Getting Help For Alcohol Dependency
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with alcohol addiction, now may be a particularly difficult time. With the pandemic restrictions easing, retail and hospitality venues are once again reopening after lockdown, and these new freedoms may trigger those with dependencies. However, it is important to remember that help is available to support you in navigating the easing of lockdown without the consumption of alcohol.
For Alcohol Awareness Month (April), we are exploring the options for support that is available to those with alcohol addictions, and advice about how to stay on the road to recovery as lockdown restrictions ease.
The Impact Of The Pandemic On Alcohol Consumption
The pandemic has had its advantages and disadvantages for those with addiction or recovering from alcohol dependency. For some, it has provided a reason to stay at home and avoid pubs and off licences, and with public health services promoting healthy living as the key to a strong immune system, now has been a better time than ever to give up alcohol.
However, for others, this last year has been a more difficult journey. The isolation, stress, general anxiety and even boredom caused by the pandemic has led to an increase in alcohol consumption; a study by King’s College London reported that nearly a third of the UK public were consuming more alcohol than normal in June 2020. Many people suffering from addiction will have been triggered by the effects of the pandemic and lockdown, and the journey unfortunately does not end with the easing of restrictions.
Dealing With Alcohol Dependency As Lockdown Eases
Much of the advice relating to pre-pandemic alcohol dependency is still applicable in the current circumstances, with some small tweaks. We encourage patients to manage, maintain and maximise: manage risks, maintain structure and maximise the benefits of the new situation. As lockdown eases, we should continue to apply these guidelines and adapt them as time progresses and more restrictions are lifted.
Everyone’s situation is different and it is always important to be realistic with your ability to avoid alcohol. However, now that the hospitality industry has reopened, you may need to be more vigilant or ask a trusted friend to help you manage your risks.
Now that we have lived in a pandemic for over a year, you may have already established a routine to keep yourself on track with rehabilitation. If you can, try to stick to your routine as much as possible while lockdown eases. This will help you avoid situations that may cause relapse, as well as maintain your mental health.
Maximise the benefits
Now that we are able to meet with other households, could this be a chance to catch up with or extend your support network? Getting the right support is essential for those with alcohol dependencies, but this doesn’t always have to come from professionals – the support group that you form with friends and/or family should be there to help you when you’re not in contact with your therapist.
Dr Christos Kouimtsidis, Consultant Psychiatrist at The London Psychiatry Centre, says, ‘The pandemic has caused many people with dependencies to feel isolated and alone. As lockdown eases, perhaps take this time to reconnect with your support network in person. Likewise, as domestic travel restrictions have lifted, you now have the ability to travel to see friends and family, or even make an in-person appointment with your therapist if you do not live close to your clinic. Maximise the benefits of the situation, and do not try to fight this alone.’
3 Things You Can Do Now Cope With Alcohol Dependency
- Work on yourself. If you are spending more time at home due to the pandemic, take this time to work on a project or develop a skill. This not only helps to distract you from thinking about drinking, it will also increase your self esteem and allow you to take a big step towards living a more positive and productive life following your rehabilitation.
- Avoid social media. Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a feeling that occurs when we see other people enjoying themselves, while we may be doing something less enjoyable. If your social media feeds are full of pictures of friends at the pub, try to avoid looking at your phone or computer so that you don’t experience FOMO.
- Cut down on stress. While some workers have experienced less stress during the pandemic, others have found that their workloads and working hours have increased, leading to higher stress levels. If the latter is the case for you, ask for support from your boss or HR team to reduce your workload. Or, if you are self-employed, set rigid limits on how much work you are doing each day. Remember, stress is a trigger for alcohol consumption, so it’s important to avoid intense stress where possible.
Where To Get Support For Alcohol Dependency
In addition to your support network, there are many other services available to help you if you are struggling to cope. Drinkline is the national helpline for those who need support with alcohol addiction. Call 0300 123 1110 on weekdays 9am to 8pm and weekends 11am to 4pm for phone support. You may also wish to join a formal support group, where you can find solidarity amongst others who have had similar experiences. Alcoholics Anonymous is a popular, free group that has meetings across the country, while various charities such as Al-Anon Family Groups, Adfam, and The National Association for Children of Alcoholics (Nacoa) provide support for families and friends who are affected by alcoholism.
At The London Psychiatry Centre, we offer a tailored approach to meet the needs of individual patients. We have worked with many patients struggling with dependency throughout the pandemic, and we are continuing to do so as lockdown eases; our clinic remains open to patients who do not have COVID-19 symptoms.
If you need help with alcohol dependency, please do not hesitate to arrange a consultation with us. We can offer phone and video consultations if you are self-isolating or unable to travel to our London-based clinic for any reason. We are here to support you through this.