Holiday Cheer?

by Shelly Johnson

Over the holidays, most of us look forward to having a good time with friends and family. We each need to pay attention to how the pressure of holiday cheer affects our lives and the lives of those around us. Too often “holiday cheer” includes risky use of alcohol and other drugs, a potentially lethal combination.

At Alcohol and Drug Services of Gallatin County, we often receive emergency calls about someone who is drinking or using too much from a loved one or caring friend, who doesn’t know what to do or how to help. We listen, educate the caller about options, including how to successfully intervene. If their loved one is endangering themselves and others by drinking and driving, we encourage the caller to contact law enforcement.

Many of our clients experience extreme stress during the holiday season. Some can’t afford the expected gift-giving, others are challenged by all the social drinking when they are trying to stay sober. Many are lonely, with friends and family far away. Some experience all of these challenges.

When people pass their personal “feel good’ threshold with alcohol, they can experience a lot of negative consequences, including domestic abuse and sexual assault, violence that brings the very real possibility of a resulting criminal record. Health deteriorates. Because alcohol is a depressant, when someone “treats” depression with alcohol, they become more depressed.

January has the highest rate of year for suicide in Montana. Gallatin County is second in the state for suicides by region. Of those who commit suicide in Montana, 41% had alcohol in their system when they died, 38% had psychotropic pharmaceuticals like an anti-depressant. Twenty-nine percent of Montanans who commit suicide are 45 to 54 years of age, another twenty-nine percent are 55 to 64.

We offer a framework of support for clients who struggle, teach them to increase their capacity for sobriety by making choices like not attending gatherings and events that serve alcohol. We encourage them to find non-drinking, non-using activities, educate them about what some of those options are. That’s such an important thing — offering those alternate activities — that we have a list of 50 posted as a resource to the community. Just click here.

Do your part. If you will host a holiday gathering, remember that you can entertain people without over-serving alcohol.