Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

December 23, 2012

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Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Northpointe Council, Inc. would like everyone to enjoy a very safe and happy holiday season. The holidays are times to socialize and celebrate, however the holidays can also bring increased pressures and stress. Whether it is traveling to be with family, doing last minute gift buying or any number of other things, most people feel some pressure during this time of year. This can be difficult for anyone, but can be especially challenging for those trying to maintain their sobriety from a drug or alcohol addiction.

The holiday season, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, in the United States, is the most dangerous season of the year for those trying to maintain their sobriety and for anyone driving on the public highways. During this holiday season, there are more alcohol-related traffic fatalities than any other time during the year. There are several reasons for this:

More people drink alcohol during the holidays due to numerous parties and other festivities.

Many holiday drinkers underestimate their level of impairment and drive when they should not.

The holidays are very busy and stressful. People are hurrying more than normal and winter road conditions make driving more dangerous. Add alcohol to this scenario and you have a recipe for disaster.

We strongly encourage people to follow these tips to help avoid alcohol-related accidents, injuries and fatalities: 

Resist the pressure to serve alcohol at every social event. Alcohol is not a necessary ingredient for holiday cheer. 

If you want to serve alcohol to your guests, be sure to offer nonalcoholic beverages as well. Make your guests feel as comfortable choosing a nonalcoholic beverage as they would in choosing alcohol. You can do this by putting nonalcoholic drinks in an easily accessible place and by asking guests what they would like to drink, instead of pointing them to the bar or handing them an alcoholic drink when they arrive. 

If you or your friends are going to a party and plan to drink alcohol, decide in advance, whom the designated driver will be. Drinking and driving is not an option.

Remember that a designated driver is someone who has not had anything to drink, not just the one who has had the least.

If you drink during the holidays, pace yourself. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) recommends not having more than one drink per hour. They also suggest making every other drink a nonalcoholic one. 

For people in recovery, the holidays often present special challenges. Anyone who is trying to maintain sobriety understands that the holidays are filled with temptations and potential pitfalls, especially when the people around us are drinking or using other drugs.

There may be painful memories or losses associated with holidays from the past, or stress related to dealing with uncomfortable feelings about the holiday this year. If you are in recovery, consider attending extra meetings or reaching out for extra support to take care of yourself. You can also follow these tips for extra support as well:

Keep a phone number for a sponsor or a supportive family member with you.

Stay away from the treats that may contain alcohol, such as rum balls, punch and eggnog. While they might taste good, it may bring on a strong urge.

Keep going to your meetings – they do not stop during the holidays.

As many as 74 percent of Americans identify that addiction has had an impact on them at some point in their lives. For some, it may be their own personal addiction; for others, that of a friend or family member, or any other experience with addiction. Anyone with a friend or loved one who has a substance abuse problem should also consider seeking extra support and assistance during the holidays as the holiday season could also be especially chaotic and challenging for the families and friends of people with substance abuse problems.

Some holiday tips for families of people in recovery:

Avoid exposing the family member to alcoholic beverages and other substances of abuse.

Allow open discussion of feelings regarding abstinence and sobriety.

Encourage the recovering person to invite a recovering peer to family gatherings.

Offer to accompany the family member to recovery related activities, like support groups or sober holiday parties.

Do not pressure the family member to attend gatherings that may cause emotional discomfort.

Make yourself available to give support, and give them words of encouragement.

We wish everyone a very happy and healthy new year.

Cheri KellySenior Prevention SpecialistNorthpointe Council, Inc.