Drinking Only Increases After the Holidays
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Drinking Only Increases After the Holidays


This post was originally published on January 6, 2015.

New Year’s Eve is notoriously one of the drunkest nights of the year. But according to this interactive graphic that tells us the days of the year when Americans are the most drunk, drinkers are only getting started.

That’s right, December kicked off drinking season—at least according to the manufacturer of the BACtrack breathalyzer, a device that plugs into your phone and tells you just how drunk you are (because dizziness, impaired speech and not being able to stand up straight aren’t good enough signs you’ve had enough?) The chart reveals that the users of their product drink more in the winter, which is no surprise to me. What was a surprise to me? How much drinking takes off not just during but after the holidays. You’d think that rounding the shortest, darkest day of the year and heading towards better weather would lessen one’s need for the mood enhancer in a glass. And what about all those New Year’s Resolutions?

On second thought, no. That makes total sense.

As an active alcoholic, nothing made me want to drink more than the feeling of disappointment. Every New Year’s Eve—which also happens to be my birthday (no pressure, right!?)—I’d set myself up for the Best Night Ever, only to find myself feeling disappointed again and again. Disappointed in whatever guy I was seeing for not showing up. Disappointed over the fact that I wasn’t seeing anyone. Disappointed in my friends (people who always took a backseat to whatever guy I was or wasn’t seeing). Most of all, disappointed in myself.

The last New Year’s Eve before I got sober was a disaster of epic proportions. It was so truly embarrassing that I don’t even want to write about it here (and I write about some truly embarrassing things). Long story short, I’d met a guy on the Internet some days earlier and went on a regrettable date. Alone and lonely and drunk on New Year’s Eve, I called him up and begged him to come over. After he did, I begged him to stay the night (never mind I was sleeping on a love seat because this alcoholic couldn’t get her shit together to buy a bed). When he refused, politely citing the lack of a place to sleep as the reason, I followed him back to his place. I. Followed. Him. Back. To. His place. I mean, it’s not like I stalked him—we shared a cab—but it was clear he didn’t want me to come along. Homeboy didn’t like me. And, honestly, I didn’t like him. But it was New Year’s Eve, and my birthday. I couldn’t bear to be alone.

That’s what happened when I drank. I humiliated myself. So much for fresh starts; January 1st would be spoiled by a hangover. Never mind the same resolutions every year to “get healthier”; these intentions would be abandoned the very next day when I’d wake up in some random dude’s bed after a regrettable encounter, or—if this is when I was seeing someone—the morning after some terrible fight. Oh sure, maybe I’d make some impotent promise to “clean up my act” starting…now! The next day, as I did the walk of shame from the Lower East Side to my apartment in the West Village, I’d make a solemn promise to myself that I’d start treating myself better. But an alcoholic’s promises never last long. My commitment to drink less failed at the first open bar. By February, it was back to my old habits. 

Apparently, this kind of behavior is not so unique. The chart shows that while drinkers might clean up their act in January (at least compared to the month prior), by February they were full on again. In fact, February’s one of the drunkest months, with Superbowl Sunday and the whole week of Valentine’s Day coming in at some of the heaviest drinking days of the year.

And then there’s St. Patrick’s Day. And Cinco de Mayo. And July 4th. And Labor Day Weekend. And Purim. And the Kentucky Derby. And…you get the picture. So yeah, who needs the December holidays as an excuse when there are holidays year round? And of course, the holidays aren’t the only excuse Americans use to drink heavily.

Just as an alcoholic doesn’t need an excuse to drink, a problem drinker also doesn’t need a resolution to quit. My birthday might come in December, but my “sober birthday” didn’t occur until the end of March of that year, when I’d finally had enough. Maybe you have, too. How to know that you drink too much? You have New Years Eve’s and/or birthdays like the one I described. Or maybe you just own a device that plugs into your phone and tells you when you’re drunk.

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About Author

Melissa Petro is a freelance writer and writing instructor living in New York City. She has written for NY Magazine, The Guardian, Salon, The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, Jezebel, xoJane, The Fix and elsewhere. She is the founder of Becoming Writers, a community organization that provides free and low cost memoir-writing workshops to new writers of all backgrounds and experiences.