Toilet paper and disinfecting wipes accounted for many purchases in response to the global pandemic, but consumers also stockpiled alcohol in response to the spread of the virus. In fact, alcohol sales in America jumped by 55 percent for the week ending March 21 and online alcohol sales spiked 243 percent. Approximately 20 percent of consumers choose to purchase alcohol for several weeks, and one in three individuals stated they would be drinking more while in lockdown. However, when does alcohol consumption cross the line from social drinking to an actual problem?
What is Considered Moderate?
Moderate alcohol consumption, according to the Dietary Guidelines for American, consists of one drink a day for females and two for males. Individuals often take this to mean they can drink multiple drinks in one day as long as they don’t go over the suggested amount for the week. For instance, a man may sit down and have ten drinks in one day and assume that as long as he doesn’t drink more during that week he will be fine. This is not what the guidelines suggest. The guidelines refer to alcohol consumption in one day, not over a period of time. When does alcohol consumption become a problem in other ways?
When a person finds their habits and thoughts are turning more frequently to alcohol, a problem may be developing. Alcohol use occurs on a spectrum, and each individual responds differently to alcohol consumption. The same number of drinks for one person may be considered alcohol misuse and for another, it would be alcohol dependency. If you suspect you are developing a problem with alcohol, Harris House (www.harrishousestl.org) can be of help. What signs should you be looking for?
Alcohol Becomes Your Main Focus
Men and women often find they have a problem with alcohol when it becomes the main focus of their lives. While the person may not be canceling activities with family and friends to use alcohol, as these activities are prohibited due to the global pandemic, this individual might find he is purchasing alcohol in bulk to avoid running out. Hobbies could be pushed to the wayside as the person is more interested in drinking or he may begin missing work to drink.
Certain individuals discover they have a drinking problem when they experience withdrawal symptoms upon quitting. The body becomes reliant on alcohol with regular use, and withdrawal occurs when alcohol is removed from the system. Symptoms may be mild or severe, ranging from anxiety, hallucinations, and sweating to seizures. These symptoms appear as early as six hours after the person stops drinking or may take more time to appear. If you have experienced hangovers in the past and have now progressed to withdrawal symptoms, you may need to seek help to overcome your dependency on this substance.
If you drink more when you become stressed, it is time to seek help. In this situation, alcohol is being used to cope with the negative emotions that accompany stress. Stress brings about new or uncontrolled emotions, ones that many individuals don’t deal with regularly and struggle to cope with. Their emotional equilibrium is thrown off balance, and coping mechanisms need to be employed to regulate the emotions.
Certain mechanisms are adaptive, which means they offer positive ways of dealing with stress. For instance, a person struggling with stress might turn to friends and family for help or begin meditating to cope with negative emotions. On the other hand, alcohol use is a maladaptive coping strategy and can bring about anxiety or leave the person becoming reliant on alcohol. Determine if you are using adaptive or maladaptive strategies. If maladaptive ones are being employed frequently, it may be time to seek help for your alcohol use.
Drinking on the Job
Many people find they are now working from home and this can lead to alcohol abuse. Quite a few are struggling to make the necessary changes to carry out their normal tasks, from learning new technology to struggling to remain productive. It’s easy to add a touch of liquor to coffee in the morning or drink a beer at lunch. People need to recognize they remain on the job even when working at home and avoid the temptation to have a drink while on the job. Those who fail to do so may have a problem with alcohol and help should be sought.
Recognize that people who already have an acknowledged problem with alcohol may be struggling at this time as well. Alcoholics Anonymous meetings have been canceled as people abide by social distancing guidelines, and this can lead to an alcoholic returning to drinking. Isolation can be devastating to those who have already embarked on the journey to recover from alcohol addiction. Individuals who have been attending regular meetings need to ensure they maintain the connection with their sponsor at this time. This is critical to remaining sober, as people are experiencing countless new situations and the accompanying emotions can bring about the urge to drink. The sponsor can be of great help in maintaining an alcoholic’s sobriety.
Some men and women assume they don’t have a problem with alcohol because they only drink at certain times. For example, a person might state their alcohol use is within reason because they only drink on weekends. However, drinking four or more drinks within a two-hour period is known as binge drinking and is a sign the person has problems with alcohol abuse. Heavy alcohol use is binge drinking five or more times in a one-month period, and excessive drinking is four drinks or more in a single day for a woman and five for a man or eight drinks in a week for a female and 15 or more for a man. All are signs of alcohol misuse or abuse.
If you suspect you are developing a problem with alcohol during this pandemic, seek help immediately. The sooner you do so, the easier it is to get your life back on track You deserve a future free of alcohol, one where you can live life to the fullest and enjoy every minute. It is possible if you know where to turn so begin looking today.