This time of year brings colourful lights and festive music, but the holidays can be a dark and difficult time for people struggling with alcohol addiction.
“What brings joy to you when you drive down the street and see Christmas lights and hear Christmas carols, brings sadness to a lot of people in recovery,” said Adam Lewis, healthy living co-ordinator and addictions counsellor at Ledgehill Addiction Rehab Centre in the Annapolis Valley.
Lewis said people in recovery must navigate holiday work parties and social events that almost always feature beer, wine and spirits as the main attraction.
Alcohol sales usually spike in December about 40 per cent above average monthly sales, according to a BMO report from 2012.
“It is our busiest month of the year in terms of retail sales,” said Denise Corra, a spokesperson for Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation.
So, Lewis said, if you know that alcohol will be flowing at holiday parties, avoid those events.
“You really want to associate yourself as much as possible with people who are also trying to stay sober,” he said.
Being a recovering alcoholic himself, Lewis spent his first Christmas sober with his recovering friends.
“They took me in for Christmas dinner,” he said.
The Halifax Regional Municipality branch of Alcoholics Anonymous has two events planned for those who want to avoid the pressures of social drinking this holiday season.
An alcohol-free Christmas Eve social will be held on Dec. 24 in Middle Sackville. There will also be a New Year’s Eve dinner and dance in Halifax.
Lewis said meetings are also very helpful for those who are struggling with the social aspects of the season.
“Everyone is trying to offer support to everyone else,” he said.
If skipping a holiday party is out of the question, Lewis said it is important to bring a support person.
“I would never want to go to a party alone,” he said. “Maybe take a partner or a friend.”
For those in recovery, Lewis said it is also a good idea to come up with a set response ahead of time as to why you are not drinking. This can help ease awkward social interactions.
“I would often tell people I was driving,” he said.
If you think you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol this holiday season, make sure to reach out and contact AA Halifax at 1-902-461-1119.