Silent night, sober night 

Staying on the wagon is hardly a joking matter for many during the holiday season. The barrage of festivities — office parties, family gatherings, happy hours — can test the strongest-willed person.

“The holiday season is ushered in on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving,” Muriel Van Houten, intensive outpatient therapist at St. Mary’s Hospital in Livonia, says. “Thanksgiving is the biggest night of the year for drinking.

“Let’s face it. Our culture revolves around drinking, especially during the holiday festivities.”

So, how can people with alcohol problems avoid relapsing during the party season?

Van Houten says people must remind themselves what it was like during their drinking days.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 64 percent of Americans drank alcoholic beverages in 2000. The NIAAA defines alcohol abuse as a pattern of drinking in one or more of the following situations within a 12-month period: failure to fulfill major work, school or home responsibilities; drinking in dangerous situations such as while driving a car or operating machinery; having recurring alcohol-related problems (arrests for drunken driving or for fighting while intoxicated); and continuing to drink despite relationship problems caused or worsened by drinking.

“Most people don’t come into Alcoholics Anonymous because they are having a good day, the sun is shining and all is wonderful in the world,” says Mark A., a recovering alcoholic in AA, which has 2 million members. “No, they come to AA because their life is fucked up, the judge sent them, the wife is on their back or they are sick and tired of being sick and tired of waking up next to ugly people.

“In all seriousness, people wanting to stay sober need to have a program of recovery by going to meetings, finding a sponsor and following the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.”

During the holiday season, AA offers 24-hour alcathons at various locations in metro Detroit. Alcathons are meetings held on the Thanksgiving weekend, Christmas Eve and Day, and New Year’s Eve and Day.

The AA toll-free hotline (877-337-0611) is manned 9 a.m.-10 p.m. weekdays, and 10 a.m.-10 p.m. weekends.

Van Houten says counselors at St. Mary’s encourage patients to keep a proactive self-protection plan.

“We tell patients to go to more meetings and have a dialogue with their sponsor,” says Van Houten. “Patients need to be thinking about what it used to be like while drinking and choosing to be different this year by not drinking and staying sober.”


Check out more Holiday Survival Guide stories:

Family matters
Surviving the gatherings of the clan.

Season for sharing
How to help those in need survive the holidays.

Giving on the cheap
Or should we say "inexpensive?"

Pass (on) the stuffing
Ways to keep the holidays from becoming too weighty.

Blue for Christmas
How to battle the holiday blahs.

Presents from tinsel town
What would the season be without its flicks?

Avoiding Xmas bling bling
You needn't sell out to the corporate juggernaut.

Jingle boots
A gift guide to underground recordings.

Oh, holy naught
This year's Xmas sounds like the hour 13 lineup on the Jerry Lewis Telethon.

Overcoming hangovers
A dilettante's guide to holiday imbibing.

Duane Barbati is a Metro Times editorial intern. E-mail

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