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Deck the halls with Shirley Temples

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Jody Vance: Holiday gatherings may feel more festive, but pandemic statistics show a lot of British Columbians have been consuming more alcohol. If you make merry, also create ways for people to celebrate boozeless.

The first of December. For many Canadians, today marks the official kickoff of full-tilt holiday mode.

In our house this turning of the calendar triggers a number of celebratory traditions. Things get decorated, there’s a bowl of mixed nuts on the coffee table, there to be cracked at will. Toffifee, Almond Rocca, After Eights — and yes, Baileys. It’s a time for a bit of decadence and indulgence.

Today also used to mark the beginning of holiday gatherings; remember those? For the first time in what feels like forever, it’s tempting to go a bit overboard. Bringing out the fine wine, special coveted single malt, and it flows a bit extra freely.

Perhaps a little too much so?

Over the last 21 months of COVID-19, stats have shown British Columbians are purchasing more alcohol than in the before times — much, much more. Year over year, in 2020/21 we’ve bought a staggering 12 million more litres of liquor than in 2018/19.

That’s more than two and a third additional litres per person, including kids and non-drinkers. For those who consume, it’s considerably more.

Certainly some of this could be considered medication, stress relief, escape, or boredom, with this staying home stuff. There’s no shame in indulging a little extra and/or earlier “gin o’clock somewhere,” while processing the impacts of a global pandemic – but this Middle asks if December 1st might offer a reminder that dialing it back should become more of a priority.

The good news here is that the payoff for returning to moderation offers immediate, tangible benefits.

Even the hardest-working, most even-keeled, might admit to feeling the added stress of these last 21 months. Add holiday pressures to atmospheric rivers and pandemics, and this time of year can be very difficult for those from SADs.

One who is rarely sad, my inspirational BFF holistic nutritionist Alyssa Bauman, shared this week that she sees what no longer serves her wellness and is making adjustments. At our Hanukkah dinner, Sunday, Alyssa shared that she hadn’t had a drink in months.

Her subsequent Instagram post @nourishedbyalyssa explained it like this:

“I haven’t had a drink in a couple months, I think 3. I don’t say this for a badge, nor do I think I have a drinking problem. I think alcohol has an issue with me! The reality is I just don’t feel good even after one drink the next day. So that signature glass of wine or my fav extra dirty martini on Friday night literally robs me of all of my vitality. Ya, not fun.” 

The hashtag #SoberCurious seemed a stroke of genius. Like finding your own Middle when it comes to indulgence. No strings attached, no promise to “never again” or restrict, but a choice made. This can replace the cliche “Dry January,” all too often a flawed routine resolution that only serves as license to binge drink in December.

Another girlfriend you might know, Jann Arden (yes, I dropped a name), often posts:

“If you think you are drinking too much, you probably are.”

Jann has been sober for years and credits sobriety with her vitality, personal wellbeing, and even saving her life. Jann’s social media is a great resource for those who struggle with leaning into alcohol in unhealthy ways.

The difference between these two women is that one decided she had a drinking problem while the other decided drinking has a problem with her.

This holiday season should be a bit more normal and festive. But as you deck the halls, leave space for everyone attending your party to make their own choices about indulging – and perhaps have fancy and delicious mocktails on your menu plan.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.

SWIM ON