By Anna McKenzie
The COVID-19 pandemic altered our lifestyles in a number of ways. Some changes were temporary, and others have become permanent or longer-lasting. Because lockdowns and quarantine decreased (and at times nearly eliminated) social gatherings while increasing isolation, our use of alcohol changed, too. Now that the initial phase of COVID is over, some of us may be dealing with unhealthy alcohol use habits we picked up during the pandemic, even alcohol addiction. But with treatment, anyone who is suffering from alcoholism can find healing and renewal.
In the early months of the pandemic, alcohol use trends varied by state, but University at Buffalo’s UBNow reported an increase of up to 40% in alcohol sales during certain times. What did most people drink during the pandemic? According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, liquor was purchased more often than beer and wine. The increase in sales of spirits signals a troubling trend, given that it’s easier to feel the strongest effects of alcohol with hard liquor. Those effects can be powerful in perpetuating your drinking habit.
But COVID and alcohol addiction are a predictable pair. After all, the threat of disease and social isolation from lockdowns spurred widespread experiences of anxiety and depression. As a mood-altering substance, alcohol has often been the socially acceptable drug of choice when it comes to numbing painful feelings and distressing thoughts.
The incidence of economic uncertainty, disconnection, fear, and boredom created ample conditions for heavy alcohol use habits to develop. In fact, people in the US consumed 14% more alcohol in 2020 than in 2019, according to the National Library of Medicine (NLM). Alcohol delivery during COVID spiked, even by the end of March 2020, about as soon as the US lockdown began. According to CNBC.com data from one alcohol delivery service, new customers accounted for 41% of sales.
The trend is not new. NLM research has shown that major crises in the past “were associated with increases in alcohol use, related to anxiety and depressive symptoms, and post-traumatic stress disorders.” Time and time again, alcohol looks like a solution to a problem (after all, self-medicating fear and stress may feel very manageable at first), but it frequently becomes a problem itself.
Managing Your Use of Alcohol Post-COVID
By definition, addiction is characterized by a lack of control over a behavior. It’s the compulsive need to indulge that behavior with physiological and psychological impulses. Alcohol activates the brain’s reward system, and heavy or persistent alcohol use can rewire it so that your drinking habit slips out of your control.
If you find that you are unable to break your use of alcohol post-COVID, the reality is that you have likely become dependent on it. Dependence can easily lead to addiction. Here’s what that might look like:
- You are constantly thinking about ways to drink or when you’ll drink next; alcohol has become a priority in your life.
- You find yourself willing to lie, cheat, or steal in order to obtain more alcohol.
- You feel ashamed of the frequency or volume of your drinking, or try to hide your habit from others, which can result in isolating yourself.
- You suffer loss of relationships, work, money, or personal interests due to your drinking.
If you are a consistently heavy drinker who is able to keep up appearances, you may be a functional alcoholic. But that doesn’t change how reliant you are on this substance to manage the painful parts of your life.
Why Get Treatment for Alcoholism?
Unfortunately, alcoholism and COVID have gone hand in hand for many of us. Here are some reasons to seek treatment and get healthy again:
- Because of its ethanol content, alcohol use has a persistently toxic effect on your body.
- Alcohol affects the seat of memory in your brain, contributing to cognitive impairment.
- Though it first acts as a sedative, continuous use of alcohol can actually harm your sleep patterns, increasing your potential for restlessness and insomnia.
- Increased blood alcohol levels slow your reflexes and impair your judgment, leaving you more prone to hurting yourself or others.
Alcoholism and COVID may have been an unexpected combination for you, but now’s the time to make a lifestyle change for the better.
How We Treat Alcohol Addiction
- Co-Occurring Mental Health Treatment
In addition to helping you break free from addiction, we also treat any co-occurring mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and trauma. We address the root causes of your alcohol use to heal the whole person.
- Insights From Our Brain Center
At our Brain Center, you’ll learn the science behind what’s driving your alcohol use, and you’ll discover how to make adjustments in real time.
- A Focus on Nutrition
A poor diet can be a major contributor to cravings for alcohol. We focus on nutrition, providing you with healthy meals and teaching you how to nourish your body for greater wellness and energy.
- Customized Treatment Plans
We understand that your challenges and obligations are unique to you. That’s why we come up with customized treatment plans for each patient at The Meadows Malibu to meet your specific needs in recovery.
If you’re ready to start recovering from alcoholism or addressing any co-occurring issues that are keeping you from living the life you want, contact us today. We would love to tell you more about our program and help you take the first steps!