People are drinking more during the quarantine.
The Washington Post reported that alcohol sales increased by 55% in mid-March and the San Fransisco Chronicle reported an increase of 42% in the first week of the city’s stay-at-home order.
How do you know if your Tiger King drinking games or Zoom drinking games are all in good fun or if your alcohol consumption is becoming a problem?
Here are some early signs and symptoms:
Many people associate alcoholism with drinking daily or all day or no longer being able to function. The truth is that addiction is an insidious, slow-developing process. These stereotypical ideas about what alcoholism looks like are actually later -stage symptoms. The line from recreational drinking to the neurological condition of addiction had been crossed much earlier. It’s wise to take seriously the earlier, more subtle symptoms described above. These symptoms are often fleeting which makes assessing yourself difficult. Your alcohol intake can seem controllable one day and out of control on another day.
So how can you tell if you’re developing a problem with drinking? Start by noticing what is happening in your body and mind. Drawn from the techniques of mindfulness, you can learn some mastery over your internal experience.
Here is a research-supported practice that will help you to develop a better awareness and some control over urges. ( the ability to ‘control’ urges is a neurological function that is impaired in addiction).
Close your eyes.
Step back into your observer mind and watch how you experience an urge.
Notice where you feel it in your body.
Note the level of intensity.
Note the thoughts about drinking.
Now, imagine urges are like ocean waves: they swell, crest, and fall.
If you fight against them, you can exhaust yourself and be carried away, eventually getting pulled under.
If you stay above them and ride the wave, you will safely make it to shore.
Instead of fighting the urge, use your breath as the “surfboard” and ride the urge through its rise, cresting, and inevitable fall.
As you feel the first urge to drink rise within you, stop what you’re doing, and focus on your natural, unaltered breathing. As thoughts come up, observe them non-judgmentally--let them come and go as you remain connected to your breathing.
You’ll notice that as the urge rises, it also grows stronger and may even begin to feel impossible to ride out. Don’t let it fool you. It will crest, and from that point forward, the urge will fall and dissipate.
Notice a more peaceful feeling.
As urges arise again, repeat the practice.
This practice works best pre-emptively. Do it early in the day. Do it more than once if possible.
Finally, record what you noticed happening in your mind and body in a journal.
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