No Ka Oi Health

Are you stuck in a pandemic drinking habit? Here are some tips to cut back or to get help on Maui.

The pandemic has had a large effect on our lives over the past year, potentially including our drinking habits. Many of us have felt lonely, uncertain and fearful over recent events, and stress levels have skyrocketed. While many people were able to work from home, many were required to go into workplaces. Some lost their jobs or closed their businesses. Losing our daily routine, a sense of normalcy or even the means to provide for our families took a toll on our mental health.

Data has shown that women and parents with young children are at higher risk of drinking more in the past year. Many women have taken on more child care, education and housework duties in addition to paid work, or left the workforce entirely. Parents are used to having kids go off to school, while they focus on performing their job and providing financially for the family. When these familiar roles ended abruptly, anxiety, frustration and other negative emotions increased.

Now is the time for everyone, especially parents and women, to find new ways to handle stress. Kicking the pandemic drinking habit may help pave the way for better coping mechanisms. But how do we get back to a healthier relationship with alcohol?

For people who want to reduce their drinking, here are some simple tips that might help.

• Pre-commitment: This behavior change technique makes it easier to forgo tempting behavior, like drinking alcohol. Once a week, make a plan to limit your drinking to a specific amount each day and stick to it. Instead of relying on willpower to make the right choice in the moment, you can relax knowing you’ve already decided how much, or not to drink, making it easier to keep that commitment.

• Social support: During the pandemic, connecting with others might sound difficult, but people are finding new ways to get support through text or phone calls, Facebook groups, Zoom or other video apps. Tell a friend, partner or family member you are trying to drink less and ask for their support. You might be surprised by the help they provide simply through listening to your concerns, alcohol-related or otherwise. Turn time you usually drink alcohol into time to video chat with them or enjoy a shared hobby.

• Create obstacles: If you do drink, follow simple rules to slow yourself down and avoid having too much. For example, make each cocktail or glass of wine last at least one hour. Or, follow every alcoholic drink with a glass of water.

• Change your routine: Make plans to do other activities during the time you usually drink. Or, sometimes drinking is more out of habit than actual desire for alcohol. Try a sparkling water or other nonalcoholic drink to satisfy the desire to sip on something while watching TV or hanging out.

• Technology: Cutback Coach and other apps are helpful tools to monitor and reduce drinking. They can be customized to your goals, and provide tips, notifications and reminders. Tracking your data on an app can be really rewarding, because it lets you see your progress.

• Alcohol treatment: This month, Mayor Michael Victorino issued a Maui County proclamation to encourage all residents to prevent alcohol use by those under 21 years of age, and to reach out if you feel you or a loved one may be struggling with alcohol.

If you or someone you know needs treatment, please contact one of the following local agencies for further information:

• Aloha House Inc. on Maui at (808) 579-8414.

• Malama Family Recovery Center on Maui, (808) 877-7117.

• Maui Youth and Family Services Inc., (808) 579-8414.

• Ohana Makamae Inc. in Hana, (808) 248-8538.

• Ka Hale Pomaikai Inc. on Molokai (808) 558-8480.

• Molokai Community Health Center, (808) 660-2588.

Additionally, American Addiction Centers, a nationwide provider of treatment facilities, also has admissions navigators available 24/7 to discuss alcohol addiction treatment options and answer any questions you may have about the process. Call them at (888) 685-5770.

For more information on this topic, you can call Maui District Health Office Public Health Education at (808) 984-8216.

* Andrea Snow has a master’s in public health and is a coordinator of the Maui Coalition for Drug-Free Youth at the Hawaii Public Health Institute. She is today’s guest columnist for No Ka Oi Health, which is published monthly by the state Department of Health.


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