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'Tis the season to be jolly

The Christmas season is often about planning gatherings with family and close friends. For some, this brings with it reminders of happy times, but for others, worries about family members and their drinking can bring a sense of dread.

How problematic a person’s drinking is can be broken into three categories.

A problem drinker

A person who is not an alcoholic, but whose use of alcohol creates psychological and social problems for themselves and others.

Heavy drinker

A person who drinks frequently or large amounts in one go (binge drinking). A heavy drinker may be a problem drinker, an alcoholic, or a normal drinker with a high tolerance of alcohol.


A person who prioritises alcohol and is powerless to stop drinking, regardless of whether they were initially a heavy drinker, a problem drinker or a light/moderate drinker. They have become increasingly dependent on alcohol and have experienced escalating problems from this addiction.

So what is normal? There may not be an answer for this but there are different signs to look out for in yourself and also in others. For example:

  • Do you find ways to hide how much you are drinking in case family or friends notice?
  • Do you have an alcoholic drink as early as breakfast time?
  • Does drinking on an empty stomach hit the spot?
  • Do you worry if you have enough drink to go around just in case the shops are closed?
  • Do you sometimes prefer to drink alone?

If this is starting to sound familiar, you may ask yourself: do I drink too much?

Alcoholism has little to do with what kind of alcohol a person drinks, how long they have been drinking for and how much they have consumed. But it does have a great deal to do with a person’s uncontrollable need for alcohol. For most alcoholic drinkers, willpower alone is not enough to help them stop. Feeling trapped in a grip of a powerful craving for alcohol can feel as strong as a need for food or water. While some people might think that they able to recover without help, many come to understand that they need outside assistance to recover. With support and treatment it can be possible to stop drinking and reclaim your life.

This is why it is important to exercise moderation over the coming Christmas period. Addiction can be a slippery slope. By drinking in moderation you will enjoy yourself more, those around you will enjoy themselves more, and you can create good memories with your loved ones.

By Sarah Holt and Nicole Grilo, Addictions Team at Priory Wellbeing Centre Southampton.

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For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding addiction treatment and rehabilitation, please call 0800 144 8969 or click here to book a FREE ADDICTION ASSESSMENT. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here

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