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Some tips for avoiding alcohol at holiday parties

Whether you've stopped drinking and are in recovery or you've made a commitment to yourself not to drink if you'll be driving, the holidays can test your resolve. Holiday parties can be particularly difficult for young people who are especially vulnerable to peer pressure.

So, how do you get through the holiday party season without drinking, even when alcohol is all around you? Planning and preparation are key.

Keep a drink in your hand

Carry a glass or cup filled with a nonalcoholic beverage. People are less likely to encourage you to drink if they think you already are.

Be prepared for questions and comments

If someone offers you a glass of wine or another alcoholic beverage, simply say, "No, thank you." Of course, some people can't understand why another person wouldn't want to drink. Have an answer prepared for people who persist. Saying that you're driving later should be good enough, but for some people, it's not. Polite, firm answers should bring an end to this kind of persistence.

Know when and how to leave

If you're feeling tempted to drink or besieged by people encouraging you to, leave. You don't have to make a scene. Say you have to be somewhere or just slip out. Fellow partiers under the influence may not notice or remember later.

Parents should let their kids know that they can call them if they need to be picked up from a party where they're feeling uncomfortable or unsafe. Have a code word or phrase that kids can use when they call or text that won't give away what they're doing to others.

Have a support system

If you have a friend who is equally committed to not drinking, bring them along. You're less likely to fall victim to temptation and/or peer pressure if you've got someone to talk to. If you're in recovery and have a sponsor or fellow sober friends or family members, check in with them during the evening.

If you need any additional incentive not to drink during holiday gatherings, remember that Maryland law enforcement officers will be out in force looking for impaired drivers. Nothing can ruin the holidays like a DUI arrest. If you find yourself in that situation, it's wise to seek experienced legal guidance rather than try to deal with the justice system alone.

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