Here we are in the holiday season. A time for celebration and connection with family and friends. Of course, all of that is highly complicated by our current public health reaction to the COVIO 1 9 pandemic. We also, as a community, just faced yet another common trauma with fires and evacuation orders.
How are people coping? Unfortunately, several studies on the national level are pointing to a sharp increase in alcohol consumption during the initial months of the COVID 19 crisis. The numbers appear particularly troubling for woman.
Now we are entering a bigger increase in the number of positive tests for the virus, and, in our attempts to slow COVID-19 spread, we continue to decrease face-to-face contact. This, of course, is huge challenge for our collective wellbeing. We are social creatures, and limits on our ability to connect will enviably lead to changes in our feeling state of being. For some of us this will manifest as discomfort; and we may reach out for our favorite numbing agent or activity to help us cope.
As an addiction professional, I get it, as I personally do not like feeling sad – isolated – helpless — or angry. I do my best to avoid these states and work to take action when they are present. So how do we differentiate between seeking some relief from our many challenges, and the tell tail signs of addiction? How do we help ourselves to see when that line is crossed in ourselves or those we love? I find a pretty good self test for that is an old 12-step-and-recovery adage, “We are only as sick as our secrets.”
So, take a moment of self-reflection. If you look at your current life and the actions you are taking– are there aspects that you feel compelled to keep secret from your family, friends. or co-workers? I’m not talking about healthy boundaries with people you do not know. It is not helpful to overshare when there is little or no trust in a relationship. I am talking about the lies we tell to the people who we are closest to. Of course when we start down this road, this often includes the most damaging lies, the ones we tell to ourselves.
When we are living in alignment with our values, we rarely have much to hide. But when we are behaving in a way that we would prefer that most people not know about, it can be a warning sign that addiction is present. Sure, I am talking about alcohol and drug use, but open yourself up to examination to include your relationship with food, shopping, gambling, news consumption, and the internet.
How is that “binge worthy” Netflix series going for you and your baseline of health and wellbeing? How is your sleep? How often do you lose your temper? How is your sex life? How does your body feel right now? Are anxiety and depression present? Are you grieving a loss? Experienced a trauma? Physically ill? Are you socially isolated? All these factors add to vulnerability to addictive behavior.
So, if you noticed that there is some lying happening in your life, what do you do? Well, the answer is built right into the question: you talk about it. Make what you are doing clear to those around you. Let it not be a secret any more. Share what you are feeling and struggling with.
If you get the sense that a loved one is lying to you. Talk about it. Bring it up. Addiction thrives in secrets but has a harder time keeping hold of people when directly addressed and examined the light of day.
So you may say, “OK, James. That is a pretty simple solution but what if that is not possible for me? What if I just can’t bring up any of this with the people in my life? What if my loved one appears honesty-challenged when I try to get to the truth?” It may be time to seek out some professional help and seek out the support of a recovery community.
‘Social Distance” is, of course, the exact wrong answer to this problem. Physical distance—yes. But, more than likely, we need to “socially connect” more during this time. Reach out. Get on the phone. Zoom it up. Write an old-fashion letter. Contact an addiction professional for advice.
Please, if you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, please give me a call. Free confidential 30-minute consultations at Stillwater and via Zoom. The relief you feel getting real with yourself and those around you will last much longer than the buzz you get from a drink or puff. Peace and Love into the new year everybody.
James Hart, Certified Addition Specialist Ill, can be reached at (303) 823-9355 or firstname.lastname@example.org
James Hart, CACIII
Mental health and addiction therapist supporting people finding their way to health and balance. Group facilitation for support with making change.
Stillwater Clinic & Apothecary, 401 High Street, Lyons, CO