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How to manage alcohol use during holidays

Guest Editorial
Michael Leach, substance use disorder and addiction specialist

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, countless celebrations, family gatherings and work functions often occur.
It can be a stressful time of year for some people, especially those recovering from alcohol addiction or anyone battling alcohol addiction.
The holiday season can be triggering for many people, with the holiday parties, loneliness, financial worries, or the general stress of having to be around so many people.
There are significant risks with excessive drinking during the holidays, especially among young people.
In Minnesota, roughly 16 percent of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities involve people under the age of 21. In 2020, over 58 percent of adult Minnesotans said they drank alcohol.
Unfortunately, the state had one of the highest rates of binge drinking in the nation, with 18.4 percent of adults reporting binge drinking. It is binge drinking that leads to many problems over the holiday season.
There are effective ways to avoid the onslaught of excessive alcohol use over the holidays, whether you are in recovery or do not want to drink.
“Post-pandemic, more families now than ever are recognizing the damaging effects of alcohol,” said Marcel Gemme of
“At holiday parties, many people want to enjoy a holiday drink but do not want the alcohol. Holiday mocktails are becoming more popular and are an excellent option to offer to those in recovery or those who want to stay sober over the holidays.”
Avoiding the temptation of alcohol use over the holidays while in recovery can be challenging, but there are some practical ways to plan ahead.
Initially, it is critical to recognize triggers and plan in advance, for example, knowing if the family gathering is going to be alcohol excessive or if there are family members that become confrontational.
It is OK to decline an invitation and have a plan that allows for an easy exit if it becomes too much to manage.
Finally, rely on a support group, whether this is friends, family, or group meetings. In addition, try not to drink on an empty stomach, and decide beforehand how much you are going to drink.
Most importantly, have a plan to get home safely and do not drink and drive. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, there is an increase in drinking and driving.
Plan ahead, and arrange a designated driver, taxi, uber, or any other means of getting home safely.
It is possible to have a safe and sober holiday season. The holidays are a time to celebrate together, share memories and traditions, and express gratitude.
Early intervention is critical if you or someone you know is struggling with addiction over the holidays.
The holiday season is an excellent time to consider going to counseling, treatment or drug rehab. It is the ideal time to focus on caring for yourself, a family member or a friend who is struggling.

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