Substance Abuse Prevention: Drink responsibly, know your limit

If you are battling substance abuse, consider attending an alcohol-free holiday party or host your own alcohol-free small gathering.

Parties and special occasions like the upcoming holiday season usually involve games, music and alcoholic beverages. They are times of festivity and fun.

For someone concerned about alcohol intake or battling substance abuse, social events may seem threatening. But it is possible to participate in activities that include alcohol.

Facts about risky drinking

The first step to understanding your alcohol limits is to know the facts, signs and symptoms about alcohol abuse. Below are examples of alcohol misuse and facts about risky drinking from the Psychological Health Center of Excellence:

•Drinking more or for a longer time than you intend.

•Continuing to drink even though it makes you feel depressed or anxious.

•Experiencing symptoms of withdrawal when you do not drink.

•Experiencing interference with daily activities, Family, friends and work.

•Having to consume more drinks than you once did to get the same effect.

Set your limits

If you are not practicing abstinence, but want to be mindful of your drinking behavior, there are ways to set limits. Tracking your daily drink intake may be a helpful way to manage substance use, but can be difficult to practice in social situations. Before going to the party, have a plan and remember to be S.M.A.R.T:

•Specific. Set a drink type and number limit for yourself. If you decide to drink a beer, ask yourself what type of beer, stick to that brand and style, and do not go over your limit. Every alcohol beverage has a different alcohol content, which changes your body’s response.

•Measurable. Understand how your body processes alcohol to determine your specific limitations. Look at the standard drink calculator to see how different types of drinks will affect your body.

•Attainable. Is your goal realistic for your lifestyle? Set a goal that you are confident and positive about achieving.

•Relevant. Ask yourself if your goal applies to your current surroundings. If you are at a wine-tasting event, know how much wine is enough for you.

•Time-based. Set a drinking cut-off time and length of time between each drink. Determine how many drinks is a safe number for you.

Choose your surroundings

Choosing your surrounding can be the best way to combat pressure. If you are battling substance abuse, consider attending an alcohol-free holiday party or host your own alcohol-free small gathering. Suggest ideas to the host that don’t involve drinking. Fun ideas include:


•Board, card and trivia games.

•Dance competitions.

•Holiday-themed relays.

•Arts and crafts.

•Gift exchanges.

It also is OK not to go to a party if you feel it could harm your sobriety. When it is impossible to avoid functions with alcohol, make sure you have a way to leave if you are feeling uncomfortable. Share that you are limiting your drinking or not drinking at all.

Purposefully voicing your concerns can help eliminate potential peer pressure to join or overindulge in drinking.

On-the-go support

There are several mobile apps that can help you assess and manage your alcohol use. Some mobile apps can help you learn healthier ways to cope with certain triggers, such as stress. Here a few to consider:

•Pier Pressure, developed by Navy Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, offers resources to help practice responsible drinking behaviors in real life to include: a blood alcohol content calculator; calorie and alcohol content calculators for beer, wine, spirits and popular cocktails; safe drinking tips; and direct access to local taxi searches and popular ride-sharing apps.

•VetChange, developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, is for veterans and service members who are concerned about their drinking and how it relates to post-traumatic stress after deployment, and for all people who are interested in developing healthier drinking behaviors.

Learn about more Defense Health Agency mobile apps, developed by the Connected Health branch, including Virtual Hope Box, LifeArmor and Breathe2Relax at the mHealth Clinical Integration webpage (

For more

Online resources include the following:

•Confidential Defense Health Agency alcohol and drug abuse self-assessment at

•TRICARE Alcohol Awareness at

•Military Health Podcast: “Next Generation Behavioral Health,” episode 17, “Substance Use” at

•“Life Without Liquor” one service member’s personal story of how he overcame a drinking problem at

•Military OneSource: Military Policy and Treatment for Substance Use at

•“Rethinking Drinking: Alcohol and Your Health” publication with research-based information from the National Institutes of Health at

•“Harmful Interactions: Mixing Alcohol with Medicines” publication from National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholisim at

You can overcome substance abuse by knowing the facts, sticking to your goals, informing others of your intentions, having good support and creating a positive environment for long-lasting change.