When Drinking During the Pandemic Becomes a Problem

The pandemic hasn’t been easy for anyone. In March, when our daily lives were put on hold and our social plans came to a halt, we all were left wondering what to do with ourselves. Suddenly we had too much time on our hands, too much to worry about and too few options for keeping ourselves entertained.

Anxious, lonely and bored, Americans turned to alcohol to fill the void. Even as bars closed their doors, the booze kept flowing. Liquor stores remained open. Restaurants began selling customers drinks to-go. And everywhere you went, it seemed like there was a giant arrow pointing you toward the nearest 6-pack.

In quarantine, we entered a sort of vacation mode where it became OK to take a break from our normal routines. People gave themselves permission to indulge in drinks a little more, a little earlier and a lot more often. But for many, what began as a temporary way to relieve stress turned into regular habit. And as the months went by, it grew into addiction.

Has your drinking become a
substance use disorder?

You don’t need a history of alcohol abuse to develop a substance use disorder—especially during times of crisis. Even people who never drank before the pandemic are now looking for ways to cut back or stop drinking altogether.

If you’re worried that your drinking has become a problem—we’re glad that you’re here and taking steps to address it. If you’re still unsure whether your alcohol use is an issue, answering “yes” to the following questions is a good indication that it’s time to seek help.

1. Do you drink every day?

The CDC defines heavy drinking as 15 drinks per week for men, and 8 weeks per drink for women. That means if you’re a woman who drinks every day, or if you’re a man who has two drinks a day—you’re already dangerously close to exceeding the recommended limit, putting yourself at risk for chronic disease, accidental injury and developing an alcohol use disorder.

2. Do you drink to ease anxiety?

People often self-medicate in times of stress, but ultimately, this approach is likely to backfire. While a drink may sooth your nerves for a couple of minutes, regular alcohol use interferes with the balance of neurotransmitters in your brain. As a result, this can produce symptoms of withdrawal that actually heighten the anxiety you feel on a regular basis.

3. Do you drink to fall asleep?

Reliance on alcohol—whether it’s to get to sleep or for any other reason—is a sign of dependence. But drinking to fall sleep is a bad strategy in the first place. Alcohol may help some people fall asleep faster, but it is proven to reduce both sleep quality and duration. In other words, drinking before bed will likely make you wake up earlier and feel less rested. If you are looking for ways to calm your nerves before falling asleep, try adding yoga or meditation to your nightly routine instead.

4. Are you drinking earlier than normal?

Expanding your drinking hours can be a sign of a budding dependence. If you’re working from home during the pandemic, it may be tempting to replace your commute with a cocktail. But pushing your drinking earlier and earlier into the day only makes it easier to drink more than you planned.

5. Have loved ones noticed or commented on your drinking?

It takes courage to tell a loved one you’re worried about their drinking. If someone close to you has told you they’re concerned about you’re drinking, don’t be too quick to dismiss them—they are most likely coming from a place of love. Listen to what they have to say and keep an open mind.

I think I need help. Now what?

If you answered yes to one or more of the questions above, reach out to the team at Prelude. We walk alongside you on your journey to recovery, offering support and compassion—not judgement—to help you set and achieve your personal goals.

Ready to get started? We’re ready to help. All you need to do is reach out.

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