New Year's Eve celebrations have a reputation for being loud, joyous occasions but an evening party can be disastrous for anyone struggling to overcome an alcohol addiction.
The expectation of toasting the new year with a glass of wine or bottle of beer puts extra pressure on people who are trying to keep their alcohol consumption in check, according to Rick Lauzon, a social worker at Grand River Hospital and former manager of the hospital's withdrawal management centre in Kitchener, Ont.
"There are a lot of people that will talk about the power of music and hearing a particular song ... and they'll have a craving," he said. "For some people, it's seeing a person they associate drinking with. For some people, it's just seeing other people drink."
Lauzon began to overcome his own addiction 10 years ago and has since developed a number of strategies to make it through New Year's Eve without a relapse.
Here are five tips to reduce temptation while partying among the revelers:
- Lauzon said one of the worst things you can do is not know what to expect. He said it's easier to stay safe if you know what kind of alcohol and how much of it will be served at the party. If you're trying to avoid something specific, be aware that you might encounter a former favourite drink.
Mark your glass
- When at a party where alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are being served, Lauzon said he marks his glass. People might accidentally consume alcohol when they pick up the wrong drink. Give the straw an identifiable twist or shape your lemon slice a unique way.
- Lauzon said it's important to pick the right people to party with. He said you want to be with people who will support your decision to abstain, not be among people who will pressure you into drinking.
Have an out
- Don't feel guilty if you want to leave a party early. Lauzon says some people make an advance plan to depart before the party's over because their defences go down as their energy level is reduced. He said it's important to know how long you can last and to have an exit strategy. Perhaps 'Plan B' could be to relocate to a public function such as a skating party at city hall.
- Lauzon said it's important to give a firm "no" when you're offered a drink. He said it's good to have some assertive phrases at the ready, in case the person offering the beverage is pushy. Something like "I don't drink but I'm enjoying this good music," easily deflects the conversation topic away from alcohol.
Hosts also have a responsibility to their guests who may be struggling to overcome an addiction. Lauzon has these suggestions for hosts:
- Offer non-alcoholic drinks, with equal availability.
- Ditch any drinking games that involve alcohol.
- Respect any guest's decision to leave early.
A further suggestion for hosts to consider is what happens after the party. There should some designated drivers at the party and taxi phone numbers should be posted near the drinks table or coat rack.