• Home
  • Health
  • Coping Strategies for Addictive Behavior During the Covid-Dominated Holiday Season

Coping Strategies for Addictive Behavior During the Covid-Dominated Holiday Season

 

By Virgil Roberson, L.P., M. Div., NCPsyA, Executive Director, The Counseling Center

If you struggle with addiction, the holidays can be a minefield, triggering the negative behaviors you’ve been working hard to avoid.  Add our ongoing public health crisis, with the sharp spike in cases of coronavirus, and the dangers multiply.

In ordinary times, the myriad sights and sounds, the traditions and expectations of the holidays can arouse powerful emotions. This year a sense of loss arising from public health restrictions, and the need to limit or forego many celebrations, as well as personal losses suffered because of the pandemic, might prove to be overwhelming.

Last March, Dr. Tim K. Brennan, Director of the Addiction Institute at Mount Sinai West was quoted in The New York Times: “I’m hard-pressed to think of a bigger relapse trigger than what we’re going through now as a country.”  

The increased stress and anxiety can provoke patterns of behavior that have not served you well in the past: too much alcohol consumption, over eating, gambling, excessive shopping, or acting out in whatever form it takes for you—all intended to put you in control while actually robbing you of personal agency.

Can you get through the holidays without a meltdown? Yes, but it helps to be prepared. 

The process involves three stages: awareness, acceptance, and action. 

First, take some time to acknowledge how difficult this time of year might be. The holidays fill our senses with lights and decorations, baking cookies and scented greenery, music and singing.  All of these can remind us of how the holidays have been in the past and won’t be this year.  Losses are often felt more keenly, no matter how long ago they occurred.

The holidays also come packed with expectations—of ourselves and others.  When those expectations aren’t met, which almost inevitably happens, we often allow resentment to take hold.  Expectations become the match that lights the fuse of addictive-related behavior.

People struggling with addiction often react poorly to authority figures. A store clerk asking a customer to wear a mask might provoke a negative over-reaction.  A parent re-asserting authority over a 20-something son now living at home might initiate an escalating confrontation.  

It’s important to recognize the triggers that get you into trouble.  They may be feelings of self-pity, which lead to the twisted logic that if Uncle Joe can drink excessively, why can’t I? Or if Cousin Mary can go back for a third helping, I can too.  Or you may fall into a pattern of comparing yourself with others at the company Zoom party or within your extended family; coming up short, you fall into despair.

You may become vulnerable to an unhelpful thought pattern. As J.F. Benoist describes in his book Addicted to the Monkey Mind, If “we’ve learned to look outside ourselves for the cause of our problems…[then] when we get upset, we blame others and outside circumstances.  We get caught up believing that what others think of us, and what happens to us, are what dictate our experience.”  

A danger sign might be an increase in “cross addictive” behaviors.  Maybe you’re suddenly smoking again or behaving in inappropriate ways—ignoring public health requests by attending large parties, sex-texting during Zoom meetings, or isolating yourself night after night while secretly drinking, gambling, or watching pornography. Such a loss of judgement and self-control are clues to impending trouble.

study released by the Rand Corporation at the end of September reported that American adults have sharply increased their consumption of alcohol during the pandemic, with women increasing their heavy drinking episodes (four or more drinks within a couple of hours) by 41%.

This national survey found that the overall frequency of alcohol consumption increased by 14%--including 19% among all adults aged 30 to 59, 17% among women, and 10% among non-Hispanic white adults.

In addition to a range of negative physical health associations, excessive alcohol use may lead to, or worsen, existing mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression, which may themselves be increasing during Covid-19.

A recent New York Times article, “Building Emotional Safety Nets for Men,” described two men in different cities who, three months into the pandemic, were struggling.  One man “experienced a depth of sadness and depression he had never before known, his alcohol consumption spiked, and he began having suicidal thoughts.” The second man found himself weeping every time he went into a grocery store, because the “panic and anxiety he read on other shoppers’ faces mirrored back his own.”

 Shame—whether recognized or not-- is often the emotion underlying all these feelings.  Something missing, something needed long ago and never received, can make you feel bad about yourself.  Bad enough that you’re compelled to act in an addictive way—anything to mask that shame and attempt to regain the control that shame has taken away. But shame can be acknowledged, and it doesn’t have to rule.

So, first learn to recognize your particular warning signs and triggers.  And be aware of the difficulties that the holidays during this pandemic pose for you.  

It’s important to know your own boundaries so you don’t collude with the idea that you have to act out on your feelings; learn what you can handle and what you can’t.  You might choose to set the terms for a family member who wants to visit, saying, “You’re welcome to come, but I ask that you not drink while you’re in my home because I have trouble handling that; and I ask that you get a negative Covid test before you arrive.”

It helps to decide ahead of time what limits you’ll set for yourself and how you’ll handle situations that you anticipate.  This is hard work!  It’s difficult to resist peer pressure, which can be intense.  It’s tough to risk criticism when you’re yearning for acceptance.  But it’s healthy to map out in advance where your boundaries lie and what you’ll do if circumstances threaten to spin out of control.  Act with the intention of remaining in charge of your behavior instead of letting others dictate it.

It’s also important to accept your feelings, however uncomfortable they make you.  Acknowledge your fears, doubts, even your anger.  These feelings won’t hurt you, but what you do with them can create situations you can’t undo later.   

Then, decide what action to take.  Ask yourself what you want and how you can achieve it. 

If you find yourself in a situation that threatens to overwhelm you, you might reassert control by:

*Taking a big breath, then another.  Slow down enough to become conscious of your breathing, your feelings, your body.

*Going to a place where you can cool down: slip away to your room or go for a walk, where nature can soothe you or the urban streets can distract you.  Identify your feelings and get out of your own head by becoming aware of what’s going on around you. 

*Seeking out a virtual AA or Al-Anon meeting; even during Covid, there’s almost always one available online.  People in Twelve Step Programs, including official “sponsors” from those groups, can help you get through a tough moment.  You might feel more comfortable with a clergyperson or therapist, who might connect you to someone who’s been in a similar situation.  Or you might arrange in advance for a friend to be “on call.”  It needn’t be your best friend, just someone who can act in your own best interest—by helping you escape a tenuous situation or by lending a listening ear.

*Practicing self-care. Ask yourself: what am I wishing I had, and can I give that to myself?  Chances are, what you really want, deep down, will feed you, rather than your addiction.

*Cultivating gratitude: be aware of and appreciate what you do have instead of resenting what you don’t have.  Viewing your circumstances from an attitude of gratitude is bound to brighten your outlook.

All these suggestions are intended to help you become aware of your feelings, your triggers, and your boundaries; to accept your feelings and the situation as they are; and to act not in reaction but to reassert control.  Control the things you can, let go of those you can’t, and show that you have the wisdom to know the difference. 

With these tools in hand and the commitment you’ve worked hard to maintain during this most challenging year, you can enjoy the holidays with good mental health, filling your heart and soul with the love and good will that will leave you richly satisfied.

Here at The Counseling Center of Bronxville in Westchester, during these stressful pandemic times, we are available for teletherapy on an as-needed basis, so feel free to reach out if we can help.

 

Photos courtesy the Counseling Center

 


Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff.

 

Health Directory

Assisted Living Facilities

Sunrise Senior Living

500 North Columbus Avenue
Mount Vernon, New York 10552
914-667-5660

www.sunriseseniorliving.com


The Osborn

101 Theall Road
Rye, New York 10580
914-921-2200

Bereavement

The Bereavement Center of Westchester

670 White Plains Road
Scarsdale, New York 10707 
(914) 787-6158

Chemical Dependency Services

The Maxwell Institute

The Maxwell Institute of St. Vincent's Westchester offers outpatient chemical dependency treatment and education services for adults, adolescents and their families. Treatment includes individual and group psychotherapy, couples counseling, and psychiatric evaluation and medication management when indicated. The Institute welcomes individuals and family members who are experiencing marital and/or work-related distress as a result of alcoholism and other forms of chemical dependency.

The Maxwell Institute also offers community education services through its programs in drug and alcohol prevention in the schools. For persons wishing to become credentialed alcoholism and substance abuse counselors (CASACS) in New York State, the "Maxtrain" program provides the 350 classroom education hours that are an important part of the credentialing requirements.

The Maxwell Institute is grateful for the support of The Community Fund of Bronxville-Eastchester-Tuckahoe.

92 Yonkers Ave
Tuckahoe, NY 10707
(914) 337-6033

www.stvincentswestchester.org/maxwell

Counseling Services

Counseling Center

Founded in 1971, the mission of the Counseling Center “is to provide a wide range of psychotherapeutic and counseling services to individuals, couples and families by a staff of highly trained, experience and dedicated psychotherapists.
Director: Virgil Roberson

The Counseling Center
180 Pondfield Road Bronxville,
New York 10708
914-793-3388

Dentists

Dr. Henry A. Blom

10 Studio Arcade
Bronxville, New York 10708
914-337-1157


alt

Bronxville Dental Care

Jenny A.  Kanganis, D.D.S.

Guy N. Minoli, D.D.S.

Since 1994, Dr. Kanganis and Dr. Minoli of Bronxville Dental Care have been leaders in the dental community, providing exceptional dentistry to generations of Bronxville families. They have a long history of excellence and have earned a reputation built on trust, compassion, and dedication. Drs. Kanganis and Minoli believe in a conservative, holistic, and minimally invasive approach to dentistry. Bronxville Dental Care welcomes patients of all ages and offers a comprehensive range of services, including cosmetic and restorative dentistry, implants, and pediatric dentistry. Dr. Kanganis especially loves treating children. As a mother herself of two recent Bronxville High School grads, she understands the importance of helping children to feel comfortable during their visits, while earning their trust and teaching them to become active participants in their oral health.

20 Studio Arcade

Bronxville, New York 10708

(914) 337-6536 
www.bronxvilledentalcare.com


Dr. Anthony Fiore

44 Pondfield Road
Bronxville, New York 10708
914-337-3863


Dr. Quentin M. Murphy

77 Pondfield Road
Bronxville, New York 10708
914-337-1004


Scarsdale Pediatric Dental

777 Post Rd.
Scarsdale, NY 10583-5000 
Phone: 914. 472. 9090 
http://www.scarsdalepediatricdental.com/


Dr. Michael J. Vitale

1 Pondfield Road
Bronxville, New York 10708
914-337-8430

Dermatology

Dr. Lesa Kelly

77 Quaker Ridge Road
New Rochelle, New York
914-637-2663


Dr. Neil Goldberg

77 Pondfield Road Ste 2
Bronxville, New York 10708

Ear, Nose, and Throat

Dr. Mark Fox

ENT and Allergy Associates
1 Elm Street
Tuckahoe, New York 10707

Home Care

Lawrence Home Care of Westchester

670 White Plains Road
Scarsdale, NY 10707
(914) 787-6158
www.lawrencehomecare.org

Hospice

Jansen Hospice and Pallative Care

670 White Plains Road
Scarsdale, New York 10583
(914) 787-6158

Hospitals

NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital

In July 2014, Lawrence Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital established a new relationship aimed at enhancing care, improving access and lowering health care costs for residents of Bronxville and surrounding communities in Westchester County. Lawrence was renamed NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital.

Lawrence Hospital Center was founded in 1909 and is a 291-bed acute care facility with over 1100 employees and 400 physicians. It provides emergency care to approximately 35,000 individuals every year.   It became a designated New York State Stroke Center in 2006.  Its physicians provide expertise in virtually every area of medical specialty and include over 100 primary care physicians. And, Lawrence delivers about 2000 babies every year in the home-like setting of newly designed Labor and Delivery recovery rooms.

Outpatient services include diagnostic testing and laboratory services, ambulatory surgery options, and rehabilitation and sports medicine services. The Hospital has a Women`s Imaging Center where female patients receive diagnostic services in a private setting. Outpatient physical therapy, lymphedema therapy, speech and occupational therapy services are provided both on-site at the Hospital and at Lawrence`s satellite center, The Center for Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine, in Scarsdale.

The Hospital is accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. The Hospital is fully licensed by the New York State Department of Health. Lawrence`s laboratory is accredited by the College of American Pathologists.

55 Palmer Avenue
914-787-1000 (main number)

Internal Medicine Physicians

Dr. Anne Galloway

77 Pondfield Road
Bronxville, New York 10708
914-337-4986


Dr. Kerrianne Page

14 Studio Arcade
914-779-9066


Dr. Raymond Chow

700 White Plains Road
Scarsdale, New York

Obstetrician/Gynecologist

Dr. Polly Kanganis

4 Studio Arcade, Bronxville, NY 10708
Bronxville, New York 10708
914-771-9441


Dr. Thomas J. Rubeo Jr. MD
Bronxville Women's Care, Pllc
One Pondfield Road, Suite 302
Bronxville, NY 10708

Orthodontists

Dr. Patricia Halloran

55 Park Avenue
Bronxville, New York 10708
914-337-1239


Dr. Joseph Ciccio

1 Pondfield Road
Bronxville, New York 10708

Orthopedics

Dr. Peter Rizzo

77 Pondfield Road
914-337-1118


Dr. Michael Elia

1 Stone Place
Bronxville, New York 10708

Pediatrics

Westchester Health Pediatrics (formerly Children’s Medical Practice of Bronxville)
1 Elm Street
Tuckahoe, New York 10707
914-337-7474


Scarsdale Pediatric Associates
2 Overhill Road Suite 220
Scarsdale, New York 10580
914-725-0800


Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine
495 Central Avenue
Scarsdale, New York

Health Recent Articles

MyhometownBroxnville reserves the right to monitor and remove all comments. For more information on Posting Rules, please review our Rules and Terms of Use, both of which govern the use and access of this site. Thank you.

The information presented here is for informational purposes only. While every effort has been made to present accurate information, myhometownBronxville, LLC, does not in any way accept responsibility for the accuracy of or consequences from the use of this information herein. We urge all users to independently confirm any information provided herein and consult with an appropriate professional concerning any material issue of fact or law. The views and opinions expressed by the writers, event organizers and advertisers do not necessarily represent those of myhometownBronxville, LLC, its officers, staff or contributors. The use of this website is governed by the Terms of Use . No portion of this publication may be reproduced or redistributed, either in whole or part, without the express written consent of the publisher.

Copyright © 2009 myhometownbronxville.com, All rights reserved.