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DHS news release

Your holiday-party guests may include recovering alcoholics: tips for you and them


This guest opinion is by Karen Wheeler, alcohol and drug policy manager in the Oregon Department of Human Services.

Length: 488 words.

By Karen Wheeler


As you enjoy preparing to host that popular holiday party, here's something you might not have considered: The odds are good that one or more of your guests will be recovering alcoholics.


The reason you're giving the party is to entertain your friends, so be sure also to honor those who struggle every day with alcohol's temptation.


Friends who are recovering alcoholics may not tell you. They represent the most invisible part of addiction.


But they account for thousands of Oregonians, very likely including people in your own family. If you don't believe that, consider this: In every Oregon community, an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting is held every evening of the week.


My husband and I enjoy hosting alcohol-free parties. But if you serve alcohol, these tips are worth remembering:

  • Engage your guests with other activities in addition to food and beverages. We love team Pictionary at our house--all you need is the game, a white board and two teams (guys versus gals is a favorite). Or plan an exchange of wrapped holiday gag gifts or other game or activity.
  • Avoid carbonated mixers that speed alcohol absorption. Limit salty foods that promote thirst (meats, cheeses, vegetables and dips are better).
  • Serve alcohol-free beverages in swanky glasses. Let guests know you appreciate designated drivers.
  • Have someone tend bar; don't let guests serve themselves.
  • Stop serving alcohol 60-90 minutes before your guests leave. Substitute coffee and a dessert.
  • If a guest clearly ought not to be driving, call a taxi, find another guest to drive him home, or offer a bed for the night. If an inebriated guest gets into a serious accident, you want neither the legal liability nor the guilty conscience.

The recovering alcoholic, too, wants to get out and enjoy the season's special get-togethers. Here's what she or he can do to have the fun without giving in to alcohol's temptations.

  • When you accept the invitation, tell the host that because you don't drink alcohol, you hope the party will have ample alcohol-free beverages.
  • Someone is bound to offer you a drink, so practice how you will respond. Perhaps: "Sure, I'd love a cola with lime or a soda water with a lemon twist."
  • Avoid punches, which might contain alcohol. Avoid rum balls and similar treats whose taste might trigger a temptation you don't want.
  • Plan an "escape route." Tell your host that you might leave suddenly if the temptation is getting to be too much.

Remember that AA and other 12-step groups continue meeting during the holidays. This might be a good time to go to more meetings.


A final note: With up to half of the population saying they're non-drinkers, party-givers have reason to remember them, and people who don't drink alcohol have no reason to feel awkward.

Karen Wheeler is alcohol and drug policy manager in the Oregon Department of Human Services.