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Many of us drink around family and friends to socialize, relax, or to celebrate special occasions. With family gatherings and festive parties, the holiday season can be a time for catching up and celebration, but it can also be an especially stressful and demanding time for Sailors, Marines, and their families. Separation from loved ones during deployment, financial struggles, or relationship problems can cause stress, especially during the holiday season. These challenges can contribute to feelings of sadness or loneliness that may seem unmanageable. You may use alcohol to cope with difficulties in your life. Even though you feel better immediately after drinking, using alcohol to navigate these difficulties can lead to more problems.
You may feel like you become more relaxed with each drink you take, but being drunk can influence your mood and behavior and lead to your becoming more depressed or aggressive if you are already feeling down or angry.1,2 It can also influence your ability to think things through before you act and your ability to cope with challenges.1,2 This can result in your taking risks you normally would not such as driving while drunk. Unhealthy drinking and the continued use of alcohol as a way to cope with your challenges can contribute to problems with your job and family life and impact your psychological and emotional well-being. You may find yourself needing to drink more alcohol to feel the same effect and continue to drink despite the problems it causes you.3
Understanding how much you drink and why you drink can be helpful steps in recognizing whether you are engaging in unhealthy drinking and whether you are using alcohol as a way to cope. Unhealthy drinking behaviors include the following single-day and weekly limits:
Consider whether your drinking behavior is unhealthy based on your habits, how much you’re drinking, and the reasons you are drinking. Note that the “heavy” or “at risk” drinking definitions were developed for healthy adults and individual risks may vary. One may be engaging in “at-risk” drinking even if consuming less than the amounts mentioned above.
If you are concerned about your drinking habits, go to Rethinking Drinking: Alcohol and your health and assess your drinking pattern as well as find resources to help you cut down or quit. You can learn more about what counts as a “drink” or how to reduce alcohol-related risks or seek professional assistance from Navy-approved sources of help listed at the end of this article.
Building and using positive coping skills to help navigate difficult situations can enhance your psychological and emotional well-being and strengthen your resilience and ability to deal with these situations without turning to alcohol. Developing positive coping skills can help you perform at your best at all times, maintain mission readiness, and thrive both in your home and in your community. Consider using the following positive coping skills:
1. Brady J. The Association Between Alcohol Misuse and Suicidal Behaviour. Alcohol Alcohol. 2006;41(5):473 478.
2. Hufford M. Alcohol and Suicide Behavior. Clin Psychol Rev. 2001;21(5):797-811.
3. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol and health: Alcohol use disorders. http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders.
4. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Drinking Levels Defined. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/moderate-binge-drinking.
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