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Tips to avoid excessive drinking during the holidays

Marcel Gemme

Special to the Village News

During the holidays, the time before Christmas and New Year’s Day accounts for some of the highest rates of alcohol consumption. Christmas week especially creates a number of opportunities for drinking.

Whether you are attending family gatherings, work parties or other celebrations, there is endless temptation to consume alcohol. Even those individuals who are social drinkers tend to find themselves drinking more alcohol. Fortunately, there are practical tips that you can use to politely decline drink offers and avoid excessive drinking during the holidays.

Whether you are in your golden years, middle-aged or young, the key to success is to practice saying “no” to alcohol. Whether it is a legitimate reason or a wild made-up excuse, it all works.

You can try saying, “No thank you,” “I’m driving tonight,” “I’ve got a workout planned tomorrow morning,” “I’m embracing a healthier lifestyle,” “I have an early workday” or “I’m taking medication that doesn’t mix with alcohol,” these are all practical reasons.

There are also light-hearted approaches to consider, such as “No thanks, I become belligerent and rude when I drink,” “Before I accept, I should warn you I brought a guitar with me,” “No thanks, I left my small children at home with an angry dog” or “A few more of these and I’ll be ready to describe my unpublished novel to you.”

The goal of saying “no” or having a cut-off is to feel empowered by what you say, and practicing saying the words in advance can make a huge difference. Overall, drinking alcohol should feel like a choice and not an obligation.

Another successful alternative is to bring your own non-alcoholic beverages. It can be the perfect time to try some holiday mocktails. For many people, having a drink in hand makes them feel more comfortable in social situations. It also makes it less likely that someone else will pressure them to drink alcohol, such as relatives.

Finally, it is essential to know when to leave a party. Most people have experienced holiday parties or family functions that have gotten out of control. Giving themselves permission to leave early is OK, and it can be a huge relief. Plan an exit strategy, which can be especially important at family functions if everything spirals out of control.

Spending the holiday season avoiding alcohol can have real benefits, such as creating new memories that are actually remembered. It can also be nostalgic, and without the influence of alcohol, families can rediscover the things they loved about the holiday season.

Marcel Gemme is the founder of DRS and has been helping people struggling with substance use for over 20 years. His work focuses on a threefold approach: education, prevention and rehabilitation.


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