I used to equate alcohol-free parties as boring. Now I know better. After seeing the consequences of drinking too much and personally experiencing a few episodes, I’ve changed how I regard celebrating the holidays or any occasion.
First, it’s not worth the risk.
Second, the negative effects can haunt you for years.
Third, there are safer choices that allow you to enjoy the holidays without the potentially life-changing consequences from imbibing too much. Here are a few safer choices to consider.
- Be open to new experiences.
Just because you’ve always celebrated the holidays a certain way doesn’t mean you’re locked into that pattern forever. You can choose how to spend this time. A ski trip instead of bogging yourself down in over-emotional and highly stressful home planning and celebration might be just what you need. Take a day or two to visit another city or a weekend destination where you and those you bring along can discover something new. The change of venue can not only brighten your mood and lighten the load of holiday responsibilities, it can also present opportunities to explore new experiences.
- Plan a party with only your closest friends and loved ones.
The idea of being alone during the holidays just to avoid being around drinkers isn’t healthy or safe. You can plan an intimate party with just close friends and loved ones. Be sure the invite list consists of people you know can and will be receptive to an alcohol-free event. Include games, watching sports or movies, recreational activities or going to a special event.
- Spend time with family members you have a healthy relationship with, avoiding toxic ones.
You know exactly who’s going to get so drunk they slur their words and fall into the buffet table during a family holiday get-together. He or she may have a problem with alcohol or substance abuse. If you can’t avoid being at the same event with those toxic relatives, spend time with family members with whom you have the healthiest relationship. The drunkard won’t miss your presence if you politely say you’re going to help the host/hostess and this is your opportunity to quietly slip away to another area of the party. Surrounding yourself with family members you enjoy will also provide a buffer should the tipsy family member come barging in.
- Choose not to attend stressful holiday events.
Every holiday season there are a slew of pitfalls to steer clear of, not the least of which are events you know will be stressful. These may include holiday office parties or neighborhood celebrations or the must-attend parties that everyone’s dying to go to. Another suggestion is to limit your party attendance to one celebration, two max. The more parties you attend, the greater the likelihood that you’ll run into some difficulties with the temptation to drink or having to deal with people who’ve had too much to drink.
Some people have no one to spend time with this holiday. They’re old, sick, abandoned, or in an orphanage or group home. You can make a huge difference in their lives by choosing to volunteer for a party or to schedule a visit where you spend an hour or so with someone so desperate for company. This not only gets you away from drinking and the consequences associated with it, but it makes you feel good about doing something positive for another human being.
- Go with a trusted friend — be each other’s sober buddy.
One way to help ensure you make safer choices this holiday season is to go to certain parties and events with a trusted friend. You each pledge to refrain from drinking so you can be each other’s sober buddy. The idea isn’t for you to be someone’s designated driver. That only means he or she can drink all they want and you must be the responsible one. You want to enjoy the holiday, not be a chauffeur. Choose a friend you know shares your intention and choose a party or celebration where alcohol isn’t flowing like a fountain.
- If you are at a party where drinking gets out of hand, leave early.
While you can’t always be certain of the party environment, you do have control over whether you stay or not. If the holiday drinking becomes excessive, or more than you’re comfortable being around, the clear and safe choice is to leave early. You don’t owe anyone there the obligation of remaining. You’re much better off going home.
- Make a new family holiday tradition.
Families celebrating the holidays are a solid tradition. You decorate the house, get a tree or other holiday items, shop for and create memorable holiday meals and so on. But there are other traditions you can create for the family that will make some new and incredible memories. Instead of a focus on material things, shift to a concentration on the spiritual aspect of the time. If you haven’t gone to church, temple or synagogue for a while, now’s a perfect time to do so. If your family isn’t religious, do something else that has special meaning. Read poems, sing songs, play games, create family plays, make a holiday scrapbook, have everyone write a holiday story and share it aloud. Make a new family tradition that you’ll all look forward to repeating next year.