All About Addiction

Helping addicts get their lives back

New Year's Eve Without Drugs or Alcohol?

Experimenting on NYE can be harmful to your health

For many people all around the world, New Year's Eve celebrations mean a lot of partying. Often, that partying includes drinking alcohol, doing drugs, and generally engaging in one last night of "things you'll forget about" in the year that has passed. I know the ritual and I took part in it often. Hell, the virtual symbol of NYE is the Champagne toast (talk about a trigger).

Since high-school, NYE celebrations meant little more than getting so &#@$-faced that I wouldn't be able to remember what happened the next morning. Actually that's not true - I've only experienced one blackout in my life - I always remembered what I did on New Year's Eve. From my early days of drinking as close to an entire bottle of vodka as I could along with some gravity bong hits for my CB1 and CB2 receptors to fully light up to later parties that involved acid (LSD), ecstasy (MDMA), cocaine, and finally crystal meth, it was all about excess in its rawest form.

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Humans enjoy celebrations in a way that other animals simply don't. It comes with our keen awareness of past, present, and future. It's the way we mark special events that only have true meaning because we assigned it to them. It's part of what makes us the most social of animals and is tightly connected to our brains and their massive supply of executive function. But none of that matters when you're loaded on drugs or alcohol on New Year's Eve. All that matters is that you're having fun.

For most people, this sort of partying doesn't cause any problems. As long as they don't drive under the influence, getting a little messed up is just not that big a deal. Hey, getting high on drugs and alcohol has left us with some of the best art, music, and writing I can think of and our livers and kidneys can handle the stress pretty well. But for some people, that same seemingly innocent set of behaviors can lead to a far darker place.

For addicts who have become dependent on drugs or alcohol, or for those people teetering on the edge of addiction with drugs and alcohol as still fully functional crutches that make the world slightly more tolerable, that same partying can get dangerous. It can lead to memory loss and accidental death. It can lead to the destruction of property, relationships, and self-esteem. It can lead to handcuffs and metal bars that don't go away when the effect of the drugs or alcohol wears off.

As I've talked about so often here, we're still pretty bad at telling the difference between those who are simply partying hard and those who have a real problem. We can tell after the fact, looking back at how long someone struggled (hard-core addicts can spend decades struggling with addiction while the more tame abusers/addicts only last a few years) but that doesn't do anyone much good now does it?

I've sat in many groups with addicts trying to plan for these holidays so that they can make it to the other end without throwing away everything they've worked so hard for. The temptation of shooting up, smoking a bowl, or drinking a fifth of your favorite liqueur (or 2 bottles of wine)  can be too much when everyone around you makes it seem like so much fun. Many make it through with little more than resolved anxiety and a sense of relief. But every year, a few get left behind, some to return a bit later with a little more of a war story than they had previously.

The point - Making it through the holidays

The holidays, and New Year's Eve in particular, are a bad time to try to figure out which of these groups you belong to exactly because everyone else is being excessive too. An addict can easily cross the line and seem no different. Until the next day that is. So this holiday, do yourself a favor and hold off on any grand experiment. Take it easy, spend some time with real friends who have your best interest at heart, and make it to the next year in style. You can always test yourself another day.

 

© 2011 Adi Jaffe, All Rights Reserved

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Adi Jaffe, Ph.D., is the executive director of Alternatives Behavioral Health and a lecturer at UCLA and California State University Long Beach.

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