For Alcoholics The Holidays Are Anything But Happy, Expert Says

Though the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year for many, for alcoholics they can be the most perilous, according to Chapman Sledge, M.D., chief medical officer of Cumberland Heights treatment center. Because of the stress that comes with a hectic season and rituals that involve drinking, both the active and recovering alcoholic can encounter difficulties most people never think about. The holidays are a time when families, groups and companies come together to celebrate – and alcohol has become a seemingly indispensable part of the celebration.

“We toast the Thanksgiving turkey. We “break the ice” with a cocktail (or two or three) at the holiday open house. New Year’s Eve has even been dubbed “amateur night” because individuals who don’t partake the rest of the year will often drink to the new year,” Dr. Sledge says.

Attitudes toward alcohol are more permissive during the holidays, and it seems that everywhere we go it’s served not just in moderation but in abundance. Adding to the challenge, the holiday season continues to get longer – now extending from Thanksgiving through Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Day, college bowl games, the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl.
This combination of permissiveness, socializing and opportunity is especially daunting for active alcoholics because they are more easily exposed. Hiding their drinking problem from family, friends and co-workers becomes more difficult. Loss of control becomes more evident. The person who drinks too much and behaves inappropriately at the company Christmas party is more than just a caricature. The obnoxious family member or friend is more than just a stereotype. Many times, it’s a sad reality.
Many alcoholics try to make it through the holidays without help because they think they can “pull it together” once the season ends. In reality, the loss of control won’t end when the festivities are over. And waiting to address the problem only increases the risk of adverse consequences.

It’s not unusual to see the holidays end in an intervention, where family and friends step in to seek treatment for someone they love. That kind of encouragement and bold action can sometimes save the alcoholic’s life.

There is help for individuals and families whose holiday season is negatively impacted by the disease of addiction. Specialty care can bring about lasting recovery so the joy of the holidays can be fully experienced for years to come.

Visit or call Cumberland Heights at 615-314-3856 for additional information. An in-depth discussion of at-risk drinking can be found at, the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website.

Cumberland Heights is one of the Southeast’s oldest and largest alcohol and drug treatment facilities. Founded in Nashville in 1966, Cumberland Heights has treated more than 100,000 patients and has directly touched the lives of more than a quarter of a million family members of persons with addictive disorders. Patients come from 47 states and a number of foreign countries and they range from indigent and unemployed individuals, business people and government employees to nationally recognized personalities from the sports and entertainment industries.

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