By Drew W. Edwards, Ed.D., MS
Every holiday season, people have to deal with the increased pressures and stress that the holidays place upon most of us. Whether we’re traveling to be with family or doing our last-minute gift buying, most people feel under pressure during the holidays.
As you might suspect, the holiday season then becomes one of the most dangerous times of the year for alcohol-related accidents and death. There are several reasons for this:
- More people drink during the holidays due to numerous parties and other festivities.
- Many holiday drinkers don’t drink often, so they have a lower alcohol tolerance. These people often underestimate their level of impairment and sometimes even drive when they shouldn’t. When arrested for drunk driving, these people often show a relatively low blood alcohol content yet they are very intoxicated.
- Problem drinkers and alcoholics love the holidays because there are more social occasions to drink. They say they feel more “normal” because the occasional drinkers are also more likely to abuse alcohol during this time of year. Consequently, people with alcoholism drink and drive more frequently. Unlike occasional drinkers, they have a high tolerance for alcohol and can consume large amounts before showing effects.
- The holidays are 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.
Avoiding Alcohol-Related Problems
You can make your holidays happier and safer by following these five simple tips for consuming alcohol in moderation throughout the season:
- Just say no.
Resist the pressure to drink or serve alcohol at every social event. Just because it’s there does not require that you drink it. There is no law stating that alcohol is a necessary ingredient for holiday cheer. Don’t feel like you have to drink just because your host offers — it’s not rude to choose a non-alcoholic beverage instead.
- Offer nonalcoholic beverages.
If you want to serve alcohol to your guests, offer nonalcoholic beverages as well. Make your guest feel as comfortable choosing a nonalcoholic beverage as he would choosing alcohol. You can do this by putting nonalcoholic drinks in a prominent, 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.
- Designate a driver before the party begins.
If you or your friends are going to a party and plan to use alcohol, decide in advance who will be the designated driver. Decide that drinking and driving is not an option.
- Choose your number ahead of time.
If you are going to drink, do what responsible drinkers do. Decide ahead of time how many drinks you will have and stick to it. A blood alcohol content chart can help you understand the relationship between the amount of drinks, blood alcohol content and level of impairment.
- Remember that alcohol is a complement, not the purpose.
Sometimes we lose sight of a holiday celebration or party and see it as a chance or opportunity to drink socially. While it is such an opportunity, the main purpose of a party is to have fun with people you know. Drinking is always an option and optional, and it is as much as a choice as it is a responsibility. Keep this in mind throughout the night. If you find yourself going overboard, find a friend or loved one, and explain you’d like to go home. You can stop yourself before you go too far, you just need to choose to do so.
You can ensure your holiday season is a relaxing, enjoyable and peaceful one as long as you remember to drink in moderation, and encourage your loved ones to do the same. Don’t become another drunk driving statistic, and try to remember the reasons people celebrate at this time of the year.