“DUI CHECKPOINT: Corner of hallway and kitchen,” one meme quips. “Quarantini” concoctions bathe just about every recipe or lifestyle site you visit. Friends are Zooming together over cocktails. During coronavirus, America seems absolutely awash with alcohol. The prevalence of alcohol everywhere is especially challenging for those in recovery from alcoholism and other substance addictions.
During the first weeks of stay-at-home orders and social distancing, Nielsen reported that alcohol sales were up 55 percent. Experts note that bars closing and people stocking up on liquor just as they stocked up on toilet paper in the early days of the pandemic may be part of this spike. Even so, the stress many people are experiencing right now may exacerbate alcoholism or addiction to other substances not so easily measured in sales reports.
“As social distancing and self-isolation turns from weeks to months, we’ll see more online partying, more Zoom parties and more alcohol consumption, so we’re going to hear about more problems related to alcohol abuse,” predicts Daryl Davies, professor of clinical pharmacology at the USC School of Pharmacy and director of the Alcohol and Brain Research Laboratory at USC.
“It’s stressful and boring. People are coping with kids at home, spouses, social stress, financial stress, work stress and the threat of disease. So, it doesn’t surprise me at all that we’ve seen a spike in drinking,” says John Clapp, professor at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work in the same article.
And there’s a brutal irony: People who abuse alcohol are at increased risk of becoming very sick if they’re exposed to the virus, WHO announced recently. Alcohol depresses the immune system, WHO points out. Lowered inhibitions may cause people to engage in risky behaviors they may have avoided were they sober.
And most depressing of all: Alcoholics in recovery are at risk of relapsing as they face all of the pressures of this unprecedented time.
‘Sober Quarantine Is Totally Possible’
Don’t despair. There’s hope, writes Dana Bowman in Psychology Today. “The recovery tools so familiar to those who are sober have prepared us for these difficult days,” she writes. People in recovery know what to do when the hurt strikes, and they know how to reach out to others for support.
“There will be really hard days ahead. There is no control over all of it, but I am forever grateful that I was given the gift of group recovery. If there ever was a time to forego our dislike of online anything, it’s now. Get thee to a meeting. Stat,” Bowman urges.