If you work for the emergency services, then today is what’s known as ‘Mad Friday’. As folks finish work and let off steam for the holidays, one pint can turn into seven…and there’s a massive increase in calls and hospital admissions. It’s especially tough if you’re working in the UK; alcohol consumption increases by 40% in December – and we’re already top of the leader board. Psychologists call it ‘legitimised deviancy’ – basically get-out-of-jail-free days, when the rules of normal human behaviour don’t apply. Except that er- they sort of do. So…
If you’re drinking or planning not to:
I’m Irish, so it’s taken a while for me to learn that alcohol is not a love language. Plus, I like to do things intense: double duvet, double espresso, double gin. But you can have too much of a good thing. It’s tempting to think booze will give you confidence/switch off the bad feelings/make you more interesting/make it all better. However, without four gins, you are less likely to moon your mum/snog your boss/alienate your friends and family. There are other ways of managing stress – from taking time out in the loo, to a hot bath, calling a helpline or sending up prayer flares. And normal advice applies: intersperse the booze with soft drinks, don’t do it on an empty stomach and pace yourself.
If you’re a guy, the RDA of booze is 3-4 units; and 2-3 units for women.
(Large glass of wine – 3 units • 25ml shot of white spirits, eg vodka or gin – 0.9 units • 275ml bottle of alcopop – 1.1 units • A pint of 4 per cent beer – 2.3 units • A pint of 4.5 per cent cider – 2.6 units • 50ml glass of cream liqueur – 0.9 units).
If you’re in recovery:
Where possible, avoid triggering situations.
If you struggle with free time, then work out what you’ll do each day and stick as much as possible to routine.
Work out what you’ll say if people press you to drink or keep drinking – and have an escape route in case it gets too much.
If you’re in AA or a similar group, remember that they meet during the holidays too.
If you feel your level of agitation rising significantly, take a break. Go for a walk; run an errand to pick up something needed later; take a nap. This helps break the panic.
Make a list of reasons for staying sober. Remind yourself of it regularly.
Don’t hide your decisions. Be assertive. You don’t need to apologise for not drinking. ‘What can I get you to drink?’ ‘I’d love a coke thanks’. Job done.
If someone you love is alcoholic:
You can’t fix them. Don’t try and force a solution – whether by trying to control their drinking or micromanaging everything else. if you need to, take time out. Acknowledge how you’re feeling – it’s okay to feel this way.
Set boundaries: eg; turning up sober and on time; and discuss these in advance. If they don’t agree, make the point that you’ll be sad they’re not there – but it’s their choice. Make sure other family members know these limits too.
Explain that you will not accept abusive language or behaviour. If this happens, stay calm – eg; pretend you’re writing a news report and write down factually what is happening. Reiterate your boundaries. Do what you say, e.g; ‘if you keep shouting, the children and I are going home’. Keep doing this.
If it’s possible and you’re visiting from out of town, think about booking a room at a hotel or staying with others, so you have somewhere to go to if you need it.
Don’t bring up the past. If it goes wrong, don’t take it personally – this is an addiction and you can’t control someone else.
Organisations that can help
Al-Anon Family Groups UK and Eire: fellowship of relatives and friends of alcoholics who share their experience, strength and hope in order to solve their common problems.
Addaction: A specialist drug and alcohol treatment charity. Their addiction services are free and confidential.
Drinkline – National Alcohol Helpline Tel: 0800 917 8282: Offers help to callers worried about their drinking and support to the family and friends of people who are drinking. Advice to callers on where to get help.
NHS Choices: have information on alochol, including a unit caculator and an iphone app.
Turning Point: is a national health and social care provider, with information and advice for friends and family. Tel: 020 7481 7600 or for friends and family: tel: 020 7481 7600.