People who abuse any one of a number of substances, including alcohol, have an unusual…
10 Risks of Holiday Drinking
When the holiday season rolls around, there are many good reasons to avoid tipping a few too many back and no real good ones for getting tanked with alcohol. Some of the risks may be familiar, while others may not immediately come to mind. Still, it pays to be aware of these 10 risks of holiday drinking — and do something proactive about them:
- Humiliating Yourself at the Office Holiday Party
When alcohol loosens your lips, you’re much more likely to blurt out anything that comes to mind. In the presence of others from your office to whom your reputation should matter, your liquor-fueled words and actions can lead to you being humiliated. Not that you’d recognize this right away, however, since alcohol also blurs your ability to recognize when you’ve gone too far, acted inappropriately, insulted others, fallen down or passed out at the office party.
It’s only in the aftermath that the consequences of your bad behavior come home to roost. This could mean an ultimate loss of promotion, being passed over for important assignments, lack of trust, not seeing you as a “team player,” or even being fired. Why risk it? The best way to be on your good behavior at holiday office parties is not to drink at all.
- Health Risks and Complications
Excess drinking promotes a host of negative health risks and conditions, almost too numerous to mention. Some of the more common ones include liver toxicity, cirrhosis of the liver, problems with the kidneys and other vital organs, heart disease and stroke, complications from diabetes, hypertension, stroke, and many more. The bad news is that some of these are hard to overcome. Alcohol may have already damaged your health beyond repair, or it could take a long time to regain your health. At any rate, drinking too much is never good for your physical health.
- When Too Much Becomes Way Too Much
How many times have you heard yourself or others say that you can drink everyone under the table — especially during the holidays when so many others are drinking? Such boasts may temporarily elevate you in a boys’ club mentality of heavy alcohol consumption, but the practice definitely increases your risk of becoming dependent upon or addicted to the substance. Years of drinking to the point of unconsciousness, having blackouts or brownouts and near misses take their toll.
Why risk becoming an alcoholic and all the negative consequences associated with alcoholism? Learn to be moderate in your drinking or, better yet, taper to the point where you no longer drink. If you feel you already have a problem with alcohol, seek help to overcome it. There is always help in the form of support or self-help groups and alcohol rehab for really getting clean and sober in the most medically-advanced and proven effective treatment programs.
- Accidents and Injuries
The more you drink, the more you elevate your risk of being in an accident, injuring yourself or others. This includes accidents you may cause by driving while drunk as well as accident in the home, workplace or elsewhere.
When you drink too much alcohol, you lose the ability to make sound decisions. Your perception is skewed. Everything tends to become fuzzy and you rationalize that what you’re doing is perfectly normal — despite the fact that you’re slurring your words and have trouble gauging distance, monitoring your reaction time, and other such hazards. You become forgetful and have a tendency to overcompensate. If you think you’re going too slowly, you speed up and vice-versa. Driving off the road or veering out of your lane are also risks when you’ve had too much to drink. Nodding off because alcohol is making you sleepy further complicates an already dangerous situation.
What’s the solution? Never drink and drive. Never drink and put yourself in a situation where you have to tend to anything that requires your absolute concentration — for example, dangerous or demanding work, using power tools, or working in the kitchen or garage.
- Neglecting Children
Under the influence of alcohol, you’re more likely to ignore your responsibilities as a parent. Forgetting to pick the kids up from school, driving erratically, failing to ensure the children are properly secured in seatbelts and/or car seats are just some of the risks. If you pass out due to alcoholic consumption, the kids will suffer and be neglected when it comes to preparing and serving their meals, bathing and otherwise taking care of them as you should. If you’re married, this leaves your partner to shoulder the responsibilities that you should at least share. Over time, the cumulative effects on your children of your excess drinking can lead to many more problems — in the family and for the children, specifically.
- Shopping and Spending Binge
Fueled by booze that too-good-to-pass-up sale may mean that you max out your credit cards on a full-on shopping and spending binge. After all, you may (unrealistically) rationalize, this is a great way to get all your holiday shopping done and over with. The downside is that you’re more likely to engage in impulse buying, far exceed what you’d normally consider spending (when you’re sober), and the gifts or purchases may never assuage the hole you feel inside anyway. Buying massive amounts of things will never make up for true human interaction. It’s only the alcohol that seems to convince you that shopping and buying will somehow make a difference.
The antidote to compulsive shopping and spending created by alcohol consumption is not to shop or buy when you drink. Take a walk outside and clear your head. Give the alcohol time to dissipate. Make it a drink-free day when you do plan to go shopping — and stick to a budget so you won’t be tempted to overspend.
- Depression and Sadness
The holidays seem to bring up painful memories for many people, and that’s even before factoring alcohol into the equation. Alcohol is a depressant and it creates the perfect storm for feeling sadness and sinking into depression — especially in someone who already has depressed tendencies, has battled depression, recently suffered a loss or is alone with no family or friends.
Drinking is never going to replace emptiness that you feel — not temporarily and never permanently. At best, alcohol blurs the edges of emotional pain. But no therapist would ever recommend getting soused as an effective way to deal with depression, sadness or other emotional minefields that are evident during the holidays. Find other ways to cope with these feelings, such as being with good friends, engaging in volunteer work, going for a walk with a loved one or family member or close friend, enhancing your spirituality by going to church, synagogue, temple or meditating and focusing on your inner spirituality.
- Creating an Unforgettable and Unfortunate Family Experience
Another huge risk of too much holiday drinking is the very real possibility of creating an unforgettable and unfortunate family experience. Stress is already likely quite high at many family holiday get-togethers without adding alcohol as a volatile fuel to the situation. Downing several cocktails just so you can stand being next to a family member you’ve had disagreements with or dislike is only going to take you so far. After a few more drinks you’re likely to completely lose your inhibitions, say or do something totally inappropriate, rude or downright humiliating. This leaves a bad taste with everyone present — and it’s something that will be hard to come back from when you’re sober.
A good way to prevent such a distressing scenario is to make the holiday family event alcohol-free. While some guests may complain about this, it is your house and you can decide what to serve. After all, family is supposed to be everything. If you truly believe this, you should want to be present (clean and sober) and insist that other attendees are able to enjoy the event with clear heads as well.
In the event that others show up already drunk or having been drinking, gently and firmly uninvite them. This may be hard to do, but your sober guests (and you) will be better off for it.
The more you drink during the holiday, the more you may also decide that overindulging in certain food items is a good idea as well. Overeating at holiday events is common, but it’s made all the worse when good judgment goes out the window as a result of alcoholic consumption. Let’s face it. How many times have you said to yourself that that extra piece of pecan pie a la mode with mountains of whipped cream on top isn’t going to hurt you? Ditto that second or third helping of main course, side dishes, appetizers and what not? People just don’t use their best judgment (they can’t) when they’re drinking.
How to avoid overeating when drinking is simple. Don’t drink. Put less on your plate and leave half of it. You’ll still wind up with more than enough. Besides, this leaves more for leftovers. See, there’s always a silver lining.
10. Giving Up
Perhaps one of the most insidious risks of holiday drinking is the tendency to give up. When stress mounts and depression or anxiety set in, having far too many drinks can lead to the feeling that goals are worthless and unrealistic, not worth pursuing, too difficult, too long to achieve, or don’t matter anymore. This is alcohol talking, and while no one should listen to its siren call, the unfortunate reality is that too many do.
Although reports are conflicting, there may be more suicides and suicidal intentions during the holidays than at any other time of the year (excepting anniversaries of loss of loved ones and other highly emotionally-charged events). Alcohol pushes you over the line and into the realm of hopelessness and helplessness, the place where you give up and think about checking out.
If you find that you’re so depressed and sad and are ready to give up on everything, reach out for help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). Call a loved one or family member or close friend. Call your minister, priest, rabbi or spiritual counselor. Call someone who can help you navigate this perilous time. And put down the drink.
Can you survive the holidays this year without drinking? You can if you say you will — and mean it. Give yourself a good list of strategies, call a friend if you need help or support, and be determined to have this holiday be a sober one.
By Suzanne Kane