Tis the season to be jolly and silly ... and drunk
Surviving the Holidays without drinking
By Janine Shamos
Eat, drink and be merry – this is the festive season's motto and while that's all well and good for those of us who can be moderate in our intake of food and alcohol, for those recovering from alcoholism the Christmas holidays can be the most difficult time of the year. "The holidays bring, not only time off from work and some time to relax, but also parties and family gatherings and more opportunities than usual to drink alcohol", says Johannesburg –based psychologist Dr Michael Niss.
If you find yourself struggling not to take a drink during the festive season, remember that you are not alone says the South African Depression and Anxiety Group who run a toll-free 24-hour Substance Abuse help line on 0800 12 13 14 or SMS 32312. There is help. They have some suggestions on how to stay clean and sober during the holidays.
Family and friends who are truly supportive of your recovery will be happy to help you stay sober during the holidays. Be honest, tell them your concerns and ask for their help, and spend the majority of your time with your support network. "We sometimes need to be in situations for a family or social gathering where there will be alcohol and people will be drinking, sometimes more than they should", says Niss. He says that if you are worried or feel you will be tempted to drink, invite a fellow AA member with you or someone who understand how tough this will be for you. "It's important to do fun things that replace your old drinking rituals."
Another safeguard is to have a list of people you can call if you feel the urge to drink. "Make a list and keep numbers and contacts on your cell phone - and keep it with you always!", says SADAG's Cassey Amoore. "The urge to drink is very powerful and can happen at any time. Remember SADAG and the AA."
Remember that, however tempting, you don't need to go back to your old drinking holes - your old drinking buddies are probably still there and still telling the same old stories and jokes. So this festive season, try something totally different during. Buy a new board game; have a picnic in the park; play a game – most importantly don't be too serious, have fun.
Another mistake people often make is that they allow themselves to become hungry, angry, lonely or tired (H.A.L.T.). "There are very simple solutions for these. If you are hungry, eat. If you are angry, talk. If you are lonely, go to a meeting or call a friend. If you are tired, get a good night's sleep." Avoiding H.A.L.T. can keep you sober.
Sadly many people are alone at this time of year and that makes not drinking s much harder. Remember that there are many people in South Africa who are homeless, hungry and alone. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or a children's home – and really get into the Christmas spirit.
The festive season can be a time of joy, celebration of life and a chance to reaffirm your sobriety. "Take it one day at a time and try not to dwell on what has happened or what could happen", says Niss. SADAG's message this festive season: Live today and celebrate your sobriety!
Know the limit:
In South Africa, the legal alcohol limit is 0.05g per 100ml blood. One unit of alcohol is 0.02g and takes about an hour to metabolise. One unit is: one shot of spirits; 90ml of wine; 2/3 can of beer or alcoholic cooler; or half a can of cider.
1. Learn how to say no and encourage your friends to be supportive.
2. Nominate yourself as the designated driver if you wish to avoid alcohol.
3. Avoid topping drinks up: you may lose count of how many you have had.
4. Try to alternate water or a non-alcoholic alternative with your alcoholic drinks, or try a non-alcoholic cocktail for a refreshing change.
5. Try to eat a substantial meal to increase your tolerance if you are planning on drinking. Avoid eating too many salty party snack foods, which will encourage you to drink more quickly.
6. Women should be aware that drinking the same number of drinks as a male counterpart can produce a higher blood alcohol reading in a woman because women generally have proportionately more fat and less body water than men. The contraceptive pill can also make women more affected by alcohol.
SADAG Substance Abuse line: 0800 12 13 14 or SMS 32312
SADAG Suicide Crisis Line 0800 567 567 or SMS 31393
AA: 0861 435 722
Al-Anon: 0861 252 666
SANCA 011 917 7473