The past year has not been an easy year for the majority of people living across the United States. With the Covid-19 pandemic in full swing for the past twelve months, many of us are looking forward to the end of 2020 and welcome a new year. A fresh start and maybe a resolution or two that we will adhere to for a couple of months and then give up on. Such is the way with any New Years.
Yet, I believe this past year is different from others. The coronavirus has changed so much about our day to day lives. A vast majority of people have been either forced to work from home in a remote setting or laid off from work. Others have felt the impact of losing their entire business or their employer has gone under due to financial strains stemming from restrictions imposed as a result of Covid-19. Friends and family once seen every day have become distant acquaintances as social distancing has become an aspect of our every day lives. This separation of those close to us and the personal connection that they bring has only further increased isolation amongst the population.
This isolation has impacted the addicted population in a big way. Those addicts who once sought solace and fellowship in attending twelve step groups and meetings from organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous suddenly found themselves without a source of relief. The shared companionship and experience that those meetings brought them were shut out. Virtual meetings replaced the physical locations that those in recovery and those newly clean had grown to know and frequent. For some in sobriety the virtual meetings were not enough as they lacked a personal touch. Some people just want that human connection.
These issues and more compounded throughout the year. They heaped themselves on our shoulders and began to weigh us down. Unfortunately for some, the burden of that weight was too great. The stressors from the Covid-19 pandemic have caused an increase in depression and binge drinking. Drug use is up as well in the past year. As I write this post, the reported overdose rate is on pace to end the year with a three percent increase from the year before in Massachusetts. Even the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has stated that this pandemic has had adverse reactions on a large portion of the nation’s populace. In a recent study by the CDC it was shown that during the first half of the year ruled by the novel coronavirus that people reported symptoms of anxiety and depression. The same study showed that people were turning more and more to drugs and alcohol to cope with the pandemic.
With the New Year looming, we need to learn to deal with these changes and adapt to this new way of living. Unfortunately, there is not much we can do about the way things are with social distancing and restrictions in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. However, we can make the best out of a stressful time. In the study I mentioned from the CDC, it was found that ninety percent of those who exhibited symptoms of anxiety and depression had not previous been treated. With social distancing it poses a problem with seeking help for psychiatric issues and substance abuse issues. Many have faced struggles with substance use during this unprecedented time. Help is also available for those who want it. You just need to ask. Drug and alcohol treatment centers have options for those who do not wish to miss any more work than they have this year. By attending a Partial Hospitalization Program, an Intensive Outpatient Program or even an Outpatient Program, a person can receive the treatment they need for a substance use disorder. Many people may not realize that they can receive counseling and psychoeducation for their various addictions while still working full-time. The financial strain incurred as a result of 2020 has been stressful and it can be understood why some may wish to continue working while seeking clinical assistance for substance abuse.
It cannot be stressed enough that if you are feeling negatively impacted by Covid-19, that you should reach out. If you have found yourself drinking more or using drugs to cope with the stressors stemming from social isolation, do not be afraid to ask for help. There are many avenues and resources available. Binge drinking and drug use is not the answer to depression and anxiety. In fact, we know today that these options will only lead to exacerbate the problem. While turning to alcohol and drugs will initially bring some relief, long-term they will in fact bring about depression and anxiety themselves. While we navigate this new world, we must remember to provide ourselves some self-care.
While most resolutions we find ourselves eventually breaking away from, maybe we should look at the definition of the word. A resolution is “a firm decision to do or not to do something”. Perhaps this New Years a resolution should be made to ask for help and make a fresh start for 2021. Perhaps we should make that firm decision and stick to it for more than a few months.