Alcoholism and the Holiday Season | Tips for Families about Alcohol

What are some obvious signs of alcohol problems? How should you act around someone in recovery? More here on spending the Holiday Season with family…and what you can do in cases of alcohol problems.

minute read
By Cara McLeod, MA, LPC

The Holidays = Stress to the Max?

The Holidays are usually a time of celebration, family and love. It’s also a time when many people get to see their extended family, kids are home from college and they get together with family members not usually seen on a regular basis. But stress can also be part of the equation. Challenges due to:

  • Deadlines at work
  • Family dysfunction
  • Financial obligations

…(and many other things) can make stress levels go through the roof! This extra holiday stress can drive people to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs.

At Enterhealth – a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment company based in Dallas – we understand that this period can also be one of the most trying times of the year. As such, this can be a good time of year to identify an alcohol problem.

In this article, we’ll review some basic evaluation questions to help you spot a problem before it gets out of control. We’ll also offer you some tips on being sensitive to loved ones who are in recovery during the Holidays. Finally, we invite your feedback. Please leave your questions or comments in the section at the end. We love to hear from our readers and will respond personally to all real-life questions!

Spotting Signs of an Alcohol Problem

The first step we recommend for families who are looking at potential addiction is to evaluate drug or alcohol use. That is, take a step back and look at your own drinking habits. Learn to identify the signs of an alcohol problem. Then, look for signs of other types of drug problems.

We recommend that men drink no more than four drinks per day, with a maximum of 15 per week. For women, the recommendation is no more than three drinks per day or a maximum of 8 drinks per week. One standard drink is equal to:

  • 12 oz. standard beer
  • 5 oz. standard wine
  • 8-9 oz. malt liquor or craft beer
  • 1.5 oz. of hard liquor (rum, vodka, whiskey, etc.)

The Holidays are also a good time of year to observe and evaluate family members, especially if you have concerns that a family member may have a problem with substance abuse. How can you tell if someone has an alcohol problem? Some signs to watch for include:

  • Changes in peer groups
  • Difficulty staying awake or sleeping
  • Dishonesty
  • Drinking more than intended
  • General isolation
  • Ignoring help/advice
  • Odd changes in behavior
  • Secretive/hiding behavior

Two of the main signs of a problem are:

1. Loss of functioning due to intoxication. When a loved one is unable to go to work, attend school, or parent children…it’s time to seek help.

2. Losing control of substance use. If a loved one says s/he will only have two drinks but has more, this can be a sign that s/he’s lost control of the ability to stop drinking.

While none of these signs on their own are definite signals that someone may have a problem, it’s when they start to stack up that you should be concerned.

Acting on Signs of Alcoholism

If you are worried that a family member has a problem, what’s the best thing to do?

  1. First, initiate a conversation.
  2. Find out what the situation is.
  3. See if you can help them seek professional intervention.

Alcohol & Family Members in Recovery

If you or someone you care about is in recovery from addiction, your family needs to understand that no alcohol should be around at any family gatherings or celebrations. We recommend that patients in recovery wait at least a year before being around alcohol use. You want the family celebrations and bonding to be in alcohol-free environments, and people in recovery already get enough temptation from commercials, social media, and our general culture.

If family members cannot abstain from alcohol to support a family member in recovery, that person should consider whether or not he or she has their own problem with drinking.

If you or someone in your family has been diagnosed an alcoholic, here are five tips that can help during the holiday season:

Tip #1 – Spend Time with Sober People

Alcohol recovery can be tough, especially during the Holidays. In addition to removing temptation, it’s important to be around positive and sober people for support.

Tip #2 – The “I’ll Take a Soda” Approach

While it’s hard to avoid alcohol when you’re at a holiday party, you can combat it by substituting a nice cold soda or some other non-alcoholic beverage in its place. However, do not use nonalcoholic beer or wine, as they contain traces of alcohol and can set off certain areas of the brain which can reactivate cravings for alcohol.

Tip #3 – Manage Your Stress

You can help manage your drinking problem by managing your stress. Find other ways to deal with stress, such as talking with a friend or family member, exercise, or have a set time in the day to relax.

Tip #4 – Indulge Yourself

It’s hard for many to stop drinking, especially during the holiday season. You can benefit from not yielding to the temptation of drinking by rewarding yourself for every time that you don’t drink. Reward yourself with a small gift, treat or anything else that brings you happiness.

Tip #5 – Have a “Plan B”

When battling an addiction, it’s important to have a plan just in case you find yourself in an environment where there is alcohol present and you cannot handle the temptation. Having a plan and knowing how you’re going to handle the situation will help you significantly. Tell a family member and/or close friend about your recovery process, and call them in case of an emergency to help you in those situations.

More often than not, it takes more than tips and family support to remain sober during the Holidays. Enterhealth, a Dallas-based alcohol and drug addiction recovery center, offers a customized medically-based model of addiction treatment that reverses the effects of substance abuse on the brain.

Enterhealth typically sees a rise in the number of people seeking assistance during the Holidays, and there are a few good reasons why getting treatment around the Holidays can be beneficial. For most people, the holiday season is a time when work slows down. It’s also the time of year when school breaks and a time when a lot of people are using their vacation days anyway. Plus, getting clean of drugs or alcohol is a great way to start the new year afresh.

To learn more about how Enterhealth Ranch and Enterhealth Outpatient Center of Excellence help with addiction, as well as more helpful tips for staying sober this holiday season, please call 1.800.388.4601 for more information, or visit our website at

About the Author: Cara McLeod, Enterhealth therapist, is a Licensed Professional Counselor specializing in the treatment of addiction and trauma.  She has more than 15 years of experience in the fields of mental health and addiction. Prior to joining Enterhealth, Cara was licensed in Colorado and worked with adolescents struggling with substance abuse issues. She is a certified Multisystemic Therapy (MST) clinician and participated in a research project which utilized this therapy approach at the University of Colorado. Previous to this, Cara was licensed in New Hampshire and worked in community mental health where she completed extensive training utilizing both DBT and CBT therapy modalities.
Cara earned her undergraduate degree at Baylor University and Master of Arts in Counseling at Colorado Christian University. Cara completed her EMDR basic training in 2015. Since that time, she has acquired EMDR DeTUR Protocol certification as well as additional training and supervision for EMDR certification.
About the author
Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, Enterhealth offers a science-based alcohol and drug addiction treatment program created by a dedicated team of addiction experts determined to dramatically improve treatment outcomes. Based on the latest National Institutes of Health research identifying addiction as a chronic brain disease, this program is implemented by a full-time staff of addiction-trained physicians, psychiatrists, nurses and therapists, beginning with a thorough medical and psychological assessment designed to create a personalized treatment plan for each patient. Enterhealth Ranch is nestled on 43 scenic acres just 30 minutes north of Dallas/Fort Worth and features 40 beds, private rooms and bathrooms, chef-prepared meals, housekeeping service, a luxurious pool, a gym and more. Enterhealth Outpatient Center of Excellence, an outpatient treatment facility, is located in the Park Cities, just north of downtown Dallas, and provides ongoing addiction management care and support. For more information, visit
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