Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Know the warning signs of problem drinking

Addiction and Recovery
By Bob Gaydos
More than three drinks a day or seven per week
 is considered risky drinking for women
There are “heavy-hitters,” “weekend warriors,” and petite women with ”wooden legs” who can drink burly construction workers under the table. There are also “social drinkers,” who simply enjoy a bottle of good wine with dinner and others who appreciate a few beers after a softball game.
Problem drinkers? Maybe, maybe not. More to the point, maybe a few at risk of becoming problem drinkers. April being Alcohol Awareness Month, it’s a good time to review personal drinking habits, if just to see if there are any warning flags of a potential future problem that can be avoided. It’s worth the time.
According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, about 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes each year, making it the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Alcohol use disorder (AUD) affects 15-18 million adults. It’s a major health issue, but drinking is so ingrained in our society that many people are reluctant to look at their own drinking patterns. This common resistance to self-reflection, along with a lack of information on the risks of abusing alcohol, can be harmful to your health.
For example, having a high tolerance for alcohol, often worn as a badge of pride, is a reason to be wary. People with a high tolerance are likely to drink more and hang out with people who drink more and more often. They are at higher risk for AUD (alcoholism) and serious health problems affecting the liver, heart or brain caused by alcohol abuse. This is not to mention the obvious risks of drinking and driving and other physical harm as the result of impaired judgment.
Just one more example, for those who feel they drink “in moderation.” The NIAAA, which does research on these things, says, for men, more than four drinks on any day or more than 14 per week and for women, more than three drinks on any day or seven per week is “heavy” or “at risk” drinking. A standard drink is defined as one containing .6 fluid ounces of “pure” alcohol, regardless of the liquid -- a 12-ounce can of beer or a 1/1/2 ounce shot of some 80-proof liquor are the same.
The agency offers a list of questions to help determine if you have an alcohol abuse problem or are at risk of one:
In the past year, have you:
  • Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer, than you intended?
  • More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn't?
  • More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?
  • Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
  • Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
  • Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over other after-effects?
  • Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
  • Found that drinking—or being sick from drinking—often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
  • Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
  • More than once gotten arrested, been held at a police station, or had other legal problems because of your drinking?
  • Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, a racing heart, or a seizure? Or sensed things that were not there?
Says the NIAAA: “Depending on the symptoms and their severity, just one or two can be a red flag. The more symptoms you have, the more urgent the need for change. The symptoms toward the top of the list tend to be early signs of potential trouble, whereas the ones further down the list indicate that you have moved further down a risky path.”
If you take the test on the NIAAA website (https://www.rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov), it will provide individual feedback. The site is anonymous.
The gauge for determining alcohol abuse is actually simple: Alcohol is a problem when it causes problems in your life -- at home, at work, with your health.

Regardless of the results of the test, there are several factors that suggest quitting drinking might be advised:
  • You’ve tried to cut down, but can’t.
  • You have had some symptoms previously.
  • Alcohol affects a physical or mental condition or it interacts with medication.
  • You are pregnant.
  • You have a family history of alcohol problems or a personal history of alcohol-related injuries.
The NIAAA website offers suggestions for cutting down on drinking if you think it could become a problem. If it already is, seek professional help. It won’t get any better by avoiding it.


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Fentanyl: From blessing to curse

Addiction and Recovery
By Bob Gaydos
The word strikes fear into everyone involved in fighting America’s epidemic of opioid overdoses. It was approved for medical use 50 years ago as a potent pain killer. Today, it is increasingly thought of simply as a killer.
In January, in a five-day period, there were five overdose deaths in Orange County, N.Y.. Fentanyl was involved in each one. In the past couple of years, drug dealers have taken to adding fentanyl or analogues of it to the heroin they sell, making it many times more powerful and dangerous, since their customers don’t know it’s in the mix. Fentanyl is used orally, smoked, snorted, or injected. It can be hundreds of times more powerful than street drugs. The synthetic opioid was cited as the cause of 20,100 deaths in the United States in 2016, more than any other pain killer or heroin.
David Hoovler, Orange County district attorney, says 88 people died in Orange County from confirmed or suspected opioid overdoses last year. Performers Prince and Tom Petty are both said to have died from accidental overdoses of pain medications that included fentanyl.
While the White House has declared an opioid emergency in the country, it has devoted little time, money and energy to fighting it thus far. That makes it incumbent on citizens frightened at the rising death toll, especially among young people, to do their part in turning the tide. That effort always starts with information and truth is, despite its frequent appearance in headlines, social media and in TV reports, a lot of people don’t know much, if anything, about fentanyl. Consider this a basic introduction to the killer pain killer.
In its prescription form, fentanyl is known by such names as Actiq, Duragesic, and Sublimaze. Street names for fentanyl or for fentanyl-laced heroin include Apache, China Girl, China White, Dance Fever, Friend, Goodfella, Jackpot, Murder 8, TNT, and Tango and Cash.

Signs and Symptoms

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, common signs that someone is abusing fentanyl include:

  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Difficulty walking
  • Altered heart rate
  • Labored breathing
  • Slurred speech
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting
  • Shaking
  • Sleepiness
  • Visual hallucinations
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pinpoint pupils
    Long-term fentanyl use can produce several adverse effects beyond the symptoms listed. They include:
  • Severe gastrointestinal problems
  • Seizures
  • Weakened immune system
  • Paranoia
  • Social withdrawal
  • Lack of motivation
  • Delusions and personality changes
And of course, when combined with other street drugs like heroin, fentanyl can cause respiratory distress, coma or death.
The latter is something with which America has become all-too-familiar. Even here, though, there is help. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “The evidence is strong for the use of naloxone to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Distributing naloxone and teaching people to use it is an effective means of preventing deaths among people who misuse heroin, fentanyl, prescription opioids, and other opioids. With brief training, most adults can learn to administer life-saving naloxone.”
If you are interested in starting a naloxone program, need to find out how to obtain naloxone to prevent overdoses, or simply want more information, SAMSHA’s Opioid Overdose Prevention Toolkit – 2016 includes sections for physicians, first responders and family members on administering naloxone. Many local organizations have already taken this step.
Finally, if you have a prescription for fentanyl or any opioid and are concerned about a young person in your household gaining access to it -- the most common way teenagers can get it -- keep it in a locked location and keep a record of how much of the prescription you have used. And by all means do not be reluctant to have that talk about drug abuse and the special risks of abusing prescription drugs.

Treatment for addiction to fentanyl should include detox supervised by a medical professional as withdrawal symptoms can be severe. The usual follow-ups -- in-patient or outpatient rehab and 12-step recovery programs -- are strongly suggested.

Earlier this month, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a 30-day budget amendment to add 11 fentanyl analogs to the state controlled substances schedule to help support law enforcement efforts to stop the spread of the drug. DA Hoovler says any help for law enforcement on illegal drugs is welcome, but much more investment is also needed in prevention and treatment for all opioid abuse, including ongoing anti-drug programs in schools and treatment on demand for addicts. Those who want help should be able to get it. If enough people demand it, perhaps the White House will hear.
*  *  *

More information
NIDA: www.drugabuse.gov
SAMSHA: www.samhsa.gov
Narcotics Anonymous Mid-Hudson: 845-431-9011; www.newyorkna.org


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Connect the dots, women's time is here

By Bob Gaydos
Women marched across the nation this month.
Women marched across the nation last month.
     I’m big on connecting the dots. A plus B plus C … sometimes it adds up to D. Or in this case, W, as in Women. Here they come, politically. And long overdue.
     In this case, making the connections wasn’t too difficult, unless you happen to be someone -- a Republican, for example -- who is genetically incapable of recognizing the gross disparities, unfairness and outright abuse that continue to confront women in America decades after an Equal Rights Amendment was proposed by Congress and failed to get the required number of states to approve it.
   That’s a dot still to be connected, but there are plenty of others falling into place, suggesting a new era is about to burst the male-dominated political/economic bubble that has encased America for, well, ever.
   The dots as I see them, in no particular order:
  • The Harvey Weinstein sex abuse scandal that rocked Hollywood, wrecking careers of powerful men throughout the industry.
  • The #metoo movement that grew out of the scandal as women in all fields, from TV to Silicon Valley to sports, found the courage to tell their stories of sexual exploitation by men in a position of power.
  • Many of those men losing their jobs as a result.
  • The Women’s Marches that began last year to protest the election of the misogynist-in-chief and grew this year as millions of women (and men) marched across the country to demand equality for women in the workplace, in politics, in the board room, in society.
  • Oprah Winfrey delivering a stirring speech as she accepted an award at the Golden Globes Awards, leading to a social media storm urging her to run for president. (Please, no, we’ve tried the really rich person used to giving orders with no government experience thing. But please do support candidates who agree with you, O. Generously.)
  • Gretchen Carlson, a former Miss America and former Fox News anchor who won a multi-million-dollar sexual harassment settlement from the network, being named chair of the Miss America pageant board of directors after the male bosses were shown to be mini-Trumps. Former contestants were also added to the board, which was previously all-male.
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, urging Democratic Sen. Al Franken to resign over sexual groping charges, saying Bill Clinton should have stepped down as president because of his sex scandals and urging Donald Trump to resign as president over sexual assault charges from a score of women.
  • Trump attacking Gillibrand with sexual innuendo on Twitter and unleashing a powerful backlash.
  • The doctor for the U.S. Olympics gymnastic team being sentenced, in effect, to the rest of his life in prison for abusing dozens of female athletes under his medical care for years. The athletes were given all the time they wanted in court by the female judge to tell their stories before the sentencing.
  • Women of color turning out en masse at the polls in Alabama to defeat a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate who, as a district attorney stalked teen-aged girls at malls. The candidate, Roy Moore, had the support of Trump and the Republican Party. The Democrat won.
  • A record number of women, mostly Democrats, running for political office this year at the local, state and national levels.
  • Time Magazine choosing “The SILENCE BREAKERS,” the women who came forward with their stories of sexual harassment and assault, launching the #metoo movement, as “Persons of the Year.”
  • Hillary Clinton running for president, getting nearly 3 million more votes than Trump, and losing anyway because (1) the Russians interfered with the campaign, (2) Republicans didn’t care and still don’t and (3) she apparently rubbed a lot of women the wrong way.
  • Gillibrand, Sen. Kamala Harris of California and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii joining Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Connecticut as leading voices in the Democratic Party and speaking eloquently about economic equality, health care, gun violence, family leave, veterans, the homeless, abortion, immigration, jobs, the drug crisis -- all for the most part ignored by Republicans.
  • Steve Wynn, financial chairman of the Republican National Committee, being forced to resign his position over numerous charges of sexual harassment and abuse of women over the years. The wealthy casino magnate is a major financial supporter of Trump and other Republicans.
  • Congress rewriting the rules (such as they were) for dealing with members accused of sexual harassment. Secret non-disclosure agreements are probably not going to be the norm anymore.
  • Female registered voters outnumbering male registered voters in the United States. They are also more likely to vote than men.
    These are the dots. There are plenty more, but you get the idea. This is not simply a revolution about sexual predation -- or an attitude of male sexual privilege, if you will. As I see it, it is an awakening, a moment of clarity, a realization that what was does not have to continue to be. Cannot be, in fact. Republicans are mostly clueless to the moment. Democrats ignore it to their continued ineffectuality at the polls.
    You want another dot to connect? How about First Lady Melania Trump canceling out at the last moment on the trip to Davos with Donald? No standing stoically by her man. Someone said she sent him a private tweet: Dear POTUS, not going to Davos. Why don’t you see if Stormy Daniels is free for the weekend? Well, not free, but, you know, affordable.
    Connect the dots.


Monday, January 8, 2018

Democrats: Stand by your woman

By Bob Gaydos

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
 ... ready to lead the way?

So I wrote a column saying that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has been beautifully positioned -- by a combination of Donald Trump’s fear of self-confident women, the rapid emergence of sexual misconduct by prominent men as a social issue, the newly demonstrated political power of women of color, and her own intelligence, commitment and ambition -- to run for president in 2020.

Here’s a sampling of comments I received:

-- “She’'s done, as far as I'm concerned, and I voted for her. What she did to Al Franken for her own benefit is a disgrace. She needs to be primaried, and voted out.”

-- “Never vote for her.”

-- “Horsefeathers.”

-- “Another Democratic hypocrite just like the rest of the party.”

-- “Just another Schumer loser and certainly a disgrace for NY.”

-- “I think almost every single politicians in New York is corrupt. For example, was she part of Hillary Clinton's 100 member leadership team? If so, that kills it for me right there. … I mean Bernie Sanders ended up supporting Hillary, but he had to, I think. He has my vote in 2020, and my undying allegiance.”

Of course there were the usual trolls who can’t spell or comment without being vulgar -- the world the Internet has legitimized. There were also some positive comments about Gillibrand, but that response was markedly muted, with Democrats in my and Gillibrand’s home state of New York apparently sharing the uncertainty of Democrats nationally as to what to make of this outspoken junior senator who had just called on the groper-in-chief to resign.

The reaction of David Axelrod, one of Barack Obama’s chief advisers, was typical: “There should be rigorous pursuit of these kinds of charges, but right now there are no rules. She’s been a leader on the issue [of sexual assault]. But the danger for her is looking so craven and opportunistic it actually hurts her.”

Someone identified as a top Democratic operative was quoted thusly: “If you cared about the Democrats and 2018, you would be calling for hearings [for Trump]. When you call for resignation, you’re jumping the gun. I’d rather have congressional candidates being asked, ‘Do you support hearings?’ Calling for resignation is not really what’s best for the party, but it’s good for her.”

So, bad for her or good for her? Gillibrand isn’t waiting for Democratic “operatives” to decide.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, the senator provided some insight into her thinking: “I take calculated risks. I measure. I assess risk very intensely. And then I make a judgment. When you play tennis as a kid, you’re going to win sometimes and lose sometimes, and you learn how to behave well under both circumstances. Such a great life lesson because if you’re not afraid of losing, you’ll take a risk -- like running for office.”

Including president.

My impression is that Democrats typically have difficulty recognizing opportunities that offer themselves and even more difficulty uniting behind a candidate, whether they agree with all her views or not. It’s almost as if winning elections is not that important. Republicans, of course, have demonstrated that they are capable to a fault of standing behind a candidate regardless of his lack of character, intelligence, knowledge of government, or emotional stability, perhaps even to the eventual demise of their own party.

But that’s the Republicans’ problem. Many Democrats seem to be inclined to try to make a problem of Gillibrand’s synchronistic moment. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that she’s a woman and she’s talking about a subject many people find difficult to talk about frankly and publicly -- sexual harassment in all its forms, from subtle to blatant.

That the numerous allegations of sexual misconduct against Trump did not prevent him from becoming the Republican presidential candidate, never mind winning the campaign for the White House over a clearly more-qualified female opponent, may well be due in large part to unspoken attitudes about gender and sex and politics and how to behave when they all come together.

Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 popular vote among white women, running against a card-carrying misogynist. The usual complaints voiced about her were that she was too ambitious or not trustworthy. But Trump was all ambition and a congenital liar. He was also an admitted sexual predator. But so was Bill Clinton, although it took some time and an impeachment for his admissions to come forth. And through it all, Hillary stood by her man. You could almost hear Tammy Wynette singing it: “You’ll have bad times; he’ll have good times; Doin' things that you don't understand …”

As a man occasionally guilty of sexist remarks, I nonetheless venture to say that I have noticed that women have a way of remembering things. “She attacked all those women who were used by Bill and now she wants to be president? I don’t think so.” The women voters stood by their man, just like the song says, “ ‘Cause after all he's just a man” ... allowed to be ambitious and untrustworthy.

That time is no more. #MeToo and the Women’s March and generations of women who have grown up liberated beneficiaries of other women’s struggles -- women not trying to behave like men or needing to be silent about sexual abuse in order to succeed -- have changed the political landscape. Gillibrand, 51, is one of them and she understands the changing dynamic.

One of the trickier challenges in talking or writing about the recent flood of sexual misconduct allegations is how to differentiate among the various behaviors -- Harassment? Groping? Unwanted touching? Suggestive talk? Sex for a promotion? Assault? Rape?

Gillibrand makes it simple: “Let’s say the line is here, and it’s all bad,” she said at a women’s conference, to cheers. She is someone willing and able to lead the much-needed discussion. Indeed, she has led a bipartisan effort to rewrite the rules in Congress on dealing with sexual harassment charges. The current system relies heavily on delay and legal hush money.

Democrats need to take Gillibrand and women’s issues -- including Bernie Sanders’ key issue, economic equality -- seriously. They are all connected to the issue of men in power using and abusing their positions to get sex in exchange for “helping” a woman’s career or at least not hurting it. In essence, of using power to “keep women in their place.”

I understand that a lot of Democrats feel that Sanders was robbed of the Democratic nomination and that he would have beaten Trump. I agree. But Bernie in 2020? Look, I think he would be a good president. Heck, with all modesty, I think I would be a better president than Trump. But I’m four months older than the Vermont senator, who will be 80 in 2020. I hate ageism, but I’m also a realist. If Sanders runs, I’ll vote for him, but I think being president of the United States is a younger person’s game. In today’s world, perhaps a younger woman’s game.

(The author has been a registered independent voter for more than 50 years.)


Sunday, December 31, 2017

Trump launches Gillibrand's presidential campaign

By Bob Gaydos

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
... right place, right time?

Here comes Kirsten.

Thanks to Donald Trump’s thin skin and pathological need to attack any woman who speaks the truth to and about him, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s campaign for the presidency -- mostly media speculation and staff downplaying until now -- has been launched onto front pages, TV and social media sites ahead of schedule.

Not that Gillibrand is complaining. In fact, she thanked Trump in typical Gillibrand style -- directly and defiantly. Just the way to get under his skin. And just the way to use his misogynistic history and instincts to put the spotlight on her signature issue --  sexual predation. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

The launch began when the Democratic senator from New York called on Trump to resign as president in light of allegations of sexual assault or harassment from, at last count, 17 women. Gillibrand had already called for the resignation of fellow Democratic senator, Al Franken, of Minnesota, because of sexual assault allegations and had said that, if BIll Clinton were president now and were facing the sexual misconduct charges that led to his impeachment, she would expect him to resign.

Those two moves set Gillibrand apart from the two wings of the Democratic Party -- the progressives who love Franken and feel he was railroaded and deserves the hearing he requested, and the Clinton regulars who see any criticism of Bill as an attack on Hillary. Plus, some felt Gillibrand appeared to be ungrateful for the help she received from the Clintons when she replaced Hillary in the Senate. Members of both Democratic factions felt Gillibrand was exploiting a situation -- the whirlwind of sexual assault allegations being made public about prominent men in various fields -- to advance her political career.

In other words, she stood accused of being a politician.

Apparently. being ambitious is acceptable, even commendable, behavior for men in politics, but not (with the exception of Hillary) appropriate for women. This fits nicely with Gillibrand’s campaign to change prevailing societal attitudes and treatment of women.

And, critics notwithstanding, she didn’t come late to the party. Indeed, she came to the Senate already focused on sexual and gender abuse, turning her focus on the military as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. She was one of the leaders in the move to do away with the “Don't Ask Don't Tell” policy that banned gays from serving openly in the military;

She has championed a bill, which has bipartisan support, to remove sexual assault cases from the military chain of command. The Military Justice Improvement Act is a byproduct of hearings in 2013 on sexual assault in the military, which she held as chair of a subcommittee on military personnel. Gillibrand has also been instrumental in drafting the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which would hold colleges accountable for sexual assault on their campuses. And she is building bipartisan support for a measure to revamp congressional procedures for dealing with sexual harassment.

If ever there were a case of right place, right time, right person -- right woman -- this sure seems like it. Gillibrand may or may not have been planning to run for president -- or maybe she was still assessing her chances -- but the combination of: 1) the misogynist Trump in the White House; 2) the Harvey Weinstein sex abuse scandal in Hollywood; 3) the ensuing accusations, revelations, admissions, firings and resignations of high-profile men in powerful positions in media, movies, business, politics; 4) the Women’s March movement; 5) the demonstration of women’s voting power in Democratic victories in Virginia and Alabama; and 6) the legions of Democratic women who want a champion of their gender but for various reasons felt Clinton wasn’t it, would seem to suggest a perfect alignment of the stars for a woman with excellent political instincts and without political baggage.

Senator Gillibrand.

A word about those instincts. Gillibrand was appointed senator in 2009 to replace Clinton, who was nominated to be secretary of state by President Barack Obama. Her selection by New York Gov. David Paterson was a surprise because Gillibrand was then a relatively unknown  congresswoman from upstate New York. That is, conservative upstate New York. She had managed to be elected in a Republican-heavy district in large part due to her ability to recognize what was important to her constituents (agriculture, guns) and to communicate directly to them. She says they trusted her even though she was a Democrat and two out of three voters were Republicans.

But she changed when she moved from the House to the Senate, going from representing a conservative congressional district to representing a liberal state. Critics say it was cynical and political, aimed at getting re-elected. She says as she traveled the state she learned different views about issues that were important to people -- on gun control and gay rights for example -- and her views changed as she learned more.

Take your pick on the Gillibrand evolution. The proof is in the pudding. She has been vocal and persistent in the Senate in championing whatever cause she latches on to, including single-payer health care and family leave, which have been longtime issues for her.

Still, it is #Metoo and the rapid recognition of millions of women of the political power that is theirs, waiting to be harnessed, not exploited, that has placed Gillibrand -- perhaps moreso than another favorite Trump target, Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren -- at what may be a pivotal place in history. Four male Democratic senators called on Trump to resign before she did, with nary a tweet from Trump. Gillibrand’s statement got to him.

He tweeted: “Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Charles E. Schumer and someone who would come to my office 'begging' for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!”

Typical Trump, attacking a woman standing up to him by insulting her and using sexual innuendo. Also typically Trump, with bad timing. The tweet appeared hours before the senator was to speak to a group of truckers. The dotard’s sexual history was obviously not on the agenda, but, of course, the press asked Gillibrand to respond to his tweet.

So she did, in typical fashion: “It was a sexist smear attempting to silence my voice. I will not be silent on this issue, neither will women who stood up to the president yesterday and neither will the millions of women who have been marching since the Women’s March to stand up against policies they do not agree with.”

You could almost hear the campaign cash registers ringing.


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

At holiday parties, 'no thanks' is an acceptable answer

Addiction and recovery

By Bob Gaydos
It’s time for my annual here-come-the-holidays-so-let’s-be-smart-while-we-enjoy-ourselves column  for addicts and their friends and families.
Over the years of writing this column I’ve learned that being brief is important because there’s simply too much for people to do at this time of year to sit and read an article about healthy behavior. Also, that non-addicts as well as addicts can benefit from knowing some basic rules for surviving holiday festivities. If much of what follows sounds familiar, it’s because I’ve said it before and, I think, bears repeating.
This is a treacherous time of year for people in early recovery from addiction. People who have found their way to recovery, be it via a 12-step program or otherwise, have been given suggestions on how to survive the season of temptation without relapse. If they use these tools, with practice, they can even enjoy the season.
But I’m also talking here to you hosts, family members, well-meaning friends who want to be supportive and do the right thing, but aren’t sure what that is. And yes, to those who don’t understand the concept of addiction but can still avoid harming a relationship by following a few basic suggestions. So, first, some holiday coping tools for the non-addicted:
  • “No thank you” is a complete sentence and perfectly acceptable answer. It should not require any further explanation. “One drink won’t hurt you” is a dangerously ill-informed reply. The same goes for, “A few butter cookies won’t hurt. C’mon, it’s Christmas.” Or, “Get the dress. Put it on your credit card. You’ll feel better.” Not really.
  • By the way, “No thank you” is an acceptable answer even for people not in recovery. Not everyone who turns down a second helping of stuffing or a piece of pumpkin pie is a member of Overeaters Anonymous. Not everyone who prefers a ginger ale rather than a beer is a member of AA. Not everyone who won’t go into hock for an expensive New Year’s Eve party is a compulsive debtor. But some of them may be.
  • If you’re hosting a party to which people in recovery have been invited, have some non-alcoholic beverages available. Not just water. Don’t make a big deal about having them, just let your guests know they are available. The same goes for food. Have some appetizing, low-calorie dishes and healthful desserts on hand. Don’t point out that they’re there because so-and-so is watching his weight. Just serve them. You’ll be surprised how many guests enjoy them and comment on what a good host you are.
  • If you’re honestly concerned about how the person in recovery is doing, approach him or her privately. He or she might not feel comfortable discussing it in front of other guests. If you’re just curious, keep it to yourself.
  • Honoring a guest’s wishes is a sign of respect. Anticipating them in advance is even better. Encouraging someone to eat, drink or spend money when they don’t want to is, at the very least, not gracious. Pressuring someone to partake of something when you know he or she is trying hard to avoid it is a good way to lose a friend.
  • Addictions are not trivial matters. I repeat, “No, thank you,” is a perfectly good answer. Members of AA, OA and DA will be especially appreciative if you remember that.
For recovering addicts, the tools should be familiar, but always bear repeating:
  • Bring a recovery friend to a party.
  • Have phone numbers and your own transportation available if you want to leave an uncomfortable situation.
  • If you’re uncomfortable about attending a party because of who will be there, be it family or friends who are not supportive, don’t go. Politely decline.
  • Keep track of your drink. If you’re not sure, get a new one.
  • Deal in cash; forget about credit cards.
  • Don’t feel obliged to try every dish on the table.
  • And, again, “No, thank you,” is a complete sentence. Don’t worry about hurting your host’s feelings at the expense of your recovery. There’s always next year.
*  *  *
For more information:
Debtors Anonymous: www.debtorsanonymous.org
Alcoholics Anonymous: www.aa.org
Overeaters Anonymous: www.oa.org
Al-Anon: www.al-anon.org