You’re stressed, anxious, frustrated or lonely—it’s understandable. The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened and frayed emotions.
“We’re in an unprecedented time that has changed the fabric of our lives, so it’s no surprise if we struggle to cope,” says O.T. Porter-Fisher, PhD, LCDC, counselor with the Professional and Executive Program at Memorial Hermann Prevention and Recovery Center (PaRC). “Sometimes people escape into substances.”
Pouring an extra glass of wine to smooth the edges of a ragged day is one thing. Wrecking relationships is another.
You don’t have to suffer blackouts to know you need to sober up, Dr. Porter-Fisher says.
To determine whether your bond with booze is casual or it’s time to back off—or break off entirely—he suggests asking:
Why did you ditch your dry-January New Year's resolution?
Lapsing once or twice doesn’t mean you’re an alcoholic, but your vow to have a “dry” January may have arisen from concern about being overly intoxicated. And breaking that vow quickly is a bad sign.
“Resolutions only work if you’re resolute,” Dr. Porter-Fisher says. “You’ve got to be determined and have a plan. You may need to make life changes and conscious choices to remove temptation.”
Those could include removing alcohol from your home, asking others not to drink in your presence and ordering alcohol-free takeout meals from restaurants.
Why do you drink?
“Alcohol adds no value to our diet,” Dr. Porter-Fisher says. He goes on to add that it can be destructive if you drink solely to get drunk, or to arouse or douse emotions.
Are you wrecking your relationships with family, friends or co-workers?
Be honest and transparent with yourself about the consequences of your drinking. You’ve been over-served if it causes problems with your relationships or career.
“Ask what drinking is doing for you and to you,” Dr. Porter-Fisher says. “If you have hangovers, fight with your spouse, are unable to perform your daily duties or cannot think clearly, you need to reconsider drinking.” The same applies to hiding your drinking or lying and feeling ashamed about it.
Are you putting yourself at risk?
Alcohol and addiction attack our brain’s frontal lobe, which can lead to poor choices.
Do you need to seek professional help?
Substance abuse is a disease and, like other diseases, may require professional help to control it, as well as the guilt and shame that may accompany it.
“Turning to an addiction counselor or therapists doesn’t mean you’re a failure,” Dr. Porter-Fisher says. “Cancer patients don’t self-administer chemo. If you could succeed on your own, you would have.
“By accepting aid, you fortify your own skill set, enabling you to turn to your inner resources in tough times, rather than alcohol or other substances.”
And that makes you a winner.