Health Lifestyle Opinion

Op-Ed: Be Careful with Your Choices Right Now

Photo by Alfonso Scarpa on Unsplash

This is a period of extreme stress, but West Hartford resident Amanda Aronson, secretary of the West Hartford Board of Education and principal of Aronson Consulting, speaks from experience with a warning and plea for people to seek support rather than sliding down the slippery slope into substance abuse.

By Amanda Aronson

Right now, we are functioning as an enormous team. We are each taking a part in helping our region with pressing needs, and we are looking out for one another as best we can. But as I lay awake last night worrying about the obvious things, there is one thing that kept coming to mind: these are the perfect conditions for many people in our community to develop substance-abuse issues.

People are home alone, worrying under extreme stress, uncertainty abounds, and everywhere we look on the internet people are sharing posts about how drinking will make it all more manageable. And believe me, I get it.

On May 8, I will celebrate six years of sobriety. I know what it’s like to want to blow off steam and have fun by drinking, or to numb out a little when life gets hard. I know what it’s like to want to relax with drinks to make it all feel easier, and I know what it’s like to feel yourself starting to fall apart. But I also know what it’s like to heal and thrive; to feel stronger than you ever thought you could. I know what it’s like to start out weak and end up strong.

Please, be careful with your choices right now.

There are times when we can wing it and hope things will all work out, but this is not one of those times. Now is the time to be deliberate about how we manage our stress, not just because that’s how we will make it, but because our children are watching us 24/7 and getting the biggest lesson of their lives in how to manage adversity. Our children may be learning a lot from their teachers right now, but trust me when I tell you that the biggest thing they are learning is how to manage their health, and they are learning that by watching how we manage stress and how we talk about how we manage stress.

Please, be careful with your choices right now.

Remember, alcohol is a depressant. The first drink will relax you, but every drink after that will depress you. It will weaken your immune system. Only you will notice the subtle changes in your brain and body, so I urge you to be mindful of the following things so you can monitor how you are feeling as the weeks go on. The slippery slope is real, and it’s how many people in recovery got into it, so notice if you start:

  • to drink more often than you used to;
  • to drink more volume than you used to;
  • to drink earlier than you used to;
  • to feel like you need a drink;
  • to feel like a drink is a reward;
  • to watch the clock for when it’s “ok” to start drinking;
  • to hide your drinking;
  • to lie about your drinking;
  • to negotiate with yourself about your drinking;
  • to worry about your drinking.

There are many people in our community who can drink casually with no problem, and that may not change during times of severe stress. But you need to know that there are many, many people in our community, particularly young mothers, who are suffering in silence and may crumble under these conditions. They might be your friends. You won’t know unless they want you to know. People with substance-abuse issues are very good at hiding things.

Please, be deliberate about how you manage your stress right now, and encourage your friends to do the same. Love your friends, but love them the right way by asking the question that they need to hear: “What are you doing to manage your stress today?” If they don’t have an answer, help them find one.

If you are worried about yourself or someone else, reach out for help. Now is not the time to hide when you need support. There is nothing wrong with reaching out for help. When we say we live in a community, we mean it. Help is available.

As someone who is living a life in recovery, I can tell you that asking for support is nothing to be ashamed of. It will set you on a path that will change your life forever in a positive way. It will make you strong. I am stronger now than I ever thought I could be, and it’s because I took my health seriously and put structured support in place.

Be well, my community. Look out for each other. And please, be careful with your choices right now.

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