This article first appeared in the Vail Daily on April 9, 2020.
Let’s face it, being isolated is hard. During this time, we are encouraging our community to focus on internal resources and to use coping skills to manage this unprecedented and emotional experience.
However, it is important to note that not all coping skills are adaptive or healthy. Coping skills are any action or behavior that helps an individual manage stress or discomfort. Currently, one of the most common socially referenced coping skills is drinking.
In resort communities, clinicians see a high incidence of substance abuse, most commonly alcohol use and, increasingly, marijuana use. For individuals struggling with addiction, being homebound can create additional challenges or exacerbate everyday triggers.
Research on the psychological impact of quarantine often cites isolation, anxiety and boredom as being among the greatest predictors for the development of symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. Similarly, isolation, loneliness, boredom and anxiety are often identified as triggers for relapse.
Further, our social media pages are currently filled with messages, memes and references to alcohol use. For many, these are humorous outlets. For some, these are inescapable triggers leading to increased cravings and possible relapse. For others, these messages may normalize the act of drinking, leading to increased substance abuse in populations that did not previously have an identified addiction.
How to help
- Check in on your friends, co-workers, colleagues, and even acquaintances.
- Set up virtual connection times that do not rely on “happy hours.”
- Think about the possible impact of social media messages before you post.
- Focus on encouraging messages of health and wellness.
- If you are concerned about yourself, or anyone else, seek help.
Many individuals in recovery attribute their sobriety success to peer-based support groups that focus on connection, widespread community and social accountability as the core components to sobriety maintenance. Our current state of isolation challenges many of the fundamental concepts of recovery.
However, like many of our most important support systems, community pillars such as Alcoholics Anonymous have adapted their model to provide virtual support. Information on local AA meetings can be found at coaadistrict14.org. You can also call 970-245-9649 or 888-333-9649 (24 hours) for support.
This time is difficult. If you are concerned about someone, reach out and connect with them. If you are still concerned about them, work with a local behavioral health provider or the Eagle Hope Center at 970-306-4673 to discuss ways to ensure their safety.
Dr. Casey Wolfington is a licensed psychologist and the community behavioral health director with Eagle Valley Behavioral Health.