Q: How can I get sober during the pandemic?
Michael Shea, MD, Intensivist & Chief Medical Director, Maui Health: There’s no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased stress and taken a toll on people’s mental health. For many, that has led to an increase in alcohol and drug use. If you’re at a point where you feel your substance use is causing problems in your daily life, and you’re looking for ways to get and stay sober, there are many resources and tools to help you recover from addiction.
Many 12-step recovery groups have moved to online virtual meetings you can attend from home using your computer or phone. There are many virtual recovery meetings and access to online support groups and resources through organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Al-Anon.
It’s also important to talk with your doctor about what medical options might be available to help you. You may consider seeking mental health care or medical treatment to get to the source of your addiction. Many mental health therapists are now offering virtual care. Remember that addiction is a medical condition and can be managed with the proper care.
Isolation can contribute to alcohol and drug use, so reach out to friends and family members who support your sobriety and make plans to check in regularly. If you’re not able to safely meet in person, make plans to connect via video chat or talk on the phone. Contact your sponsor or peer recovery coach if you have one.
Take care of your physical and mental health by making sure you are getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise. Many people turn to alcohol and drugs when they have too much time on their hands, so stay busy with healthy activities like getting outside, doing something creative, spending time with pets, cooking or journaling.
It’s important to identify your triggers for using alcohol and drugs. This can include places or activities where you are likely to use substances or certain people you frequently use alcohol or drugs with. Avoid these triggers, or practice distracting or redirecting yourself to another activity if you encounter them.
It’s important to remember you’re not alone. If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis, call the Hawaii CARES crisis line at (800) 753-6879 to speak with a trained professional who can help 24 hours per day, seven days a week.
Sobriety is within your reach. Don’t give up, but seek help, find solutions that work best for you and commit yourself to a healthier lifestyle. For more information, please visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at www.samhsa.gov.
* Physicians, providers and administrative staff who practice at Maui Health System hospitals and clinics answer questions from the public in “Healthwise Maui,” which appears on the first and third Thursdays of the month. Maui Health System operates Maui Memorial Medical Center, Maui Memorial Medical Center Outpatient Clinic, Kula Hospital & Clinic and Lana’i Community Hospital and accepts all patients. To submit a question, go to the website at mauihealth.org/healthwise.