While the holiday season is a time of joy for many, it can also be a dangerous time, especially if you tend to drink too much or are around others who may overdo it on the alcohol.
The suicide rate always goes up during the holidays, and studies indicate that alcohol is involved in one third of the completed suicides.
Motor vehicle accidents and impaired driving charges increase. The consequences of drinking and driving, however, often go far beyond the fines, the car impounding and the loss of driving privileges. Children, passengers and other motorists are often the ones killed. U.S. statistics indicate that half of all traffic deaths are alcohol related.
When alcohol is used to excess, all sorts of unhealthy conditions and behaviours emerge.
There are higher rates of mental illness, especially depression. There is increased domestic violence. There are more incidents of stalking behavior. In a survey of 40,000 women in over 20 countries, one in five admitted to becoming romantically involved with a colleague during an office party. One third of these admitted to a brief affair.
Do not ignore the fact that if several thousand women admitted to having affairs, there were probably a few men involved too. At what cost to marriages and families?
The fact is that most people do not want to keep on drinking after they have had a couple of drinks. If you are hosting a holiday party, however, do keep an eye on those who continue to drink. They may be among the alcohol-dependent segment of the population, that is, they may be alcoholics. (We politely call them functioning alcoholics if they are still working.)
Being able to tolerate large quantities of alcohol, and being unable to stop drinking or to remember events the next day are all signs of alcoholism. Some even appear to take on a different personality when they drink.
Have nonalcoholic beverages readily available for everyone. Serve sweets, because part of the craving for alcohol is the craving for sugar. Sweets can help reduce that craving. Be ready to stop someone who is unsafe to drive home. I know this is hard, but you might be saving someone’s life.
Every year hundreds of children are sexually abused by relatives and friends at holiday house parties. Social class is irrelevant, so hire a babysitter to look after your children, even though you are there.
If you are at someone else’s party, always have an escape route. Pre-arrange with someone to pick you up if you call. If you are not going to drink yourself, drive your own car rather than accept a ride. If your partner has a tendency to drink too much, have a discussion in advance of the party to plan an intervention and the escape route.
If your teens are going to a party where there will be drinking, ask them about their escape route, should things turn bad. Talk with them about the importance of a designated driver. Remind them to call home for someone to pick them up, no questions asked.
I invite you to reflect on the role alcohol will play in your holiday season. Let’s make Christmas both fun and safe this year.
Happy holidays to all my readers.
You can reach Registered Psychologist Dr. Neill Neill at 250-752-8684 or through his website www.neillneill.com/contact