Americans drinking more during pandemic, recovery expert offers advice

Local News

(WEHT) — During the coronavirus pandemic, alcohol sales have seen a big boost. A study by alcohol.org shows many Americans are drinking a considerable amount of alcohol during work hours, and according to Nielsen, more people have been drinking more in the past two weeks.

Eyewitness News spoke to Paul Pellinger, Chief Strategy Officer of Recovery Unplugged, which helps treat addiction through music.

Transcription

Brandon Bartlett: Paul, thanks for joining us tonight. A new survey found that Americans are consuming a large amount of alcohol during the pandemic. And during the past two weeks, nearly 30% of people surveyed reported they are drinking more and many are doing so between the hours of nine and five when they’re supposed to be working at home. Why do you think that is?

Paul Pellinger: Well, it makes sense, right? When people are dealing with the anxieties of what’s going on right now with COVID-19 as well as just living life on life’s terms. Alcohol works, it helps relieve some of those anxieties, it helps, you know, deal with some of the issues surrounding that.

Brandon Bartlett: Well explain that- does the need to drink increase during events like this pandemic? And if so, why is that?

Paul Pellinger: Yeah, and unfortunately, what we’re seeing in the treatment industry now are, first of all alcohol and addiction has gone up. I’ve seen 50% I’ve seen 150% relapse rates are going up, and there’s Pretty standard reason for that. And that is is that, you know, people are dealing with fear, anxiety over a variety of different causal factors and reasons. And so unfortunately, when you’re not able to and people in recovery, for instance, go to their normal 12 step meetings or support groups and have to do it virtually, or they’re working at home, and they’re not being monitored and supervised consistently by their superiors. It’s much easier to get away with it.

Brandon Bartlett: Yeah. Well, as you said, a lot of people start drinking because they are anxious. But isn’t it true that alcohol can make anxiety even worse?

Paul Pellinger: Yeah, unfortunately, there’s an old saying what must come up must come down. So basically, if if you have a problem with anxiety, and then you start drinking abusively, now you have at least two problems.

Brandon Bartlett: Yeah. And with more people drinking, are you seeing that more people are reaching out for help right now?

Paul Pellinger: Yeah, you know, that’s the extraordinary thing. I’m the co founder and vision leader at Recovery Unplugged. We have locations all over the country. And what I’m seeing is our calls have gone up dramatically. A lot of people are now rationalizing, hey, I can’t work. I need help, and I might as well get it. And obviously, we were open, we’ve been open and we’re prepared to not only handle any of your treatment needs, but answer any questions you might have. We’re there 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Brandon Bartlett: What kind of questions are you getting? And how can you help those people?

Paul Pellinger: Well, a lot of times family members call for their loved ones. And they often want to know, you know, what are some of the signs and symptoms there’s a lot of myths about alcoholism and addiction. You know, people think that you know, an alcoholic is somebody with a red nose and a brown paper bag and a trench coat hanging out on the streets when that makes up maybe 3% of the alcoholics in this country. The other 97% are people like me and you. And I dare to say there’s people who are watching this right now. There’s no one who’s watching this right now, who hasn’t been directly or indirectly affected by addiction.

Brandon Bartlett: What would you say to those people watching right now who may need help?

Paul Pellinger: Well, I would say this, if you think you have a problem in my 30 plus years of experience and doing this, you probably do. And so I would reach out whether it’s to recovery unplugged.com or to paulp@recoveryunplugged.com if you want it even more confidential. We can certainly help any way we can.

Brandon Bartlett: Have you also noticed an increase in people relapsing during the pandemic?

Paul Pellinger: Yeah, unfortunately, that is a trend that I’m sorry to say that is on the rise. And it’s because of what I’ve already alluded to the the support groups aren’t in person, they’re virtual. And so what I often recommended to my clients, is that Listen, I know it’s tough right now. It’s tough staying clean and sober anyway, right? But if you put a quarter of the effort into staying clean and sober as you did into drinking and getting high, you’ll be able to handle this.

Brandon Bartlett: Are there any other coping strategies that you would recommend to help people who may be abusing drugs or alcohol now?

Paul Pellinger: Yeah, so the key drugs and alcohol are really a symptom of the problem, right? It’s all about distorted perceptions, poor coping skills, poor self image, negative behaviors, things like that. So it’s all based on self centered fear, in my opinion. And so the one of the best ways to get out of that self centered fear is to become other Center by helping others by asking for help by making a you know, a call to places like recovery unplugged, and we can, you know, answer any questions and help you to the best of our ability. The one thing that I think is one of the best coping strategy that I personally use, as well as our client is I use music as a catalyst to change my mood to lower my anxiety to keep me in the present.

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