To Drink or Not to Drink

If you are battling substance abuse, consider attending an alcohol-free holiday party or host your own alcohol-free small gathering

WASHINGTON — Parties and special occasions usually involve games, music, and alcoholic beverages. They are times of festivity and fun. For someone concerned about alcohol intake or battling substance abuse, social events may seem threatening. But it is possible to participate in activities that include alcohol.

Get the Facts about Risky Drinking

The first step to understanding your alcohol limits is to know the facts, signs, and symptoms about alcohol abuse. The Psychological Health Center of Excellence (PHCoE) gives examples of alcohol misuse and facts about risky driving:

Drinking more or for a longer time than you intend

Continuing to drink even though it makes you feel depressed or anxious

Experiencing symptoms of withdrawal when you don’t drink

Experiencing interference with daily activities, family, friends, and work

Having to consume more drinks than you once did to get the same effect

Set Your Limits

If you’re not practicing abstinence, but want to be mindful of your drinking behavior, there are ways to set limits. Tracking your daily drink intake may be a helpful way to manage substance use, but can be difficult to practice in social situations. Before going to the party, have a plan and remember to be S.M.A.R.T:

Specific. Set a drink type and number limit for yourself. If you decide to drink a beer, ask yourself what type of beer, stick to that brand and style, and don’t go over your limit. Every alcohol beverage has a different alcohol content, which changes your body’s response.

Measurable. Understand how your body processes alcohol to determine your specific limitations. Look at the standard drink calculator to see how different types of drinks will affect your body.

Attainable. Is your goal realistic for your lifestyle? Set a goal that you are confident and positive about achieving.

Relevant. Ask yourself if your goal applies to your current surroundings. If you are at a wine-tasting event, know how much wine is enough for you.

Time-based. Set a drinking cut-off time and length of time between each drink. Determine how many drinks is a safe number for you.

Choose Your Surroundings

Choosing your surrounding can be the best way to combat pressure. If you are battling substance abuse, consider attending an alcohol-free holiday party or host your own alcohol-free small gathering. Suggest ideas to the host that don’t involve drinking. Fun ideas include:

Karaoke

Board, card and trivia games

Dance competitions

Holiday-themed relays

Arts and crafts

Gift exchanges

It’s also OK not to go to a party if you feel it could harm your sobriety. When it’s impossible to avoid functions with alcohol, make sure you have a way to leave if you’re feeling uncomfortable. Share that you’re limiting your drinking or not drinking at all. Purposefully voicing your concerns can help eliminate potential peer pressure to join or overindulge in drinking.

On-the-go Support: Mobile Apps

There are several mobile apps that can help you assess and manage your alcohol use. Some mobile apps can help you learn healthier ways to cope with certain triggers, such as stress. Here a few to consider:

Pier Pressure, developed by Navy Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, offers resources to help practice responsible drinking behaviors in real life to include: a blood alcohol content (BAC) calculator; calorie and alcohol content calculators for beer, wine, spirits and popular cocktails; safe drinking tips; and direct access to local taxi searches and popular ride-sharing apps

VetChange, developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, is for veterans and service members who are concerned about their drinking and how it relates to post-traumatic stress after deployment, and for all people who are interested in developing healthier drinking behaviors.

Learn about more DHA mobile apps, developed by the Connected Health branch, such as Virtual Hope Box, LifeArmor, and Breathe2Relax on the mHealth Clinical Integration webpage.

Learn More from Online Resources

Defense Health Agency alcohol and drug abuse self-assessment (confidential)

TRICARE Alcohol Awareness (featuring “That Guy” public awareness campaign)

Military Health Podcast: “Next Generation Behavioral Health,” episode 17, “Substance Use”

“Life Without Liquor” one service member’s personal story of how he overcame a drinking problem

Military OneSource: Military Policy and Treatment for Substance Use

“Rethinking Drinking: Alcohol and Your Health” publication with research-based information from the National Institutes of Health

“Harmful Interactions: Mixing Alcohol with Medicines” publication from National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholisim

You can overcome substance abuse by knowing the facts, sticking to your goals, informing others of your intentions, having good support, and creating a positive environment for long-lasting change.

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