With the holiday season in full swing, there will be lots of joyful opportunities for celebration. This is the time of year for office parties as well as time for colleagues and special friends to get together for festive luncheons and dinners. During these special meals, it is not at all uncommon for alcohol to be consumed. In moderation, a glass or two of wine or a martini can loosen up inhibitions and sometimes make for a jollier time.

Unfortunately, too many times this gets out of hand. There are serious legal consequences to be aware of concerning the service of alcohol. Of utmost importance, keep in mind that there is a high level of responsibility. Some companies do not allow alcohol at their holiday parties because over-imbibing can lead to a whole host of inappropriate results. Some alcohol induced behavior could be construed as sexual harassment or bullying. At lunch, wine or wine spritzers are usually safe drinks. Nonetheless, it is always a good idea to remember what your particular level of tolerance is and to stay within a reasonable state of sobriety.

At office parties, a very basic but fundamental rule of business etiquette is that at all times – during working hours or not – you are representing the company for which you work. Sloppy behavior, physical and/or verbal, has no place in a civilized world. This is not to say that merriment has no place. Awareness of one’s limitations for consuming alcohol is really no different than limitations for anything else. How much fatty or sugary food we eat, how much we drink, how much personal information we impart or even what topics of discussion we chose all require a good sense of judgment. Alcohol, too often, clouds our ability to make appropriate choices. The question then is how do we make a plan, while still sober, to avoid making a terrible gaff?

There are some simple steps one can take. Try drinking a glass of water in between cocktails or glasses of wine. Consider having weaker drinks when going out. Avoid carbonated beverages. These can speed up intoxication. If you want to enjoy a rum and coke, make it with half the rum as usual. If you want to carry on at home, that is your business. But you are still a reflection and extension of your professional life even when at home. The bottom line is that there really is no time when being intoxicated is without consequence.

At dinner parties or dinner dances where drinking goes on for an extended period of time, make sure you have arranged for safe transportation home. Pace yourself so you do not end up regretting any of your actions from the evening. Many wonderful moments are enhanced with a glass of ‘oh be joyful’. Responsible drinking is not in danger of prohibition. Respect for our fellow man must not be either. Learn to drink responsibly and be sure to teach your children how to when they become young adults. A drunken person can become a lethal weapon. Let’s treat alcohol with the respect it deserves. Only then will we be able to respect each other and ourselves as well.