By Leanne Italie
Jennifer Perry isn’t much of a drinker. Never has been, and she is ready every New Year’s Eve for the inevitable attention when she is out trying to have a good time.
“I don’t care if everyone at the table orders a drink but me. That’s fine,” said Ms. Perry, 46, a singer in Atlanta. “What I do resent is being pressured, and then being asked is it a ‘religious thing’ or if I have a ‘problem.'”
She sometimes relies on: “Oh, thank you, but I’m still on methadone.” Although it’s not true, a quick apology usually ensues and the pesky prober moves along.
Whether in recovery or not interested for other reasons, many people find the holidays often mean an excess of booze and drugs. Occasional drinkers fail to moderate, and addiction programs across the country note upticks in patient loads soon after the new year, high season for relapsers and those seeking treatment for the first time.
“Alcohol is often center stage at holiday parties,” said Amara Durham, a spokeswoman for Caron Texas, a treatment facility in Princeton, Texas. “Many people think they need alcohol to enjoy social occasions such as holiday celebrations.”
Chapman Sledge, chief medical officer at Cumberland Heights, a center in the Nashville, Tenn., area, said loved ones hosting holiday dinners and parties should be sensitive to the difficulties of recovering guests.
“Stray comments like, ‘Just a sip of wine at dinner won’t hurt,’ or ‘It’s a party, have a little fun,’ even if they’re unintentional, can slow or destroy an addict’s recovery,” he said.
Gina Bestenlehner, who is 12 years sober and program director for the Pur Detox center in Dana Point, Calif., suggested bringing along a sobriety buddy to help stay focused. She also recommended volunteering as a designated driver, which “gives a person new purpose and a reason to be there sober. It also saves lives.”
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