Holidays and Sobriety: Make a Plan

Holidays and Sobriety

I saw Jane, age 32, in follow-up yesterday. She has now gone 20 days with no alcohol.

Making Choices Based on Freedom

For over a year, she was coming to our office regularly for a Vivitrol injection. She was resistant to the idea of stopping drinking altogether, so she used the monthly injectable Vivitrol to help her consume less alcohol. The amount of alcohol she drank each day was never revealed to me, but I have heard other medical professionals say that you should double what your patient tells you.

I know Jane was scared when she found out her liver enzymes were elevated. She cut down on how much she drank, but she never stopped completely. Now, every month when she came into the pharmacy, she seemed to be holding on with just a thread.

Ready to Hear the Answers

Facing addiction can be scary. That’s why our team at Coleman Addiction Medicine is ready to meet you where you are. It’s important to note that many of our patients have not committed to quitting alcohol altogether, and this can keep people from getting help. We want to help you understand what your goals are so we can create an individualized plan that will work for you. We believe that abstinence may not be the only way out

Reducing Use

Jane never missed her monthly Vivitrol injection, but she also never missed her 3-4 drinks per day. She was content with the amount of alcohol she consumed, even though it is considered “at-risk drinking” (more than three per occasion or more than seven per week). It is possible that Covid contributed to this escalation. Betty works in customer service and is used to answering emails at work. She found it easy to drink and send emails at the same time.

Filling the Void

Jane came to me wanting to stop drinking. She was afraid of the physical aspect of detox, the looming question that would fill the void, and even missing work. But she is one of the lucky ones whose insurance covers almost 100% of the detox. So, we decided on outpatient alcohol detox. It would take three days of coming to my office and then two days of support from her support person of choice.

Yesterday was twenty days with no alcohol. We hugged when we saw each other. She had tears in her eyes. She is so proud of herself because she doesn’t remember the last time she has gone this long without a drink.

 

Finding the Right Treatment

She is still feeling a bit foggy, but her sleeping has improved dramatically. One of the things she is most delighted about is her skin and her face. She told me she has no more bloat upon awakening. Since I’ve mostly seen her with a mask, I didn’t have anything to compare, but I’m taking her word for it. Our program invites participants to join a weekly Zoom group and she has now participated twice but admits she is too shy to put the camera on at this point. She has scheduled an appointment with a counselor and is working with a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner to help treat mood disorders. (She may find as do many people who stop taking their drug of choice, they have minimal need for anti-depressants and anti-anxiolytics.)

Tips for Staying on Track

Although I’ve never been a big Halloween fan, a 2011 article in Time magazine lists Halloween as one of the Top 10 drinking holidays in the country! So, since her appointment happened on the brink of this holiday, I asked Jane if she historically celebrated. Indeed, she did.

She had already made plans to protect her sobriety over the holiday.

Here is what I recommend for sobriety-newcomers:

Halloween Mocktails: It is important to have a plan in place in case you get tempted to drink alcohol. A simple recipe I found was the Autumn Harvest Punch.

Find a haunted adventure: If you choose to go out, I suggest taking a friend who supports your sobriety and finding a local haunted attraction.

We love our patients. Dr. Coleman is celebrating his thirty-seventh year sober this fall. His appreciation for his own and other people’s recovery is part of the spirit of our clinic. We welcome anyone who needs some medical care with compassion, non-judgmental attitudes, and skills. Stay safe in the meantime, and give us a call when you’re ready.

Joan R. Shepherd, FNP

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