Alcohol is the most “respectable” of addictive drugs. Patients fresh out of cocaine rehab centers can’t walk into a convenience store and grab more cocaine off the shelves. People who have had prescription drug addiction treatment at least need to get doctor approval for future medications. But alcohol is used openly by the best citizens, available in the best stores, restricted only moderately in its purchase (even the infamous Eighteenth Amendment only outlawed making and distributing “intoxicating liquors,” not drinking or buying them) and even touted as providing heart-health benefits.
All of which can complicate life for those who’ve been through alcohol detox treatment, and don’t dare risk the “one drink” that might kick them back to square one. Completely avoiding the “it’s just a little drink” trap isn’t easy—especially if you live in a geographical area, such as southern California, that’s frequently associated with the “party scene.” (Just Googling “drug rehab Los Angeles”—593,000 search results—or “San Diego detox center”—1,280,000 results—makes it all too easy to imagine how many people have “partied” beyond their own good.)
Speaking of partying, during the winter holidays you may find the temptation to let yourself go suddenly gaining strength. After all, this isn’t drinking to drown your sorrows, it’s participating in a special-occasion tradition—and besides, eggnog and hot toddies and champagne taste good! Is there any real reason not to drink just a little, for just a few weeks?
There are some very good reasons. Here’s our Top Ten list.
1. An alcoholism-altered brain doesn’t know the difference between the holiday season and any old time of year.
The idea that some Power That Be offers extra indulgences for irresponsibility on special occasions seems prevalent among addicted and non-addicted drinkers alike. And the cold hard facts point up the folly of such an idea: during the Christmas–New Year’s period, fatalities attributable to alcohol-impaired drivers increase by more than 25%. The risk of drunk-driving accidents also increases during summer break, Labor Day Weekend, Thanksgiving and Halloween.
Three or four drinks will make you as dangerous a driver in December as in April. And if you’ve been sufficiently addicted to require treatment at an alcohol detox center, the taste of one drink will reactivate that gotta-have-more craving just as fast.
2. Your brain doesn’t know the difference between a fancy holiday punch and any old can of beer.
Once it’s metabolized, alcohol is alcohol, no matter how it was brewed or what it was mixed with. And while different types of drinks do have different amounts of alcohol per ounce, most standard drink sizes (smaller for more potent combinations) give you about the same half-ounce of alcohol each. (The exception is cocktails, which frequently are more potent than single-beverage drinks of the same size.)
3. There are lots of other delicious and festive edibles available during the holiday season.
See what seasonal latte and cocoa flavors are at your favorite coffee shop. Or heat up some apple or orange juice and add a cinnamon stick. Or toast the New Year with a fizzy soft drink. Or—if you hate to dispense with that “wineglass” look completely—look up recipes for nonalcoholic holiday drinks that resemble the “classics.”
Whatever you drink, keep up a healthy intake of solid food to go with it. Remember that one common effect of alcoholism is malnutrition from neglecting other consumables.
4. You don’t need to drink to have fun.
Not if you have access to good (and supportive) friends and to nonedible forms of entertainment. What else do you enjoy about the holidays besides indulging in festive consumables? Listening to music? Attending parades? Choosing just the right gift for a loved one? Seeing how everyone has decorated their homes? Taking the kids to see Santa Claus? Just sitting by the fire? Whatever you choose, make plans to do it regularly this holiday season—preferably with non-drinking companions.
5. Your real friends will enjoy celebrating with you whether you drink or not.
If your old holiday crowd nags you for being a “party pooper” should you turn down a taste of the special brandy, find new friends—or if the offenders are relatives, find an excuse for being elsewhere during the family gathering, or find allies to stand with you during the gathering. No one who puts “drink with me” conditions on a relationship—especially if they pooh-pooh your personal difficulties with alcohol—is worth maintaining a relationship with.
6. The idea that alcohol makes you the “life of the party” is a myth.
It should go without saying, but most people who rely on alcohol to feed their wittiness wind up being remembered by the other guests all right—for all the wrong reasons. If you worry about being dull company, get therapy to help with insecurity issues. Or just accept that you aren’t an extrovert, and concentrate on being a good listener instead.
7. Someone else may need your help.
Besides being a time for fun, the holidays are also a time for helping others. Why not find something you can do for someone else: volunteering at a homeless shelter, serving meals in a food kitchen, collecting clothing and toys? If you’ve been addicted to alcohol, you no doubt owe the world some “give instead of take” time anyway.
If you don’t have a favorite cause to support, ask your alcohol detox center or support group for recommendations.
8. The “health benefits” of alcohol aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
If you’re prone to rationalization, you might be tempted by the argument, “If red wine is good for the heart, it makes sense to have a little wine during the holiday season when artery-clogging foods are everywhere.” You’d be much better off eating fewer artery-cloggers and engaging in more vigorous activities. (Cross-country skiing, anyone?) While red wine does provide some benefits to the heart, so do lots of foods that are richer in nutrients and lower in calories. And that won’t send you back to alcohol detox treatment.
9. Staying alcohol-free will free you to really enjoy the holidays.
You’ll be free from the perils of relapsing into addiction; free to go where you please because your driving won’t be impaired; free to really enjoy time with your loved ones because they won’t be on edge about your behavior; and free to savor untainted holiday memories.
10. You’ll get a leg up on starting next year off right.
Many people who make New Year’s resolutions want to “enjoy one last fling over the holidays” first—but if the change is worth making, why wait to start enjoying it? Keeping a clear head throughout the end-of-the-year period will allow you to do the best possible job of visualizing and planning your goals for a wonderful, alcohol-free future!
Inland Detox, the top drug and alcohol detox center in southern California, is located in the Temecula Valley. If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol addiction and need help getting free, please call us at (888) 739-8296.