By Cary Quashen
It’s the season of great anticipation and I’m not talking about Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanza. I am talking about the upcoming weeks which seem to hold a special place on the calendar for many. From holiday parties, saying goodbye to 2011 and ringing in 2012, people will drink expensive fine wines, cheerfully packaged distilled spirits, and cheap beer.
Just as holiday shopping makes the cash register ring in abundance for retailers, it does so for the liquor store industry as well. Many liquor store owners tell me that the holiday season is a make or break time for their business. It would seem we are bombarded with billboards, magazine ads, and radio and television drinking commercials extolling the virtues of alcohol and seasonal festivities, just as we are with it’s time to go shopping commercials.
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According to statistics, 20 percent of the people who drink consume 80 percent of the alcohol that is sold in America and with the holidays here they drink even more. And those who are problem drinkers spiral deeper and deeper into trouble.
A recent Signal newspaper article shared that drunk driving arrests accounted for 60 percent of the arrests in the Santa Clarita Valley over last November’s Thanksgiving weekend. Some charged with DUIs were an 18 year old Canyon Country resident, a Saugus electrician, a Santa Clarita teacher, a Santa Clarita escrow officer, a Santa Clarita human resources manager, a Castaic hair stylist, and a Canyon Country chef just to name a few. In all there were 32 drunk driving arrests, and those arrested (both men and women) ranged in age between 18 and 69.
Maybe these folks have a drinking problem and don’t know it, or maybe there was severe lapse in judgment when they chose to get behind the wheel of a car, which is a deadly weapon when one is driving drunk. It’s hard to say, but one thing is for sure, those who choose to drink and drive put everyone at risk. It’s interesting that most of us have a stereotypical image of a drunk, you know, the one who lives on skid row, or the old man who lives underneath the bridge and is homeless. But it appears that many of those arrested in Santa Clarita over the Thanksgiving weekend for drunk driving appear to be everyday, hardworking people.
It would seem that the holidays give many of us an excuse to drink heavily. Here are some of the contributing factors that lead to excessive drinking.
If you thought the days of peer pressure and temptation were over as you moved out of your teenage years, think again. Many people consume too much alcohol because their friends pressure them to continue drinking. That “one for the road” or “let’s have another round before you leave” is deadly thinking especially if you get behind the wheel of a car.
If you are an alcoholic you will consume too much alcohol because you have a compulsion to drink and your body is dependent on alcohol.
Depression, especially during the holidays, often contributes to too much drinking. While an ineffective solution, people drink to cope with their emotional problems. Somehow they think that being drunk will ease their emotional pain. But it’s ironic, since alcohol is a depressive drug, and its use leads to more depression.
Have you ever wondered why alcohol was dubbed liquid courage? It’s flawed thinking, but some people drink excessively as way to lose all inhibitions and build up the self confidence to do things they would normally never do when sober.
Scientific studies and research by the Human Genome Project indicate many are genetically predisposed to drinking too much alcohol. If mom, dad, grandma, or grandpa were alcoholics you run the risk of becoming one as well.
Are all of us alcoholics? No. Can some drink reasonably? Yes.
For those who can’t avoid the perils of holiday drinking apply these simple tips:
- If you are drinking don’t drive. There are more alcohol-related traffic fatalities during the holiday season than any other time. If you or someone you know is planning on celebrating the holidays by drinking alcoholic beverages, using a designated driver is a smart move. If you are hosting a holiday party, consider having a safe holiday party to protect your guests.
- Find out if non-alcoholic beverages will be available at the party you are attending. If not, take your own. If others at the event are drinking, chances are they will never know that you only have cola in your glass. Believe it or not the Egg Nog is usually spiked.
- If you are choosing not to drink, stay away from the bar area.
- If offered a drink, just say, 'No, thank you.' You do not have to explain.
- If you feel that you are becoming tempted to drink, leave early.
- Stay busy. Talk to others, dance. Don't give yourself time to think about the fact that you are not drinking.
- If you have problems drinking, don't drink, no matter what!
Wishing all of you a safe and happy holiday season.
Cary Quashen is a certified addiction specialist, the founder and president of ACTION Parent & Teen Support Group Programs and ACTION Family Counseling Drug and Alcohol Treatment Centers which offer intensive outpatient and residential treatment programs for both teens and adults. Quashen may be reached at (661) 713-3006. The ACTION Hotline number 1-800-367-8336.