cocktails typically have added sugar and comprise multiple types of alcohol, getting you drunk faster.
- Avoid drinking shots. While these drinks have less liquid volume, the concentration of alcohol is much higher than beer or wine.
- Avoid drinks like dark liqueurs or fortified wines that get you drunk quickly. Instead, insert non-alcoholic beverages, like juices or water, within your drinking stints. That way, you stretch out the length of time between drinks.
- Skip the drinking games, bets, or any other drinking incentives.
- You can “cheers” with sparkling cider or club soda.
Stick to the script as best as possible. If you must get involved in drinking activities, use your agreed-upon quota of drinks or skip them entirely.
4. Get Help
Ask a friend, colleague, or family member to help you with restraint if you have trouble managing your alcohol use. Tell them why you want to cut back and your limits before any drinking decision. The pressure of the holidays can be tempting, and there is no shame in asking for help.
Another form of help is securing a designated driver beforehand or plan to use a rideshare app. If you go over the limit, this is a way to ensure you arrive home safely. Driving intoxicated is a risk not just for yourself but others, not to mention being financially painful if pulled over and cited for drunk driving. It might seem like a good idea, but your lowered inhibitions and response time can be dangerous.
5. Consider “on-demand” treatment for alcohol use
Maybe you’ve tried to drink responsibly during the holidays before and it was an epic failure. You drank more than you intended, even though you knew it was a bad idea. Or you’ve discovered that your drinking is a habit that you just can’t control. At that point, you spend time thinking about alcohol, or you do it even if it affects your home, family, or business.
These may be signs of alcohol dependency or alcohol use disorder (AUD). This condition happens on a spectrum. According to the American Psychiatric Association and NIAAA, only 2 of their 11 criteria are enough to have mild AUD.
For these cases, trying to drink responsibly during the holidays by simply dropping your numbers may not be enough. It may be best to get on-demand treatment to help reduce your cravings. Typical protocols include The Sinclair Method (TSM). This method uses a drug called naltrexone. You take a tablet 1-2 hours before your drinking session and the naltrexone limits the endorphin/dopamine activity that escalates as a reaction to alcohol in your system. In turn you won’t get the same biological reinforcement that produces that strong desire for alcohol, reducing its use steadily and gradually over time. The goal is to use only when drinking, and not indefinitely, so you can allow your body to readjust to alcohol, limit your intake on a regular basis and still have an amazing quality of life. What makes programs like these fantastic is that the goal of cutting back is more achievable and realistic for many people than abstinence, and it’s definitely better than a dreary, expensive rehab center.
Enjoy yourself responsibly.
The holidays are about spending time with your friends and loved ones and celebrating what’s to come in the New Year. However, it’s just one moment in the broader scope of life, so it’s essential to do so without abusing alcohol. With some planning, you can still enjoy your favorite drink or cheers to new beginnings. Make sure to know your limits and the drinks you’ll have well in advance. Avoid drinks or activities that will derail your efforts. More importantly, seek help if you struggle to control alcohol use.
At Alcure, we believe people can live more and enjoy these fantastic occasions while drinking less. With The Sinclair Method, thousands have been helped in keeping their alcohol use under control. If you need extra support, sign up for our convenient, on-demand service, and drink responsibly during the Holidays.