Tips for Managing Your Relationship with Alcohol While Social Distancing

If you’re struggling to control your drinking while social distancing, you are not alone.

Recent reports show that online alcohol sales were up 243% at the end of March, suggesting that drinking as a coping mechanism is on the upswing.

From job insecurity and working from home to the pressure of “being productive” and processing the complex emotions that come along with this time of uncertainty, adjusting to this new normal can be (understandably) overwhelming. The temptation to rely on or revert to unhealthy habits might also be stronger than usual which is why it’s more important than ever to lean into your online alcohol treatment.

But here’s the thing: you can get through this without drinking.

As a licensed therapist, here are some of the most common questions I’m asked about how to control your drinking through quarantine, and some tools you can start using today.

1. What is your advice for someone struggling to control their alcohol consumption during isolation?

  • Coming up with a daily routine is key. When we’re feeling out of our element and have a lot of free time, our minds can begin to wander into unhealthy zones. Having a schedule gives you something to follow and keeps you on track with your goals.
  • Start by practicing good sleep hygiene. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day has a tremendously positive effect on energy level and mood throughout the day.
  • Make sure you’re having regular meals, too. Similar to being “hangry,” hunger can mimic the feeling of alcohol cravings or even alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
  • Drink plenty of water. Something as simple as hydration enhances not only physical wellbeing but mental health as well.
  • Create a list of people on your ‘support team.’ Jot down the best way to reach out to each of them. Having a physical list is important because when we’re struggling, unfortunately our brains do not default to healthy coping skills. Having those names on an easy-to-find list eliminates that hurdle when we’re experiencing heightened stress — and makes it all the more likely it will be utilized.
  • Get outside! Feeling grounded in nature, getting a breath of fresh air, and putting your bare feet on the grass are all great ways to boost your mood.

2. What are some helpful ways to reduce the anxiety and stress that people are experiencing at this time?

  • Discover or rediscover hobbies. Repetitive activities like coloring, jogging, or gardening can be especially helpful in calming anxiety.
  • Exercise. Thirty minutes of movement has been shown to lower anxiety and stress, while releasing the body’s feel-good endorphins. A quick walk around your neighborhood, an online HIIT class, or a solo dance party in your living room — whatever gets your heart rate up and feels good to you.

3. What’s your advice on staying connected when feeling alone, anxious, or bored?

  • Reach out to your list of supporters! People may not realize you’re struggling unless you tell them, so it’s your responsibility to make the effort. This is especially true now that others can’t gauge your emotional state because they’re not seeing you face-to-face.
  • Create virtual connections. Play games with your friends or online players to pass the time and build a feeling of togetherness.
  • Join the community at MonumentOur community is a great place to find, connect with, and learn from others who might be facing similar challenges.

4. How can someone participate in virtual happy hours without feeling obligated to drink?

The first thing to know is that if you don’t feel comfortable, you aren’t obligated to attend, and it is 100% OK not to go. When possible, suggest alternatives like a virtual game night or shared online class, so that you can connect with others in a way that feels right for you. If you do feel comfortable, prepare your own beverage (e.g. soda, water or tea) ahead of time to keep you grounded and your hands occupied. This is also a great tool for when in-person meetings and hangouts resume.

If you have any other questions for me, feel free to leave them in the comments, and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. You can also find me responding to comments and posting in the Monument Community.

Remember, this is a traumatic time for many people. If you’re managing your ordinary routine, you are doing enough. We can get through this together.

Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.

How To Tell People You’re Getting Treatment To Change Your Drinking

If you’re considering getting treatment to change your drinking, or have already started, congratulations. You should feel proud of that choice! From my 14+ years of experience as a licensed therapist helping people change their relationship with alcohol, I learn one lesson time and time again: everyone is different. Including why we drink, and why we want to stop.

So when it comes to deciding to enter into treatment, the journey is very personal and individualized. Whether you are using therapy, support groups or medication to stop drinking, you’re taking an important step. We’re often not sure who to share this information with, what we should or shouldn’t share, or how to talk about it. We might be fearful of how people will react, or afraid of what they won’t say. So, sometimes we keep that information to ourselves. However, a supportive and understanding network can make a significant difference on this journey, and when you feel comfortable, and if you’re able to, I’d encourage you to confide in your people.

Here are 5 tips that can help you start that conversation with your network:

  1. Not Everyone Needs To Know (Right Now): Fear and nerves about how people will react to hearing that you are getting treatment is incredibly common. Remind yourself that not everyone needs or deserves to know that you are getting treatment, and definitely not all at the same time. Think about your network — friends, family, coworkers — and begin the discussion with people you believe will be supportive. There will be time to tell others. You don’t need to inform everyone right away or at the same time.
  2. Plan It Out: Practice always helps. Think through the key points you want to share, the language you want to use, and other details of the conversation. If you’re working with a therapist, they can help you create your plan, and even role play the conversation. (If you’re interested in working with a therapist to change your relationship with alcohol, Monument has experienced, licensed therapists who can help you achieve your goals. Learn more here.)
  3. Set The Tone: The environment can make a significant difference in setting the tone of the conversation. Make sure that you’re having the discussion at a good time for both you and the other person. Whether you are having the discussion over the phone or in person, you should find a quiet and comfortable place where you won’t be interrupted, and will have enough time to talk. If you’re not comfortable having the discussion face-to-face, you can also write a letter or email.
  4. Expect Questions: Spoiler alert, people will have questions, and it’s important that you are honest in your responses. It’s likely that the people closest to you will not be surprised by your decision and will ask how they can support you. Then it’s your turn to let them know!
  5. Use Your Words: There is no script or glossary for how to talk about your relationship with alcohol. To describe why you’re getting treatment to change your drinking, use words you’re comfortable with. You don’t need to label yourself with words you don’t identify with. For example, our Co-Founder and CEO Mike never identified as an alcoholic, but still sought out treatment to change his drinking. Use words you identify with. There’s no right or wrong vocabulary.

Telling people you’re getting online alcohol treatment can be overwhelming, nerve-wracking, and even frightening. Change is often uncomfortable, and this will likely be no different. But know that you are making a decision that can give you more out of your life, and give those around you more of you. You should be incredibly proud of that.

If you have questions, leave them in the comments, or find me posting in the Monument Community.

Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.