Tackling alcohol addiction during the festive season

The Christmas period is a time for celebrating and being merry, but for those suffering from alcohol addiction, it can be a very difficult time of year. The Christmas festivities contain any number of triggers which you may find very difficult to manage, causing you to struggle through what should be a joyful time of year.

The strong association in British culture between socialising and alcohol is ingrained in many of us, with it being perpetuated further during the festive season. This creates a very challenging situation for those struggling with addiction with many feeling trapped, pressured and turning to alcohol for self-medication – here at Recovery Circle we aim to break that vicious cycle with 360° care helping you access the professional care you need and supporting you through treatment and aftercare.

During the run-up to Christmas and the New Year alcohol is advertised everywhere, from commercial breaks in prime-time TV to amazon deals and Facebook or Instagram feeds. Supermarkets don’t help, with many pushing deals on their alcoholic drinks. This is a really difficult time for those suffering from alcohol addiction.

Christmas and the effect on an addicts mental health

The excitement and constant barrage of celebration can exacerbate feelings of low self-esteem and self-worth making those suffering more likely to take refuge in alcohol. Alcohol consumption is significantly higher over Christmas and New Year than at any other time of year.

An estimated two million people in the U.K. suffer from addiction and alcohol addiction is one of the most common. The consumption of alcohol increases by 41% in the U.K. during December and the number of alcohol-related hospitalisations increase dramatically however, this is not all down the festivities. Other factors which may encourage people to increase their alcohol consumption over the winter months include financial pressure, pressures to socialise and be upbeat or spending extended periods with relatives and friends. The pressure to be the ‘perfect host’ and ‘just pop in to say hi’ are immense.

Those suffering from alcohol addiction but who have not accepted their addiction may be particularly vulnerable at this time of year, they may view it as their favourite time of year due to the strong association between Christmas and getting drunk. Excessive alcohol consumption is more socially acceptable when associated with Christmas festivities and so be may be over-looked. However, the flip side of this is that the comedown can be much worse, the stresses of the season come crashing down and this can lead to anxiety and depression. Some may turn to alcohol at this point to medicate and escape the pressures further aggravating the issue.

Identifying alcohol issues at Christmas

Identifying alcohol addiction early can make a huge difference in starting the recovery process, this addiction can be broken down into 3 stages:

1. The frequency of ‘occasional’ alcohol abuse increase

Although occasional alcohol misuse is common, if the frequency of this increases significantly then this may be cause for concern. Frequency of alcohol misuse is higher in the U.K. than any where else in the world, with the frequency nearly as high as once a week. And, with 3.7% of U.K. drinkers having sought emergency medical treatment as a result of alcohol misuse, the detriment to health is significant.

2. Alcohol is used as a coping mechanism

this is often the stage when family and friends begin to notice that there is an issue and is characterised by denial on the part of the addict. Using alcohol as a coping mechanism can often lead to addicts pushing loved ones away and creating distance. This may, in part, be due to the fear of being judged and a realisation that the behaviour is beyond the norm. You may also notice a change in friendship groups towards those who facilitate the addiction and, in some cases, changes in appearance and lapse in basic hygiene.

3. In the final stage, the signs of full addiction show

at this stage the addict themselves have often become aware and accepted that they have a problem. Symptoms of alcohol addiction can include:

  1. Life revolving around alcohol, where basic tasks and responsibilities forgo in favour of feeding the addiction.
  2. A lack of interest in previous ‘normal’ activities
  3. Anxiety, depressions or other mental health issues may present
  4. Blackouts or short-term memory loss
  5. Weight gain with the increased consumption of alcohol
  6. Distended stomach or a ‘beer belly’
  7. Weight loss as food is replaced with alcohol
  8. The Skin may change colour, turning more of a yellow or greyish shade
  9. If alcohol consumption stops, withdrawal symptoms may be experienced: hand tremors, sweating, visual hallucinations, insomnia, anxiety and depression

How to cope with alcoholism at Christmas

Here are some coping mechanisms to support you through the Christmas period:

  1. It is important to remember the positives, activities such as: completing your to-do list; getting up, dressed and to work; can seem insurmountable on some days. When you do achieve these, praise yourself and acknowledge the achievement. This will help improve your self-esteem and self-worth giving you the confidence to tackling the challenging situations you come across day-to-day.
  2. Avoid boozy parties or if they are unavoidable, come pre-armed with your favourite non-alcoholic drink. Where you can, avoiding the situation altogether is often the best course of action however, if you can’t do this, put steps in place to reduce the triggers experienced in the situation. You could bring your favourite non-alcoholic beverage or enlist the support of a sober friend to help keep you away from temptations.
  3. Learn a new hobby or skill to keep you busy, this can also give you a focus on achieving something which you can feel proud of. Learning a new skill can be very fulfilling and gives you a focus to steer clear of the constant parties. Through doing this you may also develop a new support network of people with similar interests so that you have access to a different range of activities.
  4. Identify your support circle, whether that is family, friends or co-workers ask them for help in this difficult period. Having the right people by your side is vital. Many people who suffer from addiction can find themselves pushing loved ones away, this is often to avoid judgement and is a sign that help is needed. Your loved ones will be one of your biggest allies in recovering from alcohol addiction, so keep them close and reach out for support. This is one of the first steps to recovery.
  5. Get in touch with one of our treatment professionals here at Recovery Circle to start your journey to recovery. Book a confidential assessment to create a specifically tailored treatment plan for your individual circumstances.

Tackling alcoholism post-Christmas and into 2020

If you, a family member, friend or co-worker are suffering from alcohol addiction, call in confidence or book a confidential consultation to start your journey to recovery.

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