Van Beek: Holiday cheer and the after-party |

Van Beek: Holiday cheer and the after-party

The holidays are a time of gatherings … friends, food, drink, parties, music, games, and overall good times. Often, even with the best of intentions, we get so busy that we don’t see many of our favorite people until the holidays, when we make a concerted effort to get together.

It can be almost magical; the lights, decorations, holiday tunes, tasty goodies, silly sweaters, memories of years gone by … basically, a trip down memory lane with some of our dearest friends. In all of that nostalgia, we can get carried away and not realize that the spiked eggnog has quite a kick; or on the opposite end, because our lives are not a Normal Rockwell painting (by the way, neither was his), we find ourselves feeling a sense of loss, disappointment, or loneliness. All of this can lead to drinking beyond our normal limits. 

We’ve all seen it, a friend who thinks they’re OK to drive home, yet even when sounding “normal” they are not quite themselves. They are embarrassed to admit that they have had a bit too much; or the host, wanting to say something but not wanting to offend, let’s the friend leave, only to end up in some tragic situation. Even if the only side-effect is a slowing of reflexes, that can become deadly. 

Therefore, what do we do? How do we enjoy the evening without offending anyone, or worse, harming someone else because of our temporary, out-of-character behavior, due to the over-consumption of alcohol or other substances? 

Even those who rarely drink may be surprised at the effect one glass has on their reflexes and judgment. And, someone who has never consumed “edibles” may discover the potency of that brownie is well beyond anything that Betty Crocker had ever imagined. 

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This is when the true test of friendship comes to light. Planning a party may need to include some additional provisions. Perhaps the norm should be a collection of car keys at the door; designated drivers available or on-call (friends can always return the next day to pick up their car); or sleeping bags set up in a room for those guests who simply can’t make it back home.  The invitation can be that the party includes an “after-party” sleepover for those wanting to extend the festivities all night long, eliminating any transportation issues or potential confrontations. Nothing says love like keeping your friends close to home during their celebratory phase, especially during snowy weather. 

Of course, prevention is the best course of action. One way of keeping friends from over-consuming would be to make sure there is plenty of food available throughout the evening. Don’t engage in drinking games (popular among the younger set). Stop serving alcohol during the last hour of the party, and instead bring out the desserts and coffee or switch to virgin drinks. Create party games where the participants must be sharp to win — trivia or charades, for example; or have a holiday sing-along, which kills time in a fun way, allowing the body time to process the alcohol consumed. 

Even in a formal dinner setting, space out the drinks throughout the evening, supplemented by courses of food, which will help to absorb the alcohol. If THC is included in the consumption, realize that even a small amount can have a lingering effect and may last for several hours. 

In this valley, we like living on the edge … the fact that most ski (considered a high-risk sport) on a regular basis, we like to think we can handle anything. If something is new and daring, our sense of adventure says, bring it on! While walking on the wild side may be great for sports, it must be tamed, when our attraction to risk causes danger for others. In this case, we cannot drive home while under the influence of any substance, which might impede our abilities or judgment because even slight hesitations can become deadly.

If you are not feeling quite yourself (and we generally notice when we are a bit off our game) there are numbers to call for a safe ride home. Contacting driving services like Uber, Lyft, taxis, or limo companies, are less expensive than a DUI, and certainly more comfortable than ending your joyful evening behind bars. 

This is the season to be jolly … make it a safe and happy one. 

James van Beek is the Eagle County sheriff. You can reach him at

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