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Holidays Pose Difficulties for Substance Abusers

Christmas is just over a week away. For those battling alcohol abuse, it's a week leading up to one of the most difficult times of the year. Research shows that the December-January holiday period is one of the most common times for substance abuse problems to emerge and to reoccur.
Christmas is just over a week away. For those battling alcohol abuse, it's a week leading up to one of the most difficult times of the year. Research shows that the December-January holiday period is one of the most common times for substance abuse problems to emerge and to reoccur. For those who turn to alcohol during times of stress, the Christmas season can be the most difficult and sometimes even dangerous.
Eyewitness News sat down with a leader of the Alcoholics Anonymous group in Rome. She been sober for almost 20 years but can still remember her first holiday season without a drink.
"It was rough, it was rough, that first year I had the shakes, I didn't know how to do anything,” says Brenda O. from Rome.
Brenda O. has been sober for 17 years. Now she helps run A.A. meetings in Rome. She says the temptation to drink, and drink heavily, is heightened during the holidays.
"There’s a lot of drinking associated with holidays, a lot of family get-togethers and office parties, office parties are a big set up for people,” said Brenda O.
Which is why A.A. chapters around the country hold “alca-thons” every Christmas Eve.
"It starts at 6 pm the night before the holiday and goes right into 6 pm the next night though the holiday where there's meetings on the even hours and fellowship and food on the odd hours,” says Brenda O.
The “alca-thons” give a little extra support for those who need to avoid booze during the holidays. Brenda also suggests buddying-up with program members to help from turning bottoms-up
"That’s why you stick close to the program you talk to people you know you call someone up and say hey, you doing anything, I need to talk,” said Brenda O.
Experts say it doesn't have to be all or nothing when it comes to holiday work parties or family events, there are ways to compromise.
"If you choose to drink you know you drink moderately, if you choose not to it doesn't mean you can't have fun and can't drink out of those fun glasses everyone has during Christmas time or non-alcoholic drinks, just to be fun and festive,” said Samantha McCarthy, Prevention Council Coordinator for the Center for Family Life and Recovery.
Besides parties, McCarthy says the holidays can also trigger buried emotions.
"If you've lost people that were close to you around the holidays it can trigger some of those sad emotions and the way that you handle stress is different for everybody, some people use alcohol and drugs to deal with that stress,” says McCarthy.
Here are some other tips the Center for Family Life and Recovery offer to stay safe and clean during the holidays:

•Make sure people know where you are in your recovery so they understand why you may not be drinking at an event

•Be conscious of how much you are drinking, if you choose to drink, set a limit

•Know who you can talk to or call for help

•And of course, always use a designated driver


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