The holidays can be so much fun. For some, however, they can be a difficult time. Mental health statistics show that incidences of suicide, depression, anxiety, and other issues go up drastically throughout the holidays. Substance abuse and alcoholism also increase during this time due to a variety of reasons. This could be added stress from busy shopping malls, pesky relatives, or even just finding that toy your kid has to have but every store seems out of.
For those already living with mental illness, the stress of the holidays can be overwhelming and the urge to self-medicate through alcohol and other substances can rise. However, statistically, we are the group most likely to go a little too far or to put ourselves in unpleasant or even dangerous situations when under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
I learned this lesson more than once in the past and avoid alcohol for the most part. I have learned that due to my bipolar disorder there is little to no impulse control for me. There is no stopping at just one drink. This led to me being in dangerous situations more than once. In college I received a DUI, I found myself in multiple dangerous situations and was assaulted on one occasion because I had blacked out. I always thought I could handle myself or that “this time would be different” but once I started there was no stop.
Once I started taking medication for my mental health issues I learned the hard way once again that alcohol and my medication didn’t mix. Just two drinks later I had blacked out and once again found myself in a dangerous situation because I had no idea what had happened to me or where I was.
At the time, I didn’t think for a minute that I had a problem with alcohol. I was attending one of the biggest party schools in the US back then and it was just a part of life. However, looking back with the clarity that I have now I know that because I have bipolar disorder I had a major problem. Thankfully, I haven’t drunk like that for a very long time.
Tips for Avoiding Alcohol During the Holidays
Have you been invited to a party where they will be serving alcohol? Have your +1 be a good friend that you can count on to help you avoid that open bar or any alcohol that will be there.
Create a notecard with all of your reasons to avoid alcohol listed. This could be anything that is important to you such as your family, your health, or even your dog. Anytime you are feeling the urge to grab a drink you can find a place to yourself to pull the card from your pocket and remind yourself of all of the reasons you are avoiding alcohol.
If you are planning a party at home you can create alternatives to alcohol such as spiced cider, a hot chocolate bar, or even fancy mocktails. ( I have a few of my favorite alternatives below so you can even grab those ideas!)
When making plans try to avoid instances where there will be alcohol. Plan an ice skating trip, take a family night out to view Christmas lights, or spend time in watching old holiday movies.
If you know they are serving alcohol at a party you can plan ahead and bring your own drinks.
If food is being served at a party with alcohol take the time to enjoy the food.
Set a curfew and stick to it. If you know your friends get a little crazy after a certain time set a curfew before that time. By doing so you are removing yourself from the situation before there is any temptation to stay.
Non Alcoholic Drink Alternatives
As I mentioned above I do not drink very often. Due to the depressive side of my bipolar disorder, the holidays can be especially rough for me so I do avoid alcohol during this time. As a result, I have come up with a few awesome non-alcoholic drinks for parties that have all of the glimmer without the regret. Both of these recipes can be adapted to fit your personal needs with a few quick switches. Thankfully, both can also be made with minimal time and ingredients too!
Pineapple Mint Spa Water
I love fruit infused water. I could drink it every day if I wasn’t too lazy to put it together, which is sad really because it is SO easy to make. My favorite fruits to use have always been raspberries, strawberries, and pineapple. I find that adding mint gives many fruit infused glasses of water an added freshness. Of course, you can leave it out if you aren’t a fan of mint.
1-2 C chopped fresh pineapple
10-12 fresh mint leaves
4-6 C water, depending on pitcher size
1 C Ice
Combine ingredients and let chill 1-2 hours. This helps the fruit flavors fuse with the water. You can also make this one ahead and let infuse overnight if you prefer. If you prefer more of a sparkling water you can use sofa water as well.
Cranberry Orange Iced Mocktail
While this one works for summer parties as well I find oranges to tie in well with the holidays. Maybe it was the old “drinking orange juice straight from the fruit with a peppermint stick” that we did every year at Girl Scouts, or my grandma ordering family gift baskets with oranges in them over the holidays. There is just something about oranges that makes them belong in this season for me. The same can be said for cranberries. Sure, they are a Thanksgiving staple but I tend to find them appropriate throughout the holiday season. ( Maybe I just really like cranberries )
1 can frozen orange juice concentrate
8 ice cubes
1/4 C sugar
1/2 t pure vanilla extract
2 C milk
1/2 – 1 C fresh cranberries,
Combine all ingredients in a blender and combine until smooth. For this drink, you can make your own cranberry syrup or buy some from the store to create the design on the glass. I used a chocolate decorating bottle for this effect. Turn the glass in your hand while you squeeze the syrup in a design on the inside of it. Once your design is applied add the Mocktail to the glass to set the design in place. An additional design can be added to the top of the glass. You can also decorate the tip of the glass with red sugar for an added effect.
Are You Struggling Through the Holidays?
Are you feeling out of sorts this holiday season? Have you been turning to alcohol or other substances as a result of depression or anxiety? It is never too early or too late to seek help from a recovery counselor at a location like Palmer Lake Recovery for help with drug or alcohol addiction. There is no shame in saying that you need a helping hand to find your way out of the dark corners of depression, alcoholism, and addiction. In fact, sobriety and addiction treatment could be one of the best gifts to give yourself and your family this holiday season.
Happy Holidays and please feel free to comment below or email us with any questions or comments regarding mental health and addiction.