Holiday drinking; surviving past the New Year Published Dec. 15, 2006 By Staff Sgt. Marc A Gramatges 48th Medical Operations Squadron ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- With the holiday season already upon us, many thoughts come to mind: family, gifts, traveling, parties, bills, etc. However, one thought that should be considered carefully is drinking. During the holidays drinking is only more prevalent, but alcohol related incidents also increase. To avoid ruining the holidays with a bad hangover, rowdy guests, a DUI or even a death, below is some advice to follow to avoid those holiday ARIs: When throwing a party Have food. This sounds more obvious than it really is. When throwing a party, realize eggnog is not a meal unto itself. Have plenty of appetizers available and things to munch on before and after the main meal. The food gives guest more options than just drinking. Collect keys. If you have guests coming over, make sure they have a designated driver. If they plan on drinking and taking a taxi or staying the night, make sure to get the car keys. Remember, while they might be keen on not driving when they first arrive, after a few drinks they might not make the best decisions. That is when they drive drunk. Offer alternatives. If all you have to drink at your party is alcohol, then chances are your guests will drink it. Have plenty of nonalcoholic drinks available, whether it is soda, juice, tea or even water. When going to a party Have a plan. This does not go only for the holidays, but it is worth repeating. If you plan on drinking, plan on not driving. A good rule to follow is having a trifold plan: primary, secondary and fail-safe. The primary could be having a DD. When the DD picks up a bottle, go secondary with a taxi. If the taxi doesn't come, plan on enjoying a nice, soft, failsafe couch or call Airman Against Drunk Driving. Whether it is sleeping at a friend's place or getting a taxi, make sure you have a place to stay and a way to get there. Pace yourself. For many of us, drinking is not an every weekend event, or monthly for that matter. However, when the holidays come around it is a time to celebrate and many partake in alcoholic beverages. The problem is many people who drink only during the holidays are not used to alcohol and the effects can be more potent. So, when drinking at a party, take it slow and pace yourself, not like the person throwing back shots sitting next to you. Say no to invites. If you get invited to five parties in one night, it doesn't mean you have to go to all five and then the pub. Go to the one you most want to go to. If you start driving from party to party, chances are you might have more drinks in your system, increasing the odds for an ARI. It also increases your time on the road, which increases the chances of someone else who is drinking to crash into you, even when you are completely sober. General advice Take it easy. If you start getting stressed out during the holidays, take a step back and relax. Maybe not going to a party or two or not having festivities at your place could reduce a great deal of stress. When you start drinking to deal with it all, none of your goals will get done, causing more stress, drinking and so on. So take a deep breath, prioritize, and take it easy. Know referral agencies. If the holiday blues are encouraging you to drink, there are plenty of other options. Call your chaplains, Life Skills, ADAPT, Family Support, supervisor, commander, friends or family. If you feel the need to drink to deal with it, all you have to do is put down the bottle and pick up the phone. Remember what it is all about. The holidays are different for everyone. For some it is religious, others its about family, and to some it is just about having a good time. Remember to enjoy the holidays and if you plan on drinking, plan on being safe.