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Have Safe, Happy Holidays – Know the Myths About Alcohol With These Community Health Tips

The holidays are a time for friends, family and celebration. As most of us know, it’s also when people can drink too much, with consequences ranging from fights and falls to serious motor vehicle accidents and crashes. People can unknowingly put themselves at risk by believing the myths about alcohol use that may be common but are not fact!

Community Health Mental Health and Substance Abuse Clinician Ashley Rick shares these common myths about alcohol:

Myth: It’s fine, I’m just drinking beer.

Fact: One 12-ounce beer has the same amount of alcohol as a 5-ounce glass of wine or a 1.5-ounce shot of liquor. It’s not WHAT you drink, but how much you drink that really matters.

Myth: I can still drive.

Fact: The coordination needed for driving is compromised long before the actual signs of intoxication are visible. The sedative effects of alcohol increase your risk of nodding off or losing attention behind the wheel; reflexes are slowed so reaction time is jeopardized.

Myth: I stopped drinking, so I am fine.

Fact: After you stop drinking, alcohol in your stomach and intestine continues to enter your bloodstream. Your liver can only process about one standard drink every hour, so the effects of drinking can drag on for hours.

Myth: I can do things to help sober me up.

Fact: Coffee, a cold shower or fresh air won’t sober you up. They can help with drowsiness but not with the actual decision-making effects while intoxicated. Only time can help with this.

Myth: I ate a lot, so it will be hard for me to get drunk.

Fact: Eating before drinking can slow the absorption of alcohol, but it can’t prevent you from getting drunk. The stomach will eventually empty from dinner and alcohol absorption will pick up again.

Here are some tips for safe alcohol use:

  1. Pace yourself. Limit yourself to one standard drink per hour and no more than four drinks per day for men, three for women.  One standard drink is 12-ounce beer, 5-ounce glass of wine, 1.5-ounce shot of hard alcohol.
  2. Slow down. Sip your drink and/or drink water in between.
  3. Eat food before and while you are drinking. This will slow the absorption of alcohol.
  4. Plan ahead. Make plans to get home safely. If you plan on drinking more than the legal limit, make sure you have secured a designated driver (DD is someone who hasn’t had ANY alcohol) and/or stay the night.

Just because someone has given up drinking alcohol, does not mean that they should have to give up holiday parties. With careful plans and determination, recovering alcoholics can enjoy the party without the alcohol. If you are currently in AA and actively in recovery from alcohol abuse, here are some tips to help this holiday season.

  1. Focus on the joy. The joy of recovery can help a recovering alcoholic focus on the best things in life rather than worries of relapsing with alcohol around.
  2. Leave before any heavy drinking begins. Be present around the holidays but avoid staying too late when people begin the heavy drinking.
  3. Avoid get togethers where people are certain to be drinking heavily.
  4. Come up with a simple statement on why you aren’t drinking. Don’t feel like you need to explain in detail why you don’t drink. A simple statement like “I don’t drink” is enough.
  5. Bring your own alternative options (non-alcoholic beer if you like) or something else to drink.
  6. Let your sponsor know and contact them if you need them.
  7. Bring a sober friend or support person who can help navigate the event with you.
  8. Leave if you are feeling cravings or it is getting to be too much.

The holidays are a wonderful time to connect with family and celebrate, however, alcohol can be hard to navigate for anyone. These tips will help you have a safe and enjoyable holiday season.

Ashley Rick, MS, LCMHC, LADC, PMH-C, is a Mental Health and Substance Abuse Clinician at Community Health Castleton.

Community Health is Vermont’s largest FQHC (Federally Qualified Health Center), a network of primary care, pediatric, behavioral health, dental and pharmacy services with offices in Rutland, Brandon, Castleton, West Pawlet and Shoreham. Community Dental offices are located in Rutland and Shoreham; Community Kids Dental and Community Health Pediatrics  are in Rutland; and Behavioral Health services are available at all of our locations. Community Health Express Care centers, open 7 days a week, are located at the Rutland and Castleton Community Health Centers.

All Community Health locations are open and accepting patients. For more information about career opportunities, hours and Community Health locations check our website

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The mission of Community Health is to be the foremost integrated community health center providing quality and collaborative care that is accessible to all people, in order to live their best lives and build stronger communities.

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