Strategies for controlling drinking during the holidays

The holidays are about celebration. This is the season for getting together with friends and loved ones and enjoying delicious food and drinks. In America, the consumption of alcohol during the holidays goes up by 100%. For those who are drinking during the holidays, alcohol intake can easily double in comparison to the rest of the year. For most of us, having a few drinks is nothing more than a way to relax and enhance a social outing. But some of us have a different relationship with alcohol, and we need to make a strategic effort to control drinking during the holiday season.

There are many reasons not to drink or at least drink only in moderation. While some people avoid alcohol for religious reasons, to protect their health, or to set a good example for their children, others need to be careful not to lose control because they have developed an addiction to alcohol.

Below are a few strategies for controlling drinking during the holiday season.

If you are aiming for moderation

Decide how much before you go out

Make a decision before you go out. How many drinks are you allowed to have? Give yourself a specific amount. When we set a specific goal for ourselves we are more likely to keep it.


Change what you order or pour for yourself

If you are in a restaurant or drinking establishment, order a single shot in a large glass rather than a double shot in a short glass. This may seem like common sense, but many of us order drinks out of habit and do not consider changing what we drink as part of a strategy to consume less alcohol.

Changing what we drink also helps us start a new pattern and leave behind old habits. Mixing one shot of alcohol in a large glass of mix will make the drink last longer, and the alcohol will enter the bloodstream at a slower rate.


Have a meal before you have a drink

Wait to have a drink with your meal or snack while you enjoy a cocktail or glass of wine. Food absorbs alcohol and slows its entry into your bloodstream.


Pace yourself

Drink something else between alcoholic drinks. Take steps to pace yourself, and have a plan ahead of time. You may want to have one drink every two hours rather than drink your quota right away and then expect to stop once you've already begun to feel the effects of intoxication. Once we are intoxicated, our inhibitions are lowered and our decision-making processes are compromised.


Guard against temptation

If you have a group of friends with whom you normally drink heavily, you may want to avoid this crowd. Chances are you will either not have a good time with them or you will break your commitment to yourself. The environment is a powerful trigger for addiction, and spending time with old friends who are associated with the habit you are trying to break can reduce your chances of sticking to your drinking goals.


If you are on an abstinence program

If you are abstaining from alcohol, there are a few strategies that will help you get through the holidays.


Access your support system

If you are newly sober and feel like you may be challenged by the holiday season, connect with your support system. If you do not have a support system, take steps to find one. There are many support groups for substance abuse available.

Booking with an addiction therapist can also help you receive the support you need to get you through the holidays and beyond. Your therapist will understand what you are going through and can offer strategies that are specific to you and your situation.


Take it one day at a time

As with any challenging transition, it is best to think of the holidays not as an entire month ahead, but as one day at a time.


If you can't take it a day at a time, take it an hour at a time

If you are at a party, and you want a drink, you may be tempted to break your commitment and have one. If you're craving a drink, you can tell yourself, "in one hour I'll have a drink". When the hour passes, you can commit to just one more hour. Often the craving will pass. A distraction or even fatigue can lessen the desire for a drink.

This is one way to make it through an entire evening without a drink. The commitment to an hour is much more manageable for the mind that the commitment to forever.


Find other ways to reward yourself

There are many strategies for controlling drinking during the holiday season. When we are moving away from a lifestyle we once found rewarding, we need to replace what is lost with something new. Find alternative ways to find joys, rewards, and interests that are particular to you.

If you are struggling with any addiction, seek help from an addiction specialist. It is possible to take back control of your life and create a positive and healthy future.


Addition treatment in New York

Stefan Kantrowitz MD is a fellowship-trained and board-certified Addiction Medicine and Internal medicine physician practicing in New York. If you would like to learn more, you are welcome to call and book your first appointment or fill out the contact form and click Send.


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