The struggle of sobriety during a pandemic and the holidays


Experts say alcohol consumption has increased over the past 9 months

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Widespread lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic present added triggers for those who struggle with addiction.

The executive director of Oregon Recovers, Mike Marshall, told KOIN 6 News people are drinking more alcohol since the start of the pandemic. Spending more time at home means many people aren’t benefiting from their support systems and are crumbling under the burden of prolonged isolation.

“We know per personal alcohol consumption has gone up significantly,” said Marshall. “I mean, you’re not driving, right? And what the hell, why not have another glass of wine if you’re sitting on the couch, and all of a sudden you’ve drank a bottle of wine.”

Austin Millus is about to graduate from a two-year recovery program with Union Gospel Mission in Portland. He talked about the difficulties these times present for those recovering from addiction, particularly the negative effect stress and isolation can have on sobriety.

“Triggers come in various ways, from boredom to feeling angry,” Millus said. “Being away from family is a huge trigger.”

Then there’s the stress of the very real illness itself.

“The COVID thing — I know a huge concern is people are worried about the safety of their families. That weighs on people a lot here,” he said.

But Millus said making the call to get help is still worth it.

“My life has changed tremendously since I got clean,” said Millus. “In ways that I don’t even understand.”

Portland Union Gospel Mission Executive Director Bill Russell has been in recovery for more than 40 years. He and Marshall say there are still great resources for those who may be struggling to reach out for help and many meetings and other forms of support are still available online. And those who don’t struggle with addiction can play an important role by reaching out to those who do.

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