Comment: Holidays can add pressure to those guarding sobriety

By planning ahead to stay sober and surrounding yourself with supporters, you can lessen the risks

By Micheal Leach / For The Herald

The Thanksgiving weekend usually kick-starts the holiday season for most people. Families and friends come together to celebrate, and this often involves excessive alcohol consumption. The holiday season is known for excessive alcohol use and, for some, increased recreational drug use.

Blackout Wednesday, for example, has become the term for the first drinking weekend of the holiday season.

Celebration and indulgence lead to alcohol or drug-related consequences. Overcoming the challenge of holiday sobriety is tough for anyone newly sober or those choosing to remain sober this holiday season.

Fortunately, there are practical approaches and useful information anyone can use to stay sober or help someone struggling with addiction.

Statistically, in Washington state, underage drinkers are slightly less common among alcohol-related deaths. Roughly 15.4 percent of adults in the state over 18 binge drink at least once per month. Annually, over 3,100 deaths are attributed to excessive alcohol use.

Thanksgiving does not have to be an alcohol or drug-induced blur; consider some of the following information to help:

The best approach involves coming up with a plan to stay sober. Most temptation to drink or use drugs arises because of anxiety, depression or feeling overwhelmed during the holidays.

Chaos and unpredictability, for example, create triggers that lead to relapse. Come up with a plan before the weekend arrives. What are you going to do? Where will you go? Who will you spend it with? A little planning goes a long way.

Or, consider hosting your own Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving gatherings with friends or family. Let people know ahead of time that you are not drinking. Taking control of certain things does reduce stress.

When attending any gatherings of family or friends, bring non-alcoholic beverages or mocktails. Invite a friend to attend with you as added support.

Additionally, don’t forget your coping skills and plan your exit before you arrive if things begin to go sideways. It’s a good idea to have some support in place.

In contrast, suppose you notice someone struggling with their sobriety; do not brush it aside as just the stress of the holidays. Offer a helping hand, provide resources for help, be supportive, and avoid casting judgment. There is so much stigma associated with addiction and sobriety, and this prevents people from asking for help. Remove this stigma by showing compassion and understanding and take this time of year to create new memories and sober traditions.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, do not wait until the new year to get help; take advantage of available resources.

Michael Leach has spent most of his career as a health care professional specializing in substance use disorder and addiction recovery. He is a certified clinical medical assistant and contributor to the health care website Recovery Begins.

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