Alcohol and Strained Families Don’t Mix

WHEELING – Some people may believe enjoying a few cocktails will help them deal with the stress of the holidays, but drinking can also lead to family feuds if people aren’t careful.

Wheeling Deputy Police Chief Martin Kimball said, to date, the Thanksgiving holiday has not resulted in officers having to respond to many domestic disputes in the city. But Christmas is just around the corner.

“Alcohol is a depressant that acts like a stimulant. It depresses the cognitive thinking process so you are not able to rationalize situations,” Kimball said.

For example, a family member may make an innocent comment about something or someone, but such a comment may be interpreted differently by an impaired person. And if a relationship already was strained, adding alcohol to the mix is not going to make that person any more tolerable.

“They can’t handle the information, and boom – the fight is on,” Kimball said, adding this often is when officers are called in to defuse a situation.

He said if one feels they are getting angry during a family gathering, they should excuse themselves and take a walk or simply change the subject to a lighter one.

“People should agree to disagree and move on,” he said.

Sometimes talk during family gatherings turns to serious subjects, such as the caretaking of elderly parents, which can lead to fights. But Kimball said most disputes are about petty issues. For others, fighting during the holidays is a behavior they have grown up with – it’s all they know.

“Without proper education and training … people aren’t able to cope. It’s not something you learn at birth,” he said.

During the holidays, people also tend to drink more than usual or for longer periods of time. According to the National Institutes of Health, binge drinking for men is considered five or more drinks in a two-hour period; for women, four or more drinks in a two-hour period. A drink is considered a 12-ounce beer or wine cooler; a 5-ounce glass of wine; or a 1.5-ounce shot of 80-proof liquor.

Kimball said his officers arrested two people for DUI during the Thanksgiving holiday. On Friday evening, officers were conducting a DUI checkpoint on National Road. But Kimball said his department holds such checkpoints year-round, even in January after the holiday season ends.