Alcohol and Cannabis purchases are on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic as people look for ways to cope. Unfortunately, this is a lot different than stockpiling toilet paper. Isolation and fear are catalysts for substance use and addiction.

In some cases, people may be just pre-buying in the event of stores closing or complete lockdowns being ordered.  However, having excess alcohol and drugs on hand can be dangerous for a significant percentage of the population.

Coping Mechanism

As an addiction specialist, a good number of my clients come to me in their first session and describe how their alcoholism or drug addiction crept up on them while they were drinking or using as a way to help them deal with a stressful situation.

Rather than finding healthy ways to cope, one glass of wine with dinner turned to two then they were also having a glass while getting dinner, a glass after dinner and  before they knew it, a whole bottle was gone.  They report that it started out being isolated incidents when they were particularly stressed and grew to a more frequent and regular habit.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a horrendously stressful situation.  We are in unprecedented times and there is no certainty as to when it might end.  We are trying to remain calm, pull together and stay positive.  Some days we do well and other days, it is more difficult.  It is an emotional rollercoaster.

One of the key factors in being resilient is hope, and right now, if you are turning on your TV or computer, hope is hard to find.  In times like this, feelings of hopelessness lead to worry and anxiety.  Loneliness can set in.  And one of the biggest feelings is fear which is the core feeling underneath worry and anxiety.

These are often difficult feelings to navigate but we are meant to have them – they actually serve a purpose.  You can learn more about that by taking our Living Authentically Program.

This is the problem with using alcohol and drugs to help you cope with those uncomfortable feelings:  Addiction is a disease of escape.  When we drink or use to excess, we are trying to escape uncomfortable feelings – feelings that are there for a reason. Feelings we are meant to have. What we are doing when we drink or use to escape our feelings, is attempting to medicate, obliterate or ignore reality.

As tempting as that sounds, especially right now, reality is reality.  It isn’t going away.  When you wake up tomorrow, it will still be there, and the day after.  Any relief we get from drinking and using is temporary.  Unfortunately, the consequences of ignoring reality can be permanent.

At this time, we need all of our faculties, capabilities and awareness at our disposal.  We need to be able to assess our health, our finances and develop plans to navigate through the difficulties we face due to the virus.  To many, this seems like a tall order, to others an impossible one.  One thing I know for sure is that we have a much better chance of coming through this if we are not drunk, high or hungover.

How to Survive

Some people are asking me: “How do I develop a plan, when everything is changing day by day?”  Good question.  Plan for the worst.  For example: You may feel like you are in pretty good shape because you still have a job or several months of savings to live on.  You may not be able to count on the job or life getting back to normal so try to live like it could continue for 6 months or more.

Change Your Lifestyle 

You likely don’t need new clothes, so don’t buy any.  Eat in and prepare your own meals.  Takeout is expensive (sorry restaurant owners). If you have a 400 channel cable package – reduce it – you could find $50.00 per month in savings.  Call your mobile phone provider and reduce your plan if you can.  Don’t rent movies from your cable provider (sorry cable company). There are hundreds you haven’t seen on Netflix and other providers for eight or ten dollars a month as opposed to five to seven dollars per rental.

Watch what you are buying at the grocery store.  You don’t need a T-bone steak when a sirloin will do and cheaper brands of lots of things will be good enough in difficult financial times. Turn your thermostat down and put on a sweater and turn off your lights if you are not in that room.

All of these tiny things will add up to two or three hundred dollars per month and after six months you will have saved enough to pay some rent.

Body, Mind and Soul

Exercise.  You can go for a walk if your city isn’t in lockdown and still maintain social distancing very easily.  You won’t die if you can’t get to a gym.  Go online and you will find lots of exercise to work every muscle group you currently work on – and you may find some new ones.

And of course, maintain or reduce your alcohol and drug intake.  Not only does it save money and help you make better decisions, it will help keep you healthier.  Overuse of alcohol or recreational drugs can significantly compromise your immune system.  We need our bodies functioning at optimum levels along with our minds. Be honest with yourself about how much you are drinking. If it is increasing, that is a warning sign. Any time we are using alcohol or drugs to cope, we are on a slippery slope.

Nurture your soul. Meditate, read uplifting material and pray if you are spiritual.  Listen to music, dance in your kitchen with your spouse or kids. Play with your dog or cat if you have one.

Support One Another

If you know someone who is struggling with substance abuse, check in on them more frequently.  They are at risk.  Hell, check in on everyone more frequently.  If you or someone you know is struggling or has relapsed, let them know they can take our Relapse Prevention Program for free by signing up and at checkout entering the coupon code: rpblog

I was talking with a friend today and realized that I have been in touch with more people since the start of COVID-19 than I usually am – far more.  Because I care about them.  I’m checking up on them and they are checking up on me.  Being forced to slow down has some benefits, it has made me realize what is really important in my life – people.  Not my job, not money but relationships.  I know others are feeling the same.  It is my hope that after we have survived this, that realization will stick with us.  It is my fear that it won’t.

Be Safe, Be Kind, Practice Love