Q: This year I'm renting a Hamptons share with a few investment buddies. We've been soaking up the atmosphere (pun-intended), and having a ridiculously good time! My great time is catching up to me lately; I feel crappy on Monday mornings. On July 4, I hit up a number of parties, drove around after, and I'd had a bit too much to drink throughout the night. It made me feel a little out of control. In your opinion why might I be indulging in this behavior?
A: In American culture -- e.g., workforce, friends, family, movies, TV, magazines, commercials -- it is perfectly acceptable for holiday celebrations to be fraught with the use/abuse of alcohol. There exists a cultural license to overdo it on these special occasions. As a society, we've championed drinking as a good-time sport.
We rationalize this behavior by justifying to ourselves that immediate enjoyment takes precedence over all else.
Social interactions and friendly camaraderie play a big role in holiday overindulgence. The idea that everyone is going to overindulge together makes drinking an imagined prerequisite for holiday cheer.
Put plainly, when we drink and get in a car our reasoning skills are greatly altered.
Most drunk driving crashes occur with one driver having a blood alcohol count of .08. This could be one or two drinks for someone who weighs around 110 pounds, or around three drinks for someone who weighs 160. And we all define one drink differently!
A majority of social drinkers imagine that they know their tolerance levels, but after a few drinks one is often much more impaired than they realize.
Alcohol use in particular lowers inhibitions. In that moment when you're ready to hit the road, you're in no position to make a rational decision.
July 4 has come and gone. However, there will always be holidays and always times to potentially overindulge.
Here are some useful tips to ensure your safety in the future.
1) The most important thing is to plan ahead before your celebration starts. The easiest solution is to designate a driver who will give you a ride home and who is not drinking at all. If you're at a friend's, or with family members, stay over.
2) Additionally, many local communities have sober support vans; research these options before your celebration begins.
3) If you've begun to feel yourself losing control lately, watch for some warning signs. You may be more than a casual dabbler when it comes to drinking.
I am currently clinical director at The Dunes East Hampton. We treat many people who began with drinking or drugging recreationally, but gradually the substance becomes more prominent in their life -- and without even realizing it, that life becomes un-manageable.
Symptoms of alcohol dependence include, but are not limited to:
- The frequency of your use may increase.
- Drinking has started to affect relationships and productivity in your professional and personal lives.
- You observe yourself making excuses for failing interpersonal relationships.
- You utilize alcohol to regulate emotions -- calm down, get in a better mood, forget about all your problems.
- You find yourself drinking more than you have in the past.
- Your tolerance to alcohol changes; you're able to consume more without getting buzzed.
- Alcohol becomes the major source of recreation or release in your life. It becomes your life.
Thanks for your valuable and very important question. I hope you had a safe and happy Fourth of July.
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Have a profitable and peaceful week,