It all began in March, COVID19’s first case in the USA creating a rollercoaster of emotions such as anxiety, fear, stress and uncertainty! Isolation was encouraged.
At a steady and rapid pace, the Coronavirus pandemic forced us into our homes to “Shelter in Place” while we were encouraged to do our part to “Flatten the Curve”. Cities and states started to shut down as cases increased hourly and daily. Closings took on a life of their own; schools, churches, restaurants, malls, and theatres all closed. However, liquor stores were considered essential and remained opened along with grocery stores. Alcohol sales in stores and online increased at an alarming rate. Uber Eats and Uber Drinks thrived! What happened to those already struggling with substance use disorders?
With a universal time out, ensuing State orders and CDC guidelines were followed; how would those experiencing anxiety, depressions and isolation and already on the cusp for potential alcohol/substance abuse fare? Did parents relax rules at home for alcohol use among teens in order to appease and bond with their child(ren) and/or over compensate for their uncertainty as to what to do? With the first summer in history where sports and other activities were not available, how were young people able to exert energy? While sheltering-in-place and seeing family members differently than they ever had, how does one cope? How does a parent, who feels unprepared to read to their child(ren), cook meals, provide homework help, and experience food insecurities cope with their day-to-day stress? How does an individual whose only escape from an abusive partner was to work outside the home now survive? What does one reach for to deal with life on its new terms; is it alcohol? Legal, accessible and stigma free alcohol potentially start to look good to those looking for relief, even better to those who relied on it already and the best of all to those who could not cope with the responsibilities of their life during the pandemic. Did they resort to drinking, increase alcohol intake or excessive drinking?
There was no longer any place to hide, no place to run to, no dropping kids at day-care, school, work, extra-curricular activities, baptism, birthdays, catechism, bar mitzvah; it all happened under one roof, at home. The positive aspect of COVID19 created room for bonding, worship, laughter, game night, meals, academic, games and family story time. The decision for the school year’s end was distant learning. Pre COVID19 we navigated through life moving quickly from one task to the next and seldom saw one another for long periods because school, work, worship and extra-curricular activities were all outside of the home, oftentimes with people other than the nuclear family. The New Norm continues!
Waiting to exhale!
The August/September back-to-school plan for our precious young people had us hold our breath. Of course, young people deserve socialization, kinship, friendship, and the school experience – they also deserve protection and safety. How does the young person view the back-to-school decision and what does the parent/caregiver believe about their decision to send or not to send their child(ren) to school? Does that decision determine a “Good Parent” or “Bad Parent”? Hybrid/Virtual/Home Schooling, what is it to be? For the child(ren) headed to school, is it a bus or car ride or a walk? When students see their friends, how do they greet one another? Are they properly wearing their mask; fully covering their nose and mouth? How do parents focus in work or at home with the anxiety of if their child(ren) is safe? COVID19 (The Pandemic) has shifted our focus…..we question are we doing all we can, is there anything else we can do? While we consistently experience stress, anxiety and uncertainty, what is our retreat? Is alcohol a companion; is it one glass of wine, one cocktail or a few? Has a drink become what we reach for to calm our worry? Let us take a minute to exhale and assess how we made it through the past six (6) months, what was the “it factor” that offered a sense of sanity, what became your vice? How do you make it through safely day-by-day? Let us continue to do the best we can daily and be kind to one another by offering support and Love.
“Don’t wait for the storm to pass, learn to dance in the rain” (author unknown)
By: Maggie Young, Chief Recovery Officer