As one metro organization has found, holidays can be a trigger for those with a drinking problem

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It’s a time of making new choices; everyone is making resolutions, trying to pick positive ways to kick off the year. But for a person struggling with a drinking problem, the holidays can be a trigger.

Susan Whitmore is the head of First Call, an addiction recovery agency in the metro.

“It was really painful because I am a mother of two kids, and they were both in their teenage years at that time," she said.

Whitmore has been sober 10 years.

“Prior to that 10 years of sustained recovery, I had seven years of struggling," she said.

She understands the reality of addiction and how ringing in the new year, centered around drinking, can cause temptation.

“It’s the whole holiday season that is often a trigger for people who may have either a problem drinking or a substance use disorder," she said. "There’s a lot of hype around New Year’s Eve and drinking obviously. It’s a time when people celebrate.”

Some people practice Dry January – no alcohol for a month.

“I think a lot of people, maybe they over indulge over the holidays and then take a period to not drink,” Whitmore said.

That doesn’t really apply to those struggling with alcoholism.

“That’s not a technique that’s going to work or arrest a disorder," she said. "There are more intensive interventions that are necessary if someone genuinely needs support.”

Support, Whitmore said, backed in large part by research and science.

“Women’s physiology is very different," she said. "This is from the CDC, these statistics.”

For women, eight drinks or more per week is considered heavy drinking. For men, that number is 15.

Whitmore said everyone’s brain chemistry, physiology and needs are different.

But she said one thing is true for all addicts: “You’re not a bad person trying to get good. You’re a sick person trying to get well. Everybody can get well. That’s the really wonderful thing.”

Whitmore said First Call sees an increase of calls to their crisis hotline during the holidays, which often includes people calling because someone they know or care about is struggling.

Learn more about the resources available at First Call here.

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