It’s that time of year: office parties, holiday invites and celebrations with plenty of opportunities to drink, and drink heavily. Pile on the pressure of purchasing presents, dealing with difficult family members, and stressful travel schedules; it’s no wonder the holidays trigger binge drinking behavior, and relapses for people in recovery.
Are you dreading the office party for fear you’ll end up downing egg nogs and saying something to your boss or co-workers you’ll forever regret?
Does the upcoming family holiday dinner put your recovery at risk, because you fear the stress of dealing with dysfunctional or demanding family members?
Are you home this holiday season feeling lonely, comforting yourself with several drinks or more?
Believe it or not, with just a few of these coping tips, you not only can get through the holidays—at home and work—but can also attend parties and avoid overdrinking, or drinking altogether if that’s your goal.
TIP 1. Know Your Triggers
Being forewarned is forearmed. Consider what factors trigger you to drink heavily, or tempt you to drink if you’re trying to abstain. Once you identify the people, places or situations that are most likely to trigger drinking behavior, it will be easier to respond from a place of personal power.
TIP 2. Make A Plan
Take a moment to think about your triggers. How have you reacted to them in the past? How could you respond better in the future? What would a positive response look, feel, or sound like for you? Write down the answers, and circle the ones that are most likely to support your drinking goal. How you think about your response to triggers, and the process of putting a plan into action (ahead of time) can make you less likely to overdrink, or drink at all if your goal is abstinence.
TIP 3. Track Progress
Self-awareness is a key step for change. If your goal is to drink moderately during a holiday party—or on your own—keep track while you’re drinking. This can have a big impact on whether you drink over your limits. As you keep track of each drink try having a non-alcoholic drink in between alcoholic drinks. This can help you stay within your limits.
TIP 4. Go Over Your Limits? Don’t Beat Yourself Up!
We all make mistakes. If you go to a holiday event and end up overdrinking, it’s important to learn from the mistake, instead of beating yourself up. Changing your drinking takes time. It’s a process. You’ll be more likely to succeed in managing your drinking when you let go of harsh self- criticism, and embrace mistakes as learning opportunities.
Tip 5. Use Digital Resources
Digital resources can help drinkers significantly reduce their drinking. Online support groups for social support such as SMART Recovery and ModerationManagement combined with skills building programs like CheckUpandChoices.com are proven to help drinkers achieve their goals. These empowering tools can provide real and lasting impact by offering 24/7 online access to behavior trackers, customized exercises, feedback, and automated reminders. Research shows that using digital resources can positively impact your ability to manage drinking whether you choose to moderate, or stop drinking completely.
Whether you decide to moderate your drinking or abstain from alcohol this season, using these tips will help you safely enjoy some healthy, holiday cheer!
Dr. Reid K. Hester is the Director of the Research Division of CheckUp & Choices. For over forty years, Dr. Hester, a clinical psychologist, has been at the forefront of alcohol abuse research and treatment. His clinical research, funded by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and National Institute of Health (NIH) since 1992, has focused on developing digital interventions to help people with alcohol and drug problems.