Cocktails and Curfew: relapsing on alcohol in the pandemic
3 Things That Could Lead an Alcoholic into Relapse During the Pandemic / Lockdown
6/4/2020 by Chris Cobb
I’m sure you have seen someplace or another that many people in recovery are relapsing as stay at home orders have been put in place across the country. If you have a support group, a sponsor, and attend meetings, you have probably heard that the only thing that can cause you to relapse is you. This is true, you are your ultimate decision-maker. But we also need support, we need human contact, and we need to be heard, and to listen to someone else. There are many factors, especially for those new to sobriety that can throw us off our square, and the negative mindset we have had most of our lives starts sneaking in on us. Here are three of those factors that I, myself have personally dealt with during this hard time, and how I have been coping. I hope this can help at least one person out there.
#1: Isolation – Isolation can take a huge toll on our minds, on our emotions. When we have already dealt with a great change in our lives, especially, such as beginning our sobriety journey and staying away from people, places, and things that are toxic to us. Then we get into meetings, find a sponsor, and meet a multitude of people who we find are so much like ourselves, where we fit in. Now we suddenly find ourselves unable to meet our own expectations of a routine we have found to finally work for us. Whether it be a recovery program, working out at the gym, or even our job. The best thing I have found that I can do is to keep in contact with my circle of support, whether it be via phone call, text, social media messaging, email, etc… It’s something to get used to, but the support is there. Even if I can’t attend my meetings in person, I have managed to find online AA meetings via zoom and skype. This surprisingly helped me more than I expected it to. Just being heard, and hearing others’ struggles and solutions, having someone to talk to has given me a feeling of stability, that no matter what, there are others that are always willing to help me out when I am down. Even reading or thinking to myself things I have learned throughout my recovery have somewhat kept me in check when I need it the most. If you are reading this, you have a way to find support if you do not already have it. Get in touch with someone who you can talk to about solutions to your everyday problems. Go outside and do some yard work, or just to get some fresh air. Do not isolate yourself in your room. Isolation has personally been very bad for my mental well-being, as with others, I’m certain. This is why we have to take action and stay out of the dark corners of our minds, the loneliness or anxieties that have led us to seemingly “lose” purpose and drink in the past.
#2: Problems with Relationships – This is another big one for many, including myself. I am currently in the longest-lasting relationship I have been in with someone since the first time I took a liking to sobriety, back in 2015. It is still difficult for many of us to deal with relationships, no matter how happy we are with this other person. Many have worked through a 12-Step program, learned to make amends, take self-inventory, and admit when we are wrong. Some couples are either out of work due to this pandemic, or both working from home. This can weigh heavily on relationships when it feels like there is no space to even begin to miss one another’s company. It can cause arguments, resentments, and ultimately destroy a relationship. This is where our circle of support can also help. When two people are upset with one another, there sometimes is a lack of communication because both parties feel attacked by the other. If we have a meeting, or a sponsor we can talk it out with, however, someone who is not there to judge, but to listen, and help point us in the right direction towards a solution of some kind, it can help us have some bit of serenity and peace of mind. We sometimes begin to forget what we have become grateful for once we have it. Accountability partners outside can be of great help to keep us in check. We have to remember, we must accept things we cannot change, so we must find a way to give our partners space, privacy, and support, rather than more stress than they already have on their plate. We must be selfless, and remember where our negative thinking and actions have landed us so many times in the past. AA is the only thing that has helped me become the person I am today, and the only reason a relationship that could last is even possible. So personally, getting back in touch with my fellows in recovery is the best help I can advise for myself, and anyone else that is struggling to keep peace of mind and stay sober when dealing with issues whether they are brought on by someone else, or in my case, myself. Just remember. It’s not about you. You’re not the only one struggling.
#3: Fear of The Unknown – One of the biggest character defects I have always lived with is insecurity, fear. Whether it be work or financial, relationships, or any other what-ifs… In a time like this, it is a true test of our willpower and personal stability. We may fear that we will either lose our jobs, or we already have been laid off, and fear that our job may not come back. We also tend to feed off of the information we see on television, even misinformation, or fear-mongering we stumble upon throughout social media. We can feel hopeless as if we are going to lose our homes, our relationships due to financial and stressful situations. We can even fear going back into a meeting once the ‘lockdown’ is over with. I remember the feeling I had in my very first meeting, and actually have this uneasy feeling myself about walking back in the doors after a good amount of time. The best thing we can do in this situation is to focus on plausible solutions, rather than focusing on our problems. If we only think negatively, only think about what is going wrong, we are not finding a way for it to get better. Most problems don’t go away on their own, without action. When we don’t know what the future holds for us, in ANY situation, we must take life one day at a time. We seek to support, someone to talk to, or even support our friends, or significant others, ask them what we can do to help make their day an okay or even great one. Again, we become selfless, rather than self-centered. I have found that thinking of others more than myself has led to better results in the majority of times. I am struggling with this like anyone else who is remotely similar to me. If you really look back at times things have been made worse when you tried doing things your own way, you can put it in perspective. Think of how the other person may see this situation by imagining that you are them, and they are you. We cannot allow fear to overtake our lives. Insecurities most of the time are without any true evidence that our fearful, negative thoughts could come true unless we make them. I have been told many times that everything you want in life is on the other side of fear. This makes perfect sense, seeing how I have always missed out on opportunities for a happy life and mental well-being, simply because I was so afraid of what could happen, that I acted in illogical ways and ended up losing those things I wanted so badly. Just remember this – F.E.A.R. False Evidence Appearing Real. Learn to accept everything for how it is, rather than attempting to manipulate the world to work the way you want it to. Go with the flow and see where it takes you, cease fighting everything and everyone. Most of this for me is still very difficult to follow, but I have found it to work more often than not. Practicing principles of this nature can go a long way.
In closing, I hope this can be helpful to an extent of any degree. We are all in this together, so hang tight.
Will isolation increase mental health issues? Yes. Human connection, outdoors, exercise, and health-related activities reduce mental illness. During the lockdown, suicide has increased and so has the need for depression and anxiety medications, which are in short supply.
Has COVID-19 led to increased drinking? According to the CDC, alcohol drinking is up 55% from before the lockdown and shelter in place measures started since liquor stores were kept own as an essential business during the pandemic. They predict that increased drinking and the need for addiction treatment will only increase as we open the country back up.
Does isolation cause alcoholism? It may not cause it, but it will play a major part in the consumption process. The opposite of addiction is connection and when you are not connected, sad, depressed, and lonely you drink. Alcohol causes the CNS system to suppress even more causing more depression and causing more drinking.
Will drinking destroy my relationship? Excessive drinking will destroy your relationships and ultimately your life if you can not get it under control. You can get a DUI, kill someone, or yourself if you are not careful and you can ruin your career as well.