Holiday Excesses and Alcohol Abuse

Dr Neill Neill Relationship CoachIt seems the holidays are a time of excess. Some of us spend too much, eat too much, and yes, drink too much (alcohol abuse). But it doesn’t stop there.

It seems that the volume gets turned up on everything at this time of year. Acts of generosity are magnified; for example, notice how the food banks get huge donations at Christmas time but are experiencing serious food shortages at other times of the year. Children may be showered with gifts their parents can’t afford. I remember how church attendance jumps at Christmas because there were so many people who attended church only at Christmas and Easter

However, the volume also gets turned up on negative things. Singles who are alone at Christmas, when Christmas used to be a time of family celebration for them, may feel particularly lonely. Suicides increase.

In a family with a history of spousal abuse, the frequency and intensity of the abuse often increase at this time of year. The abusing spouse’s alcohol abuse (drinking more than usual) can only make things worse.

However, there are things you can do to put the brakes on the escalations. The first and most crucial thing, of course, is to be keenly aware of what is happening and what could happen.

Every year hundreds of children are sexually abused by relatives and friends at holiday house parties. Your social class is irrelevant, so hire a babysitter to look after your children during a party, even though you are there.

Have non-alcoholic 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, perhaps even a stranger’s mother, the way my mother was killed many years ago.

If you are at someone else’s party, always have an escape route. Prearrange 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.

As we head into the season, please do give some serious thought as to the role alcohol might play or not play in your holiday season. Let’s make Christmas a safe time as well as a fun time.

Hit reply and let me know your thoughts on this. If you are reading this on the website, leave a comment.


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Dr. Neill Neill retired his psychology practice at the end of 2013. He maintains an active coaching practice via telephone or Skype with select clients dealing with alcoholic husbands or ex-husbands. Check out his book, Living with a Functioning Alcoholic: A Woman's Survival Guide.

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