IT IS the time of year when people release their inhibitions and are given free rein to drink to excess.
But while the sight of seeing a loved one inebriated may not set alarm bells ringing, the festive season and January can be important indicators of whether someone has a drinking problem.
January, often regarded as a ‘dry month’ when people attempt to make up for the excesses of the past few weeks, offers a glimpse that all may not be well. After all, if they cannot kick the drink for a month then it could be that the dependency to the drug has taken a vice-like stranglehold.
On the surface, things may seem OK but underneath the individual is consumed by toxic feelings that are threatening to rip their life apart.
Recovering alcoholic Ellie, from Portsmouth, suffered one of her worst episodes during Christmas 2013. Although she did not know it at the time, she had hit rock bottom and would begin her ascent to the top of her own mountain top. ‘It was one of the most horrendous experiences I had as an alcoholic,’ she said.
‘Everything was going wrong and I was in a very dark place at the time. But just a few weeks later in February I had turned things around and was sober after deciding I’d had enough of being an alcoholic and getting myself in ridiculous states. Often you have to hit rock bottom before you can admit you have a problem.’
While an alcoholic’s outlook at Christmas time is that it’s ‘just another day but with tinsel’, the increased levels of drinking and emotion at the time of year can manifest problems.
‘If you’re an alcoholic it doesn’t matter what time of year it is. An alcoholic is for life not for Christmas, as we say,’ Ellie said.
‘But there are things to look out for which can highlight problems. People may lose their licence or their job after being caught drink-driving or they may make a total fool of themselves at their work party.
‘In January an alcoholic could relax and treat themselves for not – in their eyes at least – excessively drinking over the festive season by increasing their drinking in January. Or it could be that they intend on doing dry January but then find themselves unable to go without having a drink.
‘If they have acknowledged they have a problem they might stop going to meetings in January. Equally, if someone manages to go through January without having a drink it doesn't not necessarily mean they do not have a problem.
‘It’s important for loved ones to remain vigilant of people with a drinking problem over the Christmas period because it can indicate whether there is a problem.’
Ellie turned to Alcoholics Anonymous – a move she believes saved her life. Now Christmas is something she really looks forward to. She no longer has the shame she once felt or feels the need to make up for her past actions by over indulging family members with gifts.
‘I actually enjoy Christmas now,’ she said. ‘I used to struggle to be around my family having a drink but now it is not a problem. They do not drink as much either. When I was drinking a lot it would encourage them to drink more.’
AA meetings will largely be going ahead as normal over the festive season. Go to www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk to see any changes. Call 0800 917 7650 for more information.