Am I an Alcoholic? Am I an Addict?

Stress, isolation, uncertainty, loneliness, fear, depression are all words we are all to familiar with in this time of COVID. Working remotely can contribute to all of these feelings.

As the clock continues to tick during this uncertain time, glimmers of hope can be destroyed by the next news story, the latest statistics, layoff notice or cancelled event.

People are numbing out with alcohol and drugs and their normal intake is increasing, causing some to ask the questions:  Am I an alcoholic or am I an addict?  Am I drinking or using too much? Where is the line? Have I already crossed it? How do I know?

If you are asking yourself that question or worried about someone else, our online program:  Do I Have a Problem? Is available for free. In three short modules totaling less than 20 minutes, you will answer questions about yourself that will help you make a decision. You can also find more information in our resource section under Signs of Alcoholism, Symptoms of Alcoholism or Stages of Alcoholism

Why Do We Numb?

We numb out because we are trying to avoid discomfort.  It is about escape. We are trying to medicate or ignore our reality, and to avoid feeling.

COVID-19 has created or intensified all of the feelings mentioned above and it is human nature to want to avoid those feelings. But the problem with using alcohol or drugs to numb our feelings is that we can’t selectively numb out. When we escape from loneliness, fear, uncertainty, isolation and depression, we also numb joy, contentment and gratitude. And we reduce our ability to relate and connect with other people.

A downward spiral begins to happen and by trying to avoid the feelings that cause discomfort, we reduce our ability to counteract those feelings with the ones essential for happiness. We trade feelings that keep us balanced and connected for a few minutes or hours of escape.

When we fail to recognize what we are doing – the trade-off, we put ourselves in the dangerous position of using alcohol or drugs for a brief period of relief from things which are out of our control. When we do that, we inhibit our ability to choose how we respond to the world around us.

We can’t control people, places or things but what we can control is how we react or respond to them.  Unless we are medicated in an attempt to escape from reality.

How Much is Too Much?

Oddly, what health experts say varies from country to country which is ridiculous. Too much doesn’t depend on what country you live in.

The bottom line is, if you are drinking or using to cope with any type of stress or to escape painful experiences of your present or past, it puts you on a very slippery slope. Why? Because drinking or using won’t change those things or make them go away. It won’t make your past disappear, your financial situation better or COVID go away.

After a night or day of drinking or using and you realize all your stress, and all your problems are still there, you may feel even worse because of guilt over drinking or using too much.  More likely, you aren’t even consciously aware of why you are drinking, only that it gives you some temporary relief. Unfortunately, the body and brain build tolerance and it takes more and more to achieve the same level of numbing. It sneaks up on you and before you know it one glass of wine has turned into two. Or maybe just drinking or using on the weekend has turned into weekday or almost every day. But hey, that doesn’t make me an alcoholic. Does it?  Maybe not. On your way? Maybe.

What to do, What to do

First and foremost, be honest with yourself. It could end badly if you don’t.  That starts with asking yourself some hard questions. Ask yourself some about your behavior:  Am I drinking or using more often that I did before?  Am I drinking or using a little more quantity than I did before? Am I making sure on the occasions that I go out shopping that buy a little extra so I have a little supply of alcohol or drugs on hand? Has anybody raised an eyebrow or made a comment about my drinking or drug use? Am I hiding, lying, or keeping secrets about my alcohol or drug use? Am I drinking or using earlier in the day than I used to?

Then ask some questions about the reasons: Do I know why I am drinking or using more? (there is always a reason) Am I stressed? Lonely? Fearful? Feeling out of control with the uncertainty of COVID? Am I bored? Are there deeper issues I have been ignoring? Is COVID magnifying a problem I was ignoring or trying to ignore?

If your answer is yes to any of these questions, ask yourself one more.  Is my increased drinking or using improving my quality of life?

Then consider this. If you are questioning yourself, or if someone else is, it is likely getting to be a problem or at very least a concern for you. Think of it this way: If your clothes are feeling a little tight and you weigh yourself and notice your have gained five or ten pounds since the start of COVID, you would immediately realize your eating or exercise habits have changed and make a decision to change something or decide that you didn’t care.  It is no different with alcohol or drug use. If you are wondering if it is a problem and it is not improving your quality of life, it likely is a problem.

There are lot of places to turn for help. If you are wondering if it is a problem, take the free program on this site called:  Do I Have a Problem? If you already know you have a problem, you can take the Substance Abuse Program. You can call your local help line, Alcoholics Anonymous, a Treatment Facility or a therapist.

These are unprecedented times, and everyone needs to be aware about the impact of the stress of uncertainty, isolation, lack of human contact, job loss and other financial stresses. It takes a toll on even the strongest of us. COVID is testing us like nothing has since the Spanish Flu or the Great Depression. The impact is far reaching, and the effects will not be known for years or decades. Take every precaution. Commit to everything you can think of to protect not only your physical well being but also your mental health.

Stay safe, be kind and practice gratitude.