April is Alcohol Awareness Month (April 2022 Newsletter Article)

Introduction by Becky Wilken, SOTV Faith Community Nurse

Maintaining healthy mind, body, and spirit during this pandemic is challenging to say the least. The pandemic has truly changed life as we know it. Since March 2020, alcohol sales in retail stores have skyrocketed, increasing 7.5 billion dollars per year.

This translates to a huge increase in drinking at home, often alone. With social isolation and quarantining, some of us have used alcohol to cope with our uncomfortable feelings. We experience stress, fear, anxiety, and depression as a normal reaction to living through this pandemic, and an uncertain future. Sure, overindulgence in alcohol numbs us and temporarily makes us feel better, but we know there are consequences, a dark side. Thought to be related to increased alcohol consumption are: increased emergency room visits and increased domestic violence calls (10-27% increase). Mix this with the cold and isolation of Minnesota winter, and this presents a huge challenge.

The forcible separation from our loved ones (church, friends, and community), has exacted a huge toll on our beings, body, mind, and spirit. God meant for us to live our lives in community with loved ones; we are not meant for isolation. Thankfully, restrictions are relaxing and spring weather is here, decreasing isolation. Being aware of what we are experiencing and our coping behaviors is a first step. Help is available for those experiencing ongoing problems with alcohol.

What are the warning signs of an alcohol problem? What next steps should you take? WebMD Info below (Nov 2021)

Do I Have an Alcohol Problem? You’ve probably heard of “alcohol abuse,” “alcohol dependence,” or “alcoholism.” Maybe you know the new term doctors use, “alcohol use disorder.”

Warning Signs: You may have an alcohol use disorder if you…

  • Drink more, or longer, than you plan to
  • Have tried to cut back or stop more than once and couldn’t
  • Spend a lot of time drinking, being sick, or hungover
  • Want alcohol so badly you can’t think of anything else
  • Have problems with work, school, or family because of your habit (or because you’re sick after having alcohol)
  • Keep drinking even though it has caused problems for you or your relationships
  • Quit or cut back on other activities that were important to you in order to drink
  • Have found yourself in situations while drinking or afterward that made you more likely to get hurt
  • Keep having alcohol even though it made you depressed or anxious, hurt your health, or led to a memory blackout
  • Have to drink more than you used to for the effect you want
  • Found that you had withdrawal symptoms when the buzz wore off, like trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, a racing heart, a seizure, or seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t there.

If you’ve had two or three of those symptoms in the past year, that’s a mild alcohol use disorder. It’s a moderate disorder if you’ve had four to five. If you’ve had six or more, that’s severe. Learn more about the physical signs of alcoholism.

If I Think I Have a Problem: If you’re worried that you might have alcohol use disorder, don’t try to quit cold turkey on your own. The withdrawal can be dangerous. You can get help. Talking with your doctor is a good first step. They can:

  • Tell you if you need assistance
  • Work with you to put together a treatment plan, possibly including medication
  • Refer you to a support group or counseling