Keeping a Cork in it During the Holidays

Drinking to excess is common during the holiday season but it does not have to be

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Holidays are rife with temptations, especially in the form of alcohol. It can be tempting for alcoholics to break a sobriety streak when everyone else is celebrating.

It’s not a sign of weakness to look for support before the going gets tough. Rather, it’s a sign of tremendous strength.

There are many tips for people to help manage holiday gatherings where alcohol is the centerpiece, regardless of the time of day. To avoid falling off the wagon or getting out of hand in social situations, try these helpful tips from an expert.

"Pick out a special non-alcoholic beverage to enjoy."

Dennis Donovan, PhD, director of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute at the University of Washington in Seattle, developed a set of guidelines to keep people on track during the holidays. For alcoholics, holiday triggers can come from stress or being in an environment full of alcohol. 

The stress of holiday gatherings can trigger the desire to drink. Support groups can fortify a person’s resolve to stay sober before walking into a difficult situation. Dr. Donovan recommends 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, Secular Organization for Sobriety, or Women for Sobriety.

“Stinking Thinking” is when alcoholics start to allow themselves to think in small ways that will eventually lead to a drink in hand. Traveling too close to a bar or liquor store where popping in would be simple or going to a party where temptation to drink would be very high.

Dr. Donovan recommends preparing for situations as soon as the thought comes to mind, “If I go to the party, what will I say if someone offers me a drink?” During the holidays, it may be best to avoid places next to liquor stores without a supportive companion.

Be mindful of cravings. When a craving hits, have a coping strategy handy. Go for a walk, move away from the vicinity of alcohol or go get engaged in a conversation. The craving will eventually subside. The important thing is to successfully ride them out.

Be ready to say “No”. Commit to it and practice it in the mirror. Dr. Donovan said, “It’s like a play. You need to rehearse your lines and convince the audience. If you’re not committed, it won’t help.”

For people wishing to moderate their alcohol consumption over the holidays, here are a few suggestions to enjoying alcohol within the boundaries of safety and health:

  • Support groups aren’t just for abstinent people. There are support groups for people who want to drink within limits. Check out Moderation Management.
  • Count drinks. Be very aware of the number of drinks consumed.
  • Only consume one drink per hour. Dr. Donovan said, “It’s like a funnel, you might take in lots of alcohol but the body cannot process it any faster." 
  • Drink water or soda in between each alcoholic beverage.
  • Eat heavy snacks or a meal before drinking.
  • One glass does not mean one drink. 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of liquor, equals one drink.

Finally, for people wanting to join the party with a non-alcoholic drink in hand, regardless of their relationship with alcohol, try ordering one of the following drinks.

  • Ginger ale on the rocks
  • Cranberry juice with a lime wedge
  • Club soda with any citrus wedge
  • Bloody Mary Mix
  • Bring a special fruit juice or microbrew root beer to the party

 This information was provided by the University of Washington.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 12, 2012
Last Updated:
April 11, 2013