Ah, the holiday season! How’s a single to endure the endless parade of happy couples at the holiday staff parties, neighborhood parties, family parties and parties with friends? By drinking, of course!
Now don’t pretend that discussions of alcohol aren’t relevant on a Christian website. The hard truth is that the holiday season is a common trigger, even for the most disciplined among us.
Whether you’re okay with occasional drinking or not, we can all agree that excessive holiday drinking is counterproductive. The holidays are emotional, and drinking just adds fuel to the fire. It can lead to poor choices in the moment, and despite your best efforts to contain it, it inevitably bleeds into other areas of your life. Excessive holiday drinking also adds tons of extra, empty calories to a season that is already calorie-rich—not helpful! By January, you’re likely to regret all this extra drinking. With that in mind, let’s talk about a few strategies to get you through the holiday season.
Select a “Go-To Drink”
The best defense is a good offense: Pre-select a go-to drink for the day, and keep one in your hand at all times. This go-to drink is non-alcoholic. Water is a classic choice, but it is the holidays … if you want to indulge a little, you could always select soda, tea or a juice. Coffee is a great post-dinner option, but if you really enjoy coffee, use it throughout the day as well.
Keeping a go-to drink in your hand at all times means you always have a drink to finish. This gives you an excuse to decline unsolicited drink offers on account of the drink in your hand. Depending on your company, that may not always work, but it’s worth a shot. Joke about the water shortage and how you’d hate to waste even the water in your glass! If you find yourself tempted by the binge drinking going on around you, walking around with a drink in your hand can help you feel a little less left out. Try drinking your go-to drink from a wine glass for added effect. This is especially helpful if you have struggled with holiday drinking in the past.
Finally, these strategies are also applicable to someone who is trying earnestly to watch their caloric intake during the holidays. If you’re trying to minimize the damage, consider that your drink choices—alcoholic or not—can quickly add empty calories to your daily totals. Don’t just think in terms of extra calories; think in terms of extra sugar. Saturating your body with sugar will elevate your blood glucose levels, which leads to extra fat storage. For best results, keep extra sugars as low as possible. Don’t waste it on a drink; save it for that once-a-year dessert!
Plan Ahead: Set Limits and Seek Accountability
If you would like to be able to enjoy a few drinks without going overboard, set limits ahead of time. Everyone has different temptations; setting limits on drinking is highly individualized and requires a little self-evaluation. Don’t wait until the day of the event to set limits! Social anxiety, the nervous anticipation of certain conversations, or just the emotional overload in general can all prevent you from thinking clearly. Take a few minutes to consider the following examples to see which limits you may need to consider for yourself.
If you know quantity is your problem area, you may want to set limits on how many drinks you’ll have and the relative timing of these drinks. The time factor can keep you from drinking your allowed quantity too early on in the day. For example, if you decide to set yourself a two-drink limit, you may choose to add a time constraint to ensure you don’t spend your drink allowance too early on. You might decide to drink only after dinner, or you may decide to have one drink while mingling early on in the party and save the other for dinner.
If you know that the type of drink is more of a temptation for you, set limits on how many of that type you’ll have. This is especially helpful for those of us with families who make a tradition out of holiday drinking. For example, you might decide before the party that you’ll have just one of the family’s token drink, and you’ll save it for the toast.
If certain company is your trigger, your best bet is to over-prepare. Use all of the above strategies, and be sure to take some time to pray before the event. Ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen you, shield you and provide you with a feeling of support and security while you’re enjoying the company of these friends and/or family members. His support goes a long, long way.
Staying the Course
It is a great idea to find an accountability partner for the holidays, especially if drinking is a known struggle and your goal is not to drink at all. If you can lean on someone who will be physically present at these events, that’s always best. Share with them the limits you’ve decided to set and the go-to drink you’ve pre-selected. When someone knows your plans and has been given the green light to help you stay on task, they can intervene before things get out of control. Don’t assume that someone will take this role if you don’t ask!
It isn’t always possible to have an accountability partner present with you at all times, but that’s the beauty of technology. Excuse yourself to the restroom, or go for a short walk and talk, or FaceTime with your accountability partner. Ask your partner to send the occasional text message to keep your goal— and their support—fresh in your mind. Support always makes you feel stronger.
Finally, spend some time in the Word before the holiday (party) season really gets rolling. Meditate on verses that give you strength and that discourage drunkenness; there are plenty to choose from! Write your favorites on an index card, keep it with you in your pocket or purse, and reread them periodically. Take a minute to breathe, reflect and pray over those verses before, during and after each event. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at what God can do with the holiday season!